Sir Gary Verity Q&A – the cyclist behind Yorkshire’s big race obsession
Sir Gary Verity is constantly on the go. Having organised the Tour de France’s 2014 Grand Départ and then the Tour de Yorkshire for the last four years, he is now in the process of pulling together Yorkshire’s hosting of the world road race championships in 2018.
Rouleur recently caught up with the CEO of Welcome to Yorkshire at the Cycle Expo Yorkshire to talk about how and why his organisation had worked so hard to put Yorkshire on the global cycling map.
As well as getting involved in the sport to help fulfill Welcome to Yorkshire’s aims, Verity is a man with a strong personal interest in cycling. In this interview, Rouleur finds out a little more about the rider behind Yorkshire’s big cycling dream.
Rouleur: It seems like you’ve been running around non-stop since 2014. How do you wind down in between organising the events, and your role as CEO of Welcome to Yorkshire?
Sir Gary Verity: Riding my bike is a great way to wind down. I don’t ride to race or anything, I just cycle and enjoy the countryside. I live near Kettlewell, in the Yorkshire Dales, and there are lots of lovely routes to try.
I go out riding with a mate of mine most times and we do a 40-mile route.
Where do you go?
We stop off in Masham for a coffee or something – maybe a beer in the summer – but mostly for coffee and a slice of toast first thing in the morning, then we crack on again.
Sometimes we go the other way, over Buttertubs Pass or sometimes over into Swaledale and stop off in Reeth at the bike centre there. It has a great café with great cakes. Then we go back over Grinton Moor where you are high up and have great views across the Dales. Finally, we carry on over Gale Bank, which one day I want to include in the Tour de Yorkshire because it’s a sneaky little climb.
You’re not afraid of the climbs…
Wherever we go there’s a hill so we like it, though I don’t do Strava because I don’t want everyone to know how slow I am. Strava is fine for other people, but I just cycle for the enjoyment, not to get depressed!
Do you ride up Park Rash, the brute that featured in this year’s Tour de Yorkshire?
I’ve driven up it loads of times, but I only cycle up it occasionally, and very slowly. I was glad to have been able to include it in the Tour de Yorkshire, as we weren’t sure how it would work with it being a bit narrow. But it worked out well.
What does Christian Prudhomme think of cycling around Yorkshire?
He loves it. He has visited me a few times and we ride around the Yorkshire Dales. He gets pleasantly surprised by the weather up here as well. At this year’s Tour de Yorkshire, especially on the first day, it was like the race to the sun! When I was over in Nice earlier in the year it was flooded!
Christian loves the short sharp hills in Yorkshire and, and he also really likes some Yorkshire pudding afterwards.
Do you speak French?
I do, but it gets better after a drink. By midnight I’m fluent!
You also have a sheep farm. How do you manage that?
Yes, and that takes up a lot of my time when I am not at work. It’s a very different type of work with various challenges, but it is so different from anything else I do that it is a good way to switch off from my other daily activities.
How do you fit that in with all your other commitments?
I don’t sleep much!
What do you never go cycling without?
My helmet. You never know what might happen, and I always feel a lot safer wearing a lid. I came off my bike while I was out, not long ago. Thankfully, I wasn’t badly hurt.
What has been your best day in the office?
Ooh I can’t say. There have been so many stand-out moments. It was quite surreal being in the lead car during the 2014 Tour de France. That was basically the race HQ on wheels, and there were so many things to deal with – incidences during the race, getting information through the different race channels, then receiving a call from the President of France wanting to check how things are going.
I’ve had so many great days, and it’s crazy that a guy with very little ability like me can have so much fun. Of course, not every day is fun. But overall, I have a great time, and I am blessed to have a job that I love to do.