It’s a Tour de France rest day special column from Brendan Gallagher, looking back on the first week of the race, and British success in other races this weekend.

GARY VERITY doesn’t expect to see the Tour de France back in Yorkshire in his lifetime but the driving force behind Yorkshire's wildly successful Depart remains convinced that the White Rose County will succeed in its aim of becoming the cycling capital of Europe.

“When people come to review the first 200-years of the Tour de France in 2103 they won't just be looking at four visits to the UK with two Grand Departs, there will be many more besides but this year might well be the one and only time my generation see the Tour in Yorkshire. Other areas of Britain will put their hands up and will hopefully get their chance to help host a unique and magnificent sporting occasion but there is also a sense of not wanting to over egg the pudding. The anticipation and excitement, the romance if  you like, of the Tour's occasional visits is all part of it.

“Hosting the Tour ticked every conceivable box for Yorkshire. It was a defining moment in the county's modern history and I don’t say that lightly. Among many things we now have an incredible cycling legacy to work on the three day Tour de Yorkshire over the first weekend of May next year, with a top class women’s race on day two as well, is an exciting development. A huge number of the riders and teams I have spoken with insist they already have the event inked in so we are hopeful of a world-class field to sample our roads and rugged terrain as well and enjoy everything Yorkshire has to offer. We have had all extremes of weather over that Bank Holiday weekend over the years so who knows what’s in store for us. It could be beautiful, it could be savage. Whatever the weather it will be great.”

Above – Massive crowds great the professional peloton in Yorkshire on Stage One of the Tour de France (Credit: Welcome to Yorkshire)

Verity, who first considered the idea of Yorkshire staging the Depart while shaving one Sunday morning, hasn't quite clocked off yet. He has official duties to perform on the final day in Paris when he hands over the Depart trophy to the Major or Utrecht, next year's Depart city, and he will also be pressing the flesh and advertising Yorkshire’s wares in Bagneres de Luchon next week, the Pyrenees spa town having recently been twinned with Harrogate. But it’s a gentle freewheel recovery ride compared with the last few months and years. The pressure finally came off at 3am in Le Touquet last Tuesday morning when he gratefully poured himself a strong one after arriving in his hotel following Stage Three, which finished on The Mall, and presented some late logistical challenges with the unexpected closure of the Eurotunnel.

“The riders and key team personnel were ok in that they were all flying from the City airport but all the other camp followers, staff, vans with equipment and indeed the majority of the media and TV were booked onto Eurostar or the ferries and the latter were getting seriously inundated trying to cope with the overflow. P&O did an absolutely outstanding job under all the extra pressure and basically ran a shuttle across the Channel through the evening and night so a huge thanks to them to ensuring a fantastic Depart did not end on a downbeat note.

“The whole thing was remarkable from start to finish and all credit to the 12,000 Tour makers, local authorities, police, my staff, everybody. I can't give you an exact figure but I reckon at least 20,000 people were involved one way or another and they can call hold their heads high. Job exceedingly well done. Thank you so much to all concerned. My favourite moment?  It's difficult to give you one but the image that keeps coming back is of grown adults, a bit like me, literally jumping for joy at the excitement and the emotion of it all as the peloton approached. They just couldn't keep still. I have never understood that expression until the Tour de France came to Yorkshire. Now I get it totally.”

THE time has come for a second British World Tour team, a second British team riding all the Grand Tours, stage races and major one day classics. You can feel the momentum building towards a tipping point and if a British consortium was properly constituted and funded I can assure such a team would be looked on enthusiastically by those in power.
The riding talent is there waiting on tap but to be honest that's the least of, that only provides the emotional drive for the formation of such a team. Team Sky, after all, only started with two British riders on their Tour de France roster this year and within four and half days Geraint Thomas was flying the flag on his own. That's not ideal but it doesn't really detract from their essential ‘Britishness’  and who knows that figure might be up to four or five next year if the like of Peter Kennaugh and Ian Stannard come back into the equation.

No, it’s the commercial imperative that make a second British team almost inevitable in the next couple of years. Britain has become a cycling powerhouse and offers immense credibility to the sport but even more importantly it is the fastest growing market within the industry.

Depending on which paper or police estimate you read between four and six million spectators watched the three days of the Tour de France in Britain earlier this month which is an extraordinary figure by any criteria. That's a monumental amount of passion and commitment – people voting with their feet – which we also saw replicated in Northern Ireland for the Giro d’Italia Depart back in May.

A significant number  of those will own bikes or dream of upgrading to a better bike. They will all need a bare minimum of kit and some will actually become cycling fashionistas which is always good for business. Many will read cycling magazines and the cycling coverage provided by national and local newspapers and numerous websites while many others will flock to watch the extraordinary range of coverage now available on ITV4, Eurosport, Sky Sports and various BBC platforms.

The snowball effect is kicking in spectacularly. The inaugural Friends Life Women's Tour (pictured below) was a huge success and I will be amazed if within in five years it isn't the top women’s stage race in the world while the men's Friends Life Tour of Britain, having already been granted HC status, starts a new five year cycle in September that will lift it profile and status further.  The Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic will take place on 10 August and a three day Tour de Yorkshire had been confirmed for next May while the British criterium scene headed by the Pearl Izumi Tour Series, is thriving like never before.

Meanwhile we know for a fact that Edinburgh will mount another bid to bring the Tour de France back to Britain while I am hearing rumblings in the valleys that a Welsh consortium might consider also mounting a bid to host a Depart. Meanwhile don't be surprised if Devon and the West Country throw their hat into the ring at some stage.  The cycling explosion in Britain is still in its infancy.

The economy seems to be bouncing back and don't doubt there is a backers out there . A few years back, when Dave Brailsford was putting Team Sky together, I was suddenly contacted by a very important man indeed representing a massive financial institution. Could I, as a matter of much urgency, put him in touch with Brailsford? His company had been doing their research and 'wanted in.' They had a blank cheque waiting to sign to make this new British team happen. Too late. The deal with Sky had been completed, although it was a long way from being announced, just 12-hours earlier. That train had departed but unless I am very much mistaken, another is due any moment now.
AS a general rule of thumb it's never a great idea to produce your best performance of the season at a race other than the Tour de France while the Tour is actually going on. They eyes of the world are elsewhere. Which makes it doubly important therefore that we pause to note Peter Kennaugh's GC win at the Tour of Austria and Emma Pooley's three stage wins in the Giro Rosa en route to tenth places overall in GC behind Marianne  Vos. Kennaugh's triumph in Austria, which as you would expect included more than its fair share of mountains, was a reaffirmation of his outstanding current form which came off the back of that brilliant win over Ben Swift to win the British National title last month and he must start as one of the favourites for the Commonwealth Games Road title. An outstanding member of Sky's Tour de France squad last year I'm not quite sure happened this years with regards to his Tour place, it feels like he should be there again right now, but no matter at just turned 25 his best years are still in the future. As for Pooley on her favourite mountainous terrain she is one of the few on the planet who can get the better of Marianne Vos. Enough said.

CHUTE, CHUTE, CHUTE. You daren't stray far from the TV last week as the Tour de France riders – big names and otherwise – crashed to earth although it might surprise many of you to know that the total number of abandonments after the first seven stages (12) was well down on the 17 we experienced in the first week of the 2012 Tour.  Despite the headlines and dramas the volume of crashes and retirements hasn't been particularly abnormal although the quality of riders abandoning after crashed – the likes of Chris Froome and Alberto Contador –  has been a tad odd.  

Luck definitely plays a part but only a part, there is a real skill and art in navigating your way around a Grand Tour for three weeks and avoiding trouble in all types of weather over massively differing terrain. Tour de France winners tend to spend very little time on the deck. Miguel Indurain didn't fall once in his five consecutive Tour de France victories between 1991-95 while even the cursed Lance Armstrong – if you are allowed to mention his name these days – was pretty good at actually staying on a bike during his seven 'non-victories’. It was particularly noticeable that on his comeback in 2009, four years after his Tour de France, he had completely lost his mojo and crashed three times in a day on one occasion.

The annual 'safety debate' this year -centred mainly around Stage Five and the seven  cobble sections on the Ypres to Arenberg Porte du Hainaut stage when overnight rain alarmed some of the GC teams who trotted out the familiar refrain that a Tour should never be decided by a one off stage. I strongly disagree. Anything can happen on any day and the ability to ride brilliantly on such a challenging stage, as was the case with Vincenzo Nibali, is often the distinguishing characteristic of a true champion.

For the record there was only one abandonment last Wednesday and that was Chris Froome who had damaged his wrist in an innocuous looking crash the day before and then crashed twice more on regular road BEFORE the pave. There were a few walking wounded, as there always are, but the only serious crash I can recall on the pave was when Lars Boom overcooked a corner and went over his handlebars. The stage was a classic case of ‘forewarned is forearmed’. Most of the big contenders took it steady on the cobbles and the one rider who rode full gas – Nibali – reaped his reward.
And in fairness it was barely 11km in a race of 3,664km, cumulatively the length of one half decent climb. If Nibali goes on to take the 2014 Tour de France and his performance over the cobbles is the difference between him and the other contender who is to say that his virtuoso display on difficult terrain did not deserve such a reward?
One final thought though. What a wonderfully durable  bunch the peloton are. Rather like top rugby players they spend all their time trying to make out they aren't hurting or damaged, to make light of catastrophic injury.  To witness Froome trying to ride on with what we now know was a broken wrist and a broken hand and to see Contador chase hard for 20km with a broken leg before accepting the inevitable offers a veracity and strange dignity to a sport which I find utterly compelling and more than makes up for some of cycling's less praiseworthy moments.