Yorkshire will again find itself at the centre of the cycling world when it hosts the UCI Road World Championships in 2019, a gig that will complete a transformation for Britain’s largest county from home of the dedicated amateur and occasional pro to a region rising in the cycling firmament to compete with the Ardennes or Lombardy.
Turn back the clock just five years and the chances for such transformation might have seemed remote, if not entirely impossible. In the giddy summer of 2012, with Bradley Wiggins trading yellow for gold, and the Lea Valley velodrome hosting the likes of Sir Paul and Stella McCartney, Welcome To Yorkshire’s bid for the Grand Départ of the 2014 Tour de France swiftly gained approval from ASO.
The fulfillment of Gary Verity’s subsequent promise to deliver “the grandest of Grand Départs” and two successful editions of the Tour de Yorkshire gave the UCI’s award of the 2019 worlds a sense of the inevitable. UCI president Brian Cookson and Philippe Colliou, the governing body’s road world championships manager, surely cannot be accused of stepping into the unknown.
And yet there is a marked difference between hosting two stages of a larger event, even when they are the opening engagements of the Tour de France, and staging eight days of racing for competitors of all ages and both genders, supported by a veritable army of coaches, soigneurs, administrators, mechanics, dope testers, media and more. Will the Worlds add to Yorkshire’s collection of greatest hits, or come to represent a difficult second album?