Gary Verity interview: Excitement ramps up with Grand Départ one month away

'This is our Champions League final,' says Welcome to Yorkshire chief

Excitement for the Tour de France Grand Départ has reached “crazy levels” according to Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Gary Verity.

Verity, the man behind the Grand Départ, promised the Grandest of Grand Départs when Yorkshire was awarded the prestigious honour of hosting the start of the 2014 race by by Tour de France organisers ASO.

And with exactly one month to go until the peloton rolls out of Leeds on Saturday July 5, Verity admits anticipation has reached fever pitch.

Gary Verity admits excitement levels ahead of the Tour de France have reached “crazy levels” (Pic: Simon Wilkinson/

“It’s gone to crazy levels now and it will just keeping getting more so with four weeks to go,” Verity told RoadCyclingUK.

“It’s amazing to think that four weeks tonight we’ll be about to have the team presentation – the biggest ever in the history of the Tour – so that’s exciting for us and exciting for everybody involved, clearly.

“This is our Champions League final. This is the moment you dream about. I’ve been in business all my life, and I’m a bit of a sport fanatic as it is, so to be involved in this huge event – it’s just going to be an incredible time.

“We’ve just got to keep reminding ourselves to savour the moment, because it will go quickly.”

This is our Champions League final. This is the moment you dream about

Final preparations are being put into place for the event, which includes the team presentation at Leeds Arena.

Taylor’s of Harrogate – makers of Yorkshire Tea – have promised to distribute five million tea bags to roadside fans and bunting, made from cycling jerseys, is being hung all along the route.

Verity is also busy dealing with guests – including the WorldTour squads, including Chris Froome and Team Sky, who have been training on the route recently – alongside a mammoth cycling task of his own in between.

He explained: “We’re sorting out the visits of the VIPs and dignitaries, we’re sorting out the final bits and pieces in terms of logistics, we’re very, very busy with the media side of things in the build-up, too.

Verity rode the full 190.5km route of stage one on Monday (Pic: Simon Wilkinson/

“We’ve had six teams come over to reconnoiter the route, so we’ve had to look after them as well, which has been a pleasure.

“Two weeks ago we had Giant-Shimano, with Kittel and co, then after that we had Mark Cavendish and last weekend I had dinner with Team Sky and Froome.

“I cycled the first stage of the Tour myself on Sunday – 190.5km because I’ve not got anything else on to do! And so it goes on.

“I’ve got a speaking engagement every night, seven days a week. On some occasions I have two speaking engagements so I’ve got to have just a small dinner at one and then a pudding at the other! It’s crazy, but it’s really good.”

Two weeks ago we had Giant-Shimano, with Kittel and co, then after that we had Mark Cavendish and last weekend I had dinner with Team Sky and Froome

The British cycling community has been behind the bid from the start, despite it taking a while to take off in the minds of locals – and Verity believes as the big day draws nearer, the excitement among the public is rising day-by-day.

“For me, for sure, I always knew it would be this good,” he said. “For other people, I think it’s just starting to sink in.

“I think they are just realising that this is, as we’ve tried to persuade them and explain to them for a long time, this is by far the biggest sporting event in the world.

Chris Froome and Richie Porte are among the riders Verity has welcomed to recon of the route (Pic: Alex Whitehead/

“It’s the biggest sporting event to happen in this country post-2012 and the biggest sporting event to happen by a country mile this year.

“And people can see that now, they can see it’s palpable. If you just look at the number of cyclists that are going down the route, the number of cycling businesses that are opening up – and the number of other businesses that are opening up – and the level of tourism in Yorkshire, it is clear that this a great thing.

“The legacy of the Tour has started early for us in Yorkshire. We’re very fortunate.”

He added: “The thing that has surprised me is how quickly people embraced it. I always thought that as the day got nearer people would embrace it and would get excited and the cycling fraternity, if you want to call it that, would.

If the Tour were to come tomorrow, we would be ready for it then, so imagine how it will feel in four weeks time

“But I didn’t realise the general populous would embrace it so early. Now, for several weeks, as you’re passing through the route you can see entire villages have turned themselves yellow, there’s bunting everywhere and Yorkshire is ready for the Tour.

“If it were to come tomorrow, we would be ready for it then, so imagine how it will feel in four weeks time.”

The Tour’s arrival is the second of three major international cycling events to come to these shores in 2014, sandwiched by Belfast’s Giro d’Italia Big Start and the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

The Giro was given a fitting sending off on the Emerald Isle, despite a weekend of miserable weather, and Verity admitted the work done in the Northern Irish capital had set a benchmark.

Verity admits Belfast did a good job with the Big Start but he is confident the Tour de France Grand Depart will be bigger still

However, he is confident the Tour de France Grand Départ will be even more spectacular – particularly if the weather plays ball.

He said: “I saw the Giro d’Italia Grande Partenza on television. I thought it was very pink. We thought they did a good job, but we hope for better weather ourselves.

“And obviously the Tour de France is a much bigger event than the Giro d’Italia. I think the word Christian Prudhomme uses, which I think I will take from him, is that it’s going to be humungous.”

I promised the ‘Grandest of Grand Départs’ and that is indeed what we will do

And Verity, who has been confident of Yorkshire’s ability to deliver the Grand Départ ever since it was announced, has not wavered from that position.

“I think the biggest challenge has just been the scale of work that goes with it,” he explained. “Remember we have received no government funding to do this so we have had to do it with what we already had at Welcome to Yorkshire.

“I promised Christian Prudhomme we would give him the ‘Grandest of Grand Départs’ and I think people can see now that is indeed what we will do.”

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