'There was huge pressure on us to get the Grand Depart right'

Pennine Events looks back on 2014's Grand Depart and how different it was from the 2007 UK leg of Le Tour
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Not only was Pennine Events involved in the Tour’s last UK foray in 2007 but also this year on the Grand Depart in North Yorkshire for Stages One and Two.

Now the dust has settled, we asked Pennine Event’s Graham Jagger to tell us about the hard work and sweat that went into putting on a UK event that was watched worldwide...

Pennine Events are very proud to have been involved in Stages 1 and 2 of the 2014 Grand Depart in North Yorkshire, particularly after our involvement in the last visit of the Tour to the UK in Kent in 2007. This puts the company in a unique position and in particular the director of the company Mark Sandamas and myself (Graham Jagger) as we worked together on both events. Few can claim that achievement and we are pleased to have that on our personal CVs.

The 2014 Grand Depart achieved a massive amount of publicity and promotion which raised its profile to the highest possible level and there was a huge amount of pressure and responsibility place on us to “get it right” for Yorkshire and the UK. In 2007, the build-up was not as intense and TV coverage much less so, this year the level of expectation was much higher all-round. Being a Northern-based company, but one that nevertheless works all around the UK, the 2014 Tour was literally on our doorstep and we knew the area and the routes very well which made our involvement that bit easier.

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In 2007 the Tour was a time trial followed by the London to Canterbury leg but this year there were three full Stages, two being in Yorkshire, making it a much bigger event this time round. With it going through several large cities and towns and a large swathe of very rural North Yorkshire the challenges were much greater in 2014 than 2007. However, using our skills, knowledge and experience we were able to overcome all the logistical and technical issues that the event could throw up. The roads used on both Stages 1 and 2 were full of spectators throughout with hardly a spare vantage point unused. The crowds were absolutely enormous but we were able to maintain safety for both spectators and riders over both of the days.

Pennine Events were first brought in by North Yorkshire County Council in February, giving us just six months to prepare to deliver the event in the County on their behalf. We worked closely with the County Council, Harrogate Borough Council, Craven District Council and Richmondshire District Council as the routes cut through all those administrative areas. We were also brought in by Harrogate Borough Council and Craven District Council to manage their official Spectator Hub sites in Knaresborough and two in Skipton. It was a huge task to prepare the Event and Crowd Management Plans for each Stage in North Yorkshire, carry out all the Risk Assessments and co-ordinate the delivery of the event on each day.

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As a result of our work we have been pleased to receive such positive feedback and commendations from all we worked for and worked with. The reputation of the company has been enhanced considerably by virtue of what we achieved in delivering what the French have acknowledged as being the best Grand Depart ever in the history of the event. To have been involved in two Tours is a great feeling of satisfaction for Mark and I and both were great successes. What was achieved has put Yorkshire firmly on the worldwide map both as a cycling destination and somewhere highly capable of putting on such a prestigious event with such success. Its success will create a cycling and visitor legacy, which is what was intended when the bid was made to host it in the County.

It is right to say just how much the whole county embraced the coming of the Tour to Yorkshire. Everywhere you went in the lead up to the event you could see yellow painted bikes, bunting and just everything you could possibly think of to tell you what was about to happen in the area. Businesses saw it as not only an opportunity now but also in the future to promote themselves and the area as a whole. There was hardly a spare room to be had in hotels and B&Bs around the area in the lead up to and immediately after the two Stages that were held in Yorkshire. Of course there were many roads closed in order to allow the Tour to take place and these were very disruptive to people’s lives, but thanks to much advance publicity, consultation and co-operation the resolute people of Yorkshire coped well with the disruption and inconvenience and the event passed through each area with minimum fuss.

It cannot be overstated just how big a challenge it is to put on an event of the scale and stature of the Tour de France. On the day, the whole world is watching what happens and without doubt that has its effect on you. The relief you feel when it’s all over and gone well is enormous then you begin to realise just what you have achieved. I remember seeing the first riders come through Skipton where I was responsible for managing all that was taking place on the day and hearing the noise created by the crowds increasing as they came up the High Street to the point where it became a deafening roar as the peloton rode through and I have to admit to having a tear in my eye. It was underway, going well and we had done it.

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Despite the euphoria of such a moment there had been some difficult times before getting there. The delivery of the Tour de France in Yorkshire was a complicated affair with many organisations and individuals involved, some of whom were not easy to deal with, lacking in competence and plainly obstructive. Overall governance became a heavy burden, the event was “over engineered” unnecessarily and it took a lot of patience to get through all the steps required in order to make it work. But nevertheless whatever had to be done we did and we got the right outcome – a hugely successful and enjoyable event, acknowledged as the best Grand Depart ever!

Pennine Events is a stronger company for having worked on this and the previous Tour De France in the UK. Our reputation in delivering events of this calibre has been yet again enhanced and we can only grow and go forward from here. We can now without question say we are one of the leading event management companies within the UK and in particular one with such unrivalled knowledge and experience in cycling events of this stature. Pedal for Scotland on 7th September with 10,000 cyclist riding between Glasgow and Edinburgh for Cycling Scotland was our next big event but there are also others still to deliver before this year ends, a year that Mark and I, the whole company and Yorkshire and the UK will remember fondly for many years to come.

Come and join us on one of our future events.

For more on Pennine Events contact Director Mark Sandamas at mark@pennineevents.co.uk or on 01772 447979.

www.pennineevents.co.uk

This article originally featured in the October edition of BikeBiz. You can read many of our previous editions online here.

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