As the Tour de Yorkshire returns, British Cycling’s Helen Webster (a proud Yorkshirewoman herself) looks back at where it all began, and what we can expect from this year’s action-packed event.
The 2014 Grand Depart of the Tour de France had one low* and too many highs to know where to begin. Wherever the iconic race goes, it generates an incredible hype, and 2014 was no different when the race swept up hill and down dale, bringing with it unsurpassed scenes of excitement and euphoria across God’s Own County.
So, three years on, what of it?
Well the Grand Depart stoked many fires, and arising from the embers of 2014, the Tour de Yorkshire was born.
Now entering its third year, the Tour de Yorkshire is a key event in the race calendar for many of the world’s professional cycling teams – but it’s not just for the pros.
With a sportive on the last day, everyday cyclists like me can also be part of the action and experience the thrill of crossing the official race finish line at Fox Valley before the men’s race ends on the 30th April. Being cheered across the finish line by the crowds is a truly incredible opportunity for any cyclist.
But what about the pros?
Taking us through idyllic villages and along the east Yorkshire coastline, the three day men’s and one day women’s race feature brutal climbs and action-packed sprints.
With so many interesting stages to the race, it’s difficult to predict where the highlights will be, but for me the key things to look out for are…
Stage one: The finish along the North Bay at Scarborough will be fast and furious. And with lots of great places to enjoy some fish ‘n chips or ice cream, it’s a great family day out and an opportunity to experience the amazing atmosphere of the Tour.
Stage two: The start will be a great celebration for Tadcaster. The town was divided when the bridge connecting both halves was washed away in the 2015 floods. Following an extensive project to rebuild the bridge, it reopened 401 days later, so no doubt both residents and local businesses will be looking to put on a memorable start to day two of the Tour.
And let’s not forget that stage two will see some of the world’s top female riders battle it out, including Yorkshire’s very own Lizzie Deignan (nee Armitstead) who will be pushing for the podium.
Riding from Tadcaster to Harrogate is certainly one for the sprinters, and the peloton will be awash with some of the best women riders in the world. This will be a great race which could come down to the wire…
Stage three: This stage will be a great finale to three days of fantastic riding. Not that I’m one to find pleasure in a fellow cyclist’s suffering, but the climbs on the Tour de Yorkshire can be gruelling. Stage three alone has over 3,000 metres of climbing, and the cobbles of Haworth are a test for any rider. For me this stage will split the men from the boys. Team strategies will play a key role in who wins the 2017 Tour.
It’s the taking part that counts!
All three days of racing will see some great riders competing at their best. However, cycling isn’t all about racing and there’s no place better than Yorkshire to get on your bike and just ride.
You may say I’m biased, but for me Yorkshire is one of the most diverse and best places to cycle in the country. Whether it be road, trail, mountain biking, cyclo-cross or BMXing, there really is something for everyone. At British Cycling we’ve got loads of ways to get involved across the county. So why not pop your postcode into our ride finder at the top of this page and give it a go?
*The one low of the 2014 Grand Depart, of course, was the stage one finish… the day was a sprinters’ finale in Harrogate and as Mark Cavendish attempted to bring it home for Britain he bumped against Simon Gerrans with just 250 metres to go. One over-enthusiastic split second and Cav’s Tour de France was over as he crashed to the ground before a disappointed home crowd.
All images credited to Welcome to Yorkshire/SWPix.com