THE Tour de Yorkshire will be an opportunity for Yorkshire’s local communities to present themselves and the county to the world as never before, the chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire says.
Sir Gary Verity said the giant “land art” projects planned by schools and community groups across the region would generate publicity “that you literally could not put a price on”.
Communities on the route of the three-day race, which begins on Friday, have designed and built creative projects, ranging from an enormous “tunny” fish in Scarborough to a Bradford Boar on a bike in Keelham.
In Driffield, in the Yorkshire Wolds, hundreds of schoolchildren will be making a 6,000sq ft “human bicycle” on a school field, which will give the illusion that a huge bike wheel is moving as the race passes by.
It and scores of other works of art will be picked up by aerial cameras and beamed out on terrestrial TV in Britain and by satellite to 167 other countries.
As the cyclists climb Garrowby Hill in the Wolds, viewers will see an open-air exhibition of 2m high paintings by the Yorkshire wildlife artist, Robert E Fuller.
On the third day of the race, the West Yorkshire villages of Baildon and Queensbury will spell out their names in huge banners nearly 50m long and 10m high, and a giant sheep with red spots will have been painted on the roof of the Woolshops Shopping centre in Halifax.
Sir Gary said: “This is the biggest event in Yorkshire this year, by some margin.
“There is no other free event in the world where you can get so close to so many world-class athletes.
“The land art projects have involved massive amounts of work from communities, and the TV helicopters will show them to the world.”
The annual race, now in its third running, had become a firm fixture in the world cycling calendar,” Sir Gary said.
“It’s a day that cyclists around the world look forward to,” he said. “This year we are visiting parts of the county we haven’t covered before, including Driffield, Pocklington and Goathland, and new parts of Nidderdale.”
The cyclists will also travel over the new road bridge at Tadcaster, opened earlier this year to replace the one washed away in the Boxing Day floods of 2015.
“It was a very deliberate choice, at the start of the men’s and women’s races on the second day,” Sir Gary said. “No-one will be in any doubt that Tadcaster is open for business.”
This year’s women’s event will be the largest ever, with more prize money than in the men’s race.
“We have really tried to do our bit for women’s cycling,” Sir Gary said. “We have parity with the men’s route, parity in terms of media coverage and more than parity on prize money.”
The race will visit the centre of Bradford for the first time, and take in Yorkshire’s two World Heritage sites, at Saltaire and Fountains Abbey.
Birstall, the scene of the murder of MP Jo Cox last year, will also be a focus of attention.
“We are happy to be going to Birstall for a positive reason,” Sir Gary said.
Yorkshire has enjoyed record years for tourism, on the back of its hosting of the Grand Depart of the Tour de France in 2014 and the Tour de Yorkshire that followed as its legacy. Welcome to Yorkshire, the county’s official tourism body, says the current season is off to another record start.
Sir Gary said: “The economic benefit of the event is significant but it is also about bringing communities together. People are really getting together to help promote their areas.
“The television exposure is crucial to all this. You literally couldn’t put a price on this sort of coverage.”