Tour de France Grand Depart in the UK was a success - report

By Matt SlaterBBC Sport
The Tour de France in the Yorkshire Dales
Crowds at the roadside for the three English Tour de France stages totalled 4.8m

What looked like a huge success at the time has now been officially confirmed: this summer's Tour de France Grand Depart was a smash hit for Yorkshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex and London.

A 64-page report, "Three Inspirational Days",external-link details the benefits of staging the start of cycling's biggest race.

Crowds at the roadside for the three English stages totalled 4.8m, with 3.5m individual spectators.

Those fans generated £128m in total revenue, with £102m in Yorkshire alone.

"We are delighted the event brought so much money to the county," said the man whose idea it was to bid for the Grand Depart, Welcome to Yorkshire's Gary Verity.

"There are also benefits which are impossible to measure - the profile of Yorkshire around the world has never been higher and this will have a lasting impact for years to come."

Tour de France in Yorkshire
Crowds lined the route throughout the three Tour de France stages as the race moved from Yorkshire to London

With Yorkshire staging the build-up to the race that likes to call itself the world's largest annual sports event, as well as the first two stages over a stunning weekend, the region won the biggest share of the Grand Depart's benefits.

But the Tour's third stage from Cambridge, through Essex, and into London on 7 July attracted a crowd of 1.5m and brought in £30.5m in additional revenue.

The key numbers from the report
£128m - the total boost to Yorkshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex and London because of the Tour de France
4.8m - the number of people who lined the route for the three English stages
100km - the amount of barriers and fencing required, which is enough to barrier the M11 from Cambridge to London
13,000 - the number of stewards and traffic marshals on duty
2m - the number of spectators who felt inspired to cycle more frequently

"The Tour in London was the most fantastic spectacle of sport, which delighted and entertained crowds across the capital," said Mayor of London Boris Johnson.

"The economic benefit of hosting such prestigious sporting events is clear, with images of our brilliant city beamed around the world."

But it was the weekend in Yorkshire that provided some of the most remarkable crowd shots in the race's 111-year history: scenes that prompted the Tour's race director Christian Prudhomme to describe it as the "grandest Grand Depart".

It had been hoped that the Tour's fourth visit to these shores would match the impact of the only previous time it had started here, the 2007 Grand Depart in London and Kent.

This led to crowd estimates of 2-3m, and economic benefits of £100m - numbers which were considered optimistic at the time.

Mark Cavendish
Britain's Mark Cavendish was among the favourites to win stage one in Harrogate but he crashed out of the race

But with cycling booming in this country thanks to the Tour-winning exploits of Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome, as well as Mark Cavendish's numerous sprint victories, the 2014 edition surpassed all expectations.

The report states that one in four people in the Yorkshire and Humber region saw some of the race, and economic benefits for the area could reach £150m in years to come thanks to increased tourism and business opportunities.

Some caution should be noted at this point, as economic impact reports have a tendency to err on the optimistic side - and some experts will find the crowd estimates hard to swallow - but these numbers will be gobbled up by the local authorities in Yorkshire that backed Verity's vision back in 2012. They put up £11m of the total £27m budget.

But the government will also be delighted with its return on investment.

Liz Nicholl, the chief executive of the elite-funding agency UK Sport, said: "The Tour showcased the UK's event-hosting capabilities and passionate fans at their best.

"Through National Lottery funding, the nation will continue to benefit from the many impacts of hosting major sporting events on home soil."

One of those benefits should be a boost in participation.

The report states that 2m of those who saw the race were inspired by it to ride more frequently, with a follow-up study finding that half of those had actually got on their bikes more often.

Confirmation of this effect should come next Thursday when Sport England produces its next set of grassroots participation figures.

Cycling has been the big participation success story in recent years but the Yorkshire region bucked the overall trend in the last Active People Survey with no growth for cycling. It will be a huge surprise, and major disappointment, if it fails to show a significant lift next week.