David Parkin on the Tour de Yorkshire, Forward Ladies and growing Chinese links

IF the Tour de Yorkshire doesn’t go past your house then the chances are that the cycle race will not be too far away.

The annual event, the legacy of the county hosting the phenomenally successful Tour de France Grand Depart in 2014, will be bigger, longer and more challenging than ever when it takes place over four days in early May next year.

The full route for the 2018 Tour de Yorkshire was unveiled at a packed press conference amid the spectacular surroundings of the Piece Hall in Halifax this week.

Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Sir Gary Verity announced the routes joined by the Amaury Sport Organisation’s Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme.

Mark Cavendish – winner of 30 Tour de France stages, a UCI Road World Championship and numerous other accolades – was one of the many star riders in attendance along with a host of Yorkshire cycling legends such as Brian Robinson, Malcolm Elliott and Denise Burton-Cole.

The fourth edition of the race has been expanded from three to four stages and will take place between 3-6 May 2018. It encompasses all four corners of the county and takes in 169 villages, towns and cities along the way.

Inviting Dimension Data team mates Mark Cavendish and Scott Thwaites to the stage, Sir Gary asked Cav, who memorably crashed when launching his trademark sprint for the finish at the Tour de France Grand Depart in Harrogate, what he made of the punishing Tour de Yorkshire route.

“It’s hard, innit,” replied the cyclist.

Fortunately Big V’s old pal Christian Proudhomme, who runs the Tour de France, was on hand to articulate how the beauty of Yorkshire coupled with the enthusiasm of the crowds will ensure a superb event.

Gary made sure he referred to the “first time” that the Tour de France was held in Yorkshire, with a nod and a wink towards Christian – clearly the plans are for it to return in the future.

The two embraced and kissed each other on the cheeks.

“If I did that in Hull I’d get cracked,” whispered East Yorkshire-born lawyer Philip Jordan of Ward Hadaway who was sitting next to me.

What I loved about the Tour de Yorkshire route launch was how it embraced communities. While current and former cycling greats were in attendance alongside local authority bigwigs, so also were members of cycling clubs across Yorkshire, volunteers who will be the “Tour Makers” and children from schools in the towns and cities where the 2018 Tour de Yorkshire stages will start and finish.

An important part of the event is the Maserati Tour de Yorkshire Ride sportive which allows amateur cyclists to take on the same route as the professionals tackle.

Up to 6,000 cycling enthusiasts will take part in the sportive on Sunday 6 May and the Maggie’s Yorkshire charity has up to 200 exclusive places available before December 11.

Maggie’s is building a new cancer support centre in the grounds of St James’s University Hospital in Leeds and anyone signing up by Monday can support the charity with either the £200 entry fee or signing up for £25 and fundraising £300 for Maggie’s.

Sir Gary Verity said: “One of the things I most enjoy about cycling is that you can ride the same roads as the pros, and what better way to do so than with top-class support and thousands of other cyclists joining you along the way. The three routes on offer will be suitable for all abilities and anyone taking part is sure to have an amazing experience.”  

Find out more at http://letour.yorkshire.com/sportive and www.maggiescentres.org/yorkshire.

Bringing the event to a close, Sir Gary said: “Ladies and gentlemen, the 2018 Tour de Yorkshire is now yours, not ours.”

The countdown is on.


SIR Gary was telling me about the logistics challenge of getting a top sportsman like Mark Cavendish to Halifax.

Given Cav’s mother is from Harrogate, he is looking forward to taking part in the Tour de Yorkshire, particularly given his plans to compete this year were scuppered by a bout of glandular fever.

And he wanted to be at the route announcement at the Piece Hall in Halifax on Tuesday, so Sir Gary pulled out all the stops to make sure he could not just travel up from King’s Cross on a Virgin East Coast train, but the world’s most successful cycling sprinter could sit in the cab of the engine with the driver.

Checking on Cav’s progress, Gary called him at about 7.50am to check he had boarded the train due to leave London at 8.03am.

“I got the wrong station, I’m at Euston,” said Mark to a worried Gary.

“Do you think they will hold the train at King’s Cross?” he asked the Welcome to Yorkshire chief.

Knowing that wouldn’t happen, Gary then rang a senior figure at Virgin East Coast who was due to greet Mark at King’s Cross.

The Virgin man said he would do what he could to help.

A few minutes later Gary got a call back saying Cav was on a ‘Boris Bike’ and was frantically cycling from Euston to try to make the train at King’s Cross.

Just as he was about to go into full meltdown, Gary got a text from Cav saying simply: “Gotcha!” and including a photo of him sitting comfortably alongside the driver in the cab of the Virgin East Coast train.


THE Forward Ladies Awards are always an interesting experience, particularly if you’re a man.

The annual national event, which takes place at New Dock Hall in Leeds is a revelation.

Most business lunches and dinners are still male dominated.

When you walk into a room that is at least 80 per cent full of women there is a very different atmosphere to traditional business events.

And it is the better for it.

Women chatting animatedly, paying each other compliments and wanting to hear about the achievements of others.

You certainly don’t tend to get that at the male dominated events.

I was a guest of James Cliffe, head of business banking at HSBC and his colleague Debra White and the bank showed its support for Forward Ladies with UK chief executive Ian Stewart giving a speech at the awards event.

The music played to announce the winner of each category included Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Want To Have Fun, Run the World (Girls) and Single Ladies ) by Beyonce.

I’m not sure if they were open to requests, but I decided against asking for It’s Raining Men by the Weather Girls.


I WAS compere at the latest in a series of ExportExchange Live events which was held at Huddersfield Town’s John Smith’s Stadium recently.

The focus of the event, which featured a panel of experienced exporters, was doing business in China.

And Huddersfield Town commercial director Sean Jarvis told the audience that the club’s promotion to the Premier League has become the catalyst for growing trade links between businesses in the town and China.

Sean explained how the club’s £3m shirt sponsorship deal with Chinese gaming group Ope Sports had raised awareness of the new Premier League side among the rapidly growing numbers of football fans in China.

“By sponsoring Huddersfield Town Ope Sports’ aim is to reach potential customers in China, rather than the UK, which tells you a lot: there is a huge appetite for British football over there.

“The international trade learning curve has been steep for us but there are extremely positive relationships already being built between individuals, and whole areas of China,” said Sean.

It was also interesting to hear how, on the back of the club’s success, Huddersfield-based business Fired Up Corporation, which is a commercial partner of the Premier League club, has been expanding its Chinese operations.

Established 20 years ago in Huddersfield, the fireplace and electrical products manufacturer has grown to become a global employer, and has factories in both the UK and in southern China, where it employs 200 people in Zhongshan.

Most people have heard of that iconic product, the Corby trouser press.

Well Fired Up’s chairman and CEO Richard Kaye owns the brand and now produces a variety of products for the hotel market including kettles and toasters bearing the Corby name.

For the last five years, Fired Up and Huddersfield Town have jointly provided annual football summer camps for up to 200 children in Nantou, Zhongshan. Last year, at the request of Zhongshan City, they provided a delegation of senior coaches to instruct 120 local teachers in basic football coaching skills.

Sean Jarvis said: “There are clearly some fantastic opportunities opening up for commercial and sporting relationships to be established between Huddersfield and China and we are only at the start of the journey.

“Next year is the Chinese Year of the Dog and as we’re the only Premier League side with a canine mascot, I think that probably bodes well for 2018 and beyond.”

Also speaking at the ExportExchange event were David Mandley, CEO of Leeds medical device manufacturer Tissuemed; Mark Daley, global operations director of translation business The Big Word; and Connect China director Joanna Lavan.


IT was good to see Joanna Lavan at the Export Exchange event.

I first met Jo in 2000 when I was the newly appointed business editor of the Yorkshire Post and benefited from the perks of the job early doors by accepting an invitation to accompany a trade mission of Yorkshire businesses to China and Hong Kong.

She reminded me that it was her first ever Chinese trip with Connect China and she has been on countless visits since, securing millions of pounds of business.

My memory of the trip was Jo’s love of karaoke, which was only restricted by one thing – her shocking singing voice. It was like a cat being strangled, but grew on you after a few bottles of Tsing Tao beer.

I was trying to remember the names and companies of those on the trade mission as they all were a fun group who liked to work hard and play hard.

Except one.

There was one guy who avoided talking to me and kept himself to himself.

I didn’t know why at the time, I thought he just was a bit fearful of the press.

Apparently it was a little bit more than that. I found out later that he had indeed had a brush with the media.

A few months before he had been arrested coming off a flight from America at Manchester Airport after other passengers had complained of of his behaviour with a woman he met on the flight.

Their “drunken fumblings” – or “hanky panky” if you prefer the tabloid description, led to both losing their jobs and receiving fines for being drunk on board a flight.

Apparently it all took place in the business class cabin of an American Airlines flight.

As Alan Bennett might say: “If it was Ryanair you’d understand.”

Have a great weekend.


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