Grand Depart mastermind Gary Verity is big fan of Otley's town centre cycle races

Ilkley Gazette: Otley race director Giles Pidcock, cente, with Tour de France race director Christoan Prudhomme, left, and Gary Verity Chief Executive of Welcome to Yorkshire. Picture: SWpix.com Otley race director Giles Pidcock, cente, with Tour de France race director Christoan Prudhomme, left, and Gary Verity Chief Executive of Welcome to Yorkshire. Picture: SWpix.com

THE man who brought the Tour de France to Yorkshire has predicted the Otley Cycle Races will continue to get bigger every year after the annual event put on its best-ever show.

Gary Verity, who as chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire helped to organise the massively-successful Grand Depart, was among a VIP entourage who were in Otley last Wednesday for the 29th Cycle Races.

Bernard Hinault, the five-time Tour de France winner, and Tour director Christian Prudhomme, flanked Verity and other dignitaries.

They looked on in admiration as cycling fans came from far and wide in a record crowd of around 25,000 as hometown girl Lizzie Armitstead won the Women’s Grand Prix.

The presence of the Otley star added to the atmosphere as the town’s streets were packed to see the Olympic silver medallist in action.

Verity, who is being tipped for a knighthood following the success of the Grand Depart, said: “The Otley Cycle Races is just a fantastic event.

“I came last year and it inspired me, so I was back here again this year. I wanted to bring Bernard and Christian with me so they could see it too. “As an event, it is getting bigger every year and will only increase in size after this. Otley has a rich cycling history and its people have done themselves proud for turning out in such huge numbers.

“I would also like to congratulate Giles Pidcock and his team for their time and dedication in putting on such a fantastic event. Everyone has thoroughly enjoyed themselves and I plan to return next year.”

Pidcock, the long-time Otley Cycle Races organiser, was left beaming with pride after the success of this year’s event and said the crowd easily surpassed 20,000.

The VIP hospitality area was packed with key figures from the Tour de France such as Verity, Prudhomme and Hinault as well as high-profile local figures such as MP Greg Mulholland and Burley-in-Wharfedale cyclist Scott Thwaites.

Pidcock said: “There were easily more than 20,000 and this was by far the biggest Otley Cycle Races we’ve ever had.

“The hospitality alone is an event in itself. That, plus all the Tour de France stuff we’ve had to do, and all the extra work we’ve had to do to accommodate the bigger crowds, ensured increased planning and preparation.

“We’ve had more riders than ever as well because everyone wants to be a part of it. But we’ve pulled it off and the town of Otley, and the incredible support we receive from local businesses and sponsors, can be proud of itself again.

“The economic benefits to the town, not to mention its profile, are difficult to price on.

“To have all the key figures from the Tour de France here was brilliant, I really enjoyed that.

“We did all the podium with them and the photo shoots. Everyone loved it.”

Pidcock admitted the inclusion of Armitstead in the race always provides a boost to the event.

He added: “Lizzie being involved brings out the home crowd and I think we also benefited from all the people who are in Yorkshire for the Tour de France, so it’s a double whammy.

“Last year she wasn’t here because she had other commitments but she’s as committed to the event as we are.

“She’s quite happy to use her status to build the event because I guess it’s in her interests to have a big event in her hometown.”

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