Inspiration from Gary Verity’s ‘Grandest Grand Depart’


Gary Verity’s ‘Grandest Grand Depart’ – entrepreneurship in action

I was lucky enough to be invited by Stephen Green from Baker Tilly to attend a presentation by Gary Verity the Chief Executive of Welcome to Yorkshire.  Gary was the inspiration and driving force behind bringing the Tour de France’s Grand Depart, the start of the world’s greatest cycle race, to Yorkshire.  To put this achievement into perspective the Tour de France is the world’s third biggest sporting event next to the Olympic Games and FIFA World Cup.

As a triathlon coach and keen cyclist this event was such a thrill for me as the Tour de France was passing within a mile of my home. I would be able to see my cycling idols race over the roads and hills I regularly train on.

Gary told the story of bringing ‘Le Tour’ to Yorkshire.  This was a great tale, but for me there was more.  Here was a brilliant example of entrepreneurship which highlighted some valuable lessons we can all take from Gary’s example.

  1. Great achievements have to start with a vision.  An epiphany whilst having a shave one morning was Gary’s visionary moment.
  2. Go back a few steps. A vision has to be the culmination of a creative process.  All visions have to start with a massive question which needs a solution.  In this case, how to bring the wonderful county of Yorkshire to the attention of the world.
  3. This means you need to be acutely aware of always looking for a solution. It’s out there waiting for you to recognise it.  (See blog).  Welcome to Yorkshire had already done some great activities before the thought of inviting the Tour de France came along, so Gary and his team were already looking hard for ‘something’.
  4. One moment will occur when all the stars align. Someone may make a simple comment which makes the thought inevitable.  In Gary’s case a comment from someone from British Cycling while they were at the World Mountain Bike Championships in Dalby Forest was the spark.
  5. Others will have the same idea.  You are not alone.  Some will have an advantage because it will be a natural part of what they already do.  European cities have been bidding for the Tour for years so there is no shortage of suitors for the organisers to choose from.  This means you have to stand out from the crowd and be just a bit better.
  6. Your idea has to capture the imagination of the people around you. Your supporters have to share and believe in the same vision.
  7. Gary had to get the organisers of the Tour to buy into the ideas of a rank outsider. To do this he recognised they had to understand the values of the Tour de France, its culture, history and philosophy.
  8. There will be obstacles to overcome. Don’t give up.
  9. You can’t know what will seal the relationship. One moment will tip the balance in your favour. Gary suggested it was when Brian Robinson (Tour de France stage winner) started chatting with Christian Prudhomme the Director of the Tour de France in fluent French at a dinner, or when Mark Cavendish (most TDF stage wins by a British rider) appealed directly to Prudhomme to bring the Tour to Yorkshire.  You have to create those moments
  10. Once the idea has been created you have to build momentum with the people that matter. Yorkshire got right behind the bid - including me!
  11. Politicians, in all their guises, have their own agenda. It is not necessarily yours.  If you can’t bring them on board, work your way around them.
  12. I think the most important statement Gary made in his presentation was the need to be authentic. You have to believe you can make your vision a reality, for the right reasons.

If you are an entrepreneur or leader then there is much you can learn from Gary Verity’s ‘Grandest Grand Depart’ and his Tour de France adventure.


The book ‘2 days in Yorkshire’ is worth a look