The Tour de Yorkshire had four days of great weather and good racing. By any measure it has turned into a success but the race leaves Euan a little cold and has him asking: How the hell don’t I love the Tour of Yorkshire?
On paper the Tour of Yorkshire should be one of my favourite races:
- It attracts world-class cycling talent to race just half-an-hour from where I live.
- It offers local riding talent a chance to test themselves against a quality line-up.
- It has made a real effort to embrace and promote women’s racing (which is unusual for an ASO organised race).
- The geography of Yorkshire enables it to put on a varied stage race, unlike the Tour of Britain which has become a bit repetitive.
- By the looks of the crowds, it attracts thousands of people to watch the sport I love.
This year I loved the racing but didn’t love the race. I find the Tour of Yorkshire irks me. It has got to the point where I have to get it off my chest.
Let’s get the obvious one out of the way first. The name. The Tour DE Yorkshire. There is nothing French about the race bar the company behind it. The Tour of Yorkshire takes place in a region with a deep dialect of its own. It doesn’t gain anything by adopting the French language. Can you imagine if Tro-Bro Léon started calling itself the Tour of Lyon? Exactly.
They also name the climbs with an “amusing” mixture of lyrical French and gruff Yorkshire like the “Cote de Cow and Calf”. There are a couple of reasons why you might do this – pretentiousness or humour. Yorkshire isn’t a pretentious place. In fact, it’s so unpretentious I imagine the French naming goes right over most folk’s heads. So is it humour? In which case it wasn’t that funny the first time and there’s no need to keep repeating the same joke.Embed from Getty Images
Right, I’m glad I got that off my chest. What’s next?
It’s how the race presents itself. It feels a little smug and pleased with the whole thing, especially on social media. A little humility would help here. When I think about how other races show themselves to the world, I can see a couple of distinct camps. There are races that have a deep history and proudly display that. To me, they’ve earned their stripes and have every right to show off a long timeline of amazing battles and fearless feats.
Then there are other races that delight in making stars of the riders and the teams. These races realise that they can have the best course in the world but, without the contenders, it means nothing. The Tour of Yorkshire, to me, has a different attitude. It feels like they are saying “look at this climb the riders will do today, how clever are we to have found it?” and “our race is so brilliant that this ex-world champion rider has chosen to come here!”Embed from Getty Images
Finally, the race seems to have the stance that it is amazing because it happens in Yorkshire. Only they never tell you what it is about Yorkshire that’s so good. There’s an attitude of “look at this climb, it’s in Yorkshire so it’s brilliant” or “look at these fans they’re from Yorkshire so they’re fantastic”.Embed from Getty Images
I know the race’s whole reason for being is to promote Yorkshire as a tourist destination and that’s fine. But other races manage to do it in a much subtler way. They show, they don’t tell. The Tour of Yorkshire tries too hard. It’s got a lot to sell but they shout about it so loudly it’s off-putting. They’re like the pushy salesman who puts so much pressure on trying to convince you to buy something that you run away to another shop.
And that, I think, is the nub of the problem. On the whole, the Tour of Yorkshire feels like a marketing event, not a bike race. Maybe you think I’m a cycling snob who can’t bear seeing my sport opened up to uneducated newcomers. I assure you I’m not.
So how the hell don’t I love the Tour of Yorkshire? It tries too hard. Once they relax a little, show a little humility, then perhaps we can try for a relationship.
Header image: ©GETTY/Velo/Michael Steele