The Tour de Yorkshire is bigger and better in 2018. Tom Ashurst takes a closer look at what makes it unique among world class cycle races.
Critics of professional cycling argue that you stand at the roadside for hours, just to see the race fly past in seconds. I encourage those critics to come and take in the Tour de Yorkshire as it’s hard to imagine anything that unifies and lifts people more than this event. In the host towns, there’s a carnival spirit as children, with smiles as wide as team buses, wave their paper flags and bang their hands on the hoardings as a euphony of cheers heightens the anticipation.
Then there are the towns and villages along the route, adorned with bunting, packed to the rafters with friends and families lined up to celebrate some of the biggest names in cycling passing through.
In the grass of the countryside and on the sand of the beaches, land art representing the best of Yorkshire, from bikes to the Brontës, enlivens the roadside. This is a county proud of its roots, its landscape, its culture and now, its own professional bike race.
“I’ve cycled all around the world and my favourite three crowds are for the Classics in Belgium, those in the Basque Country and here in Yorkshire. Over the winter my team wanted me to take part in the Tour de Romandie to warm up for the Tour de France but I said no, I want to do the Tour de Yorkshire.”
These are the words of 2017 Tour de Yorkshire champion, Serge Pauwels and he’s not alone.
The legendary Tommy Voeckler, 2016 victor, says he “fell in love” with Yorkshire in 2014, during the Yorkshire Grand Départ and, if you speak to any of the riders in the peloton, you’ll find plenty of riders who love racing in this corner of the world.
The reasons? Well there are many. Firstly, the crowds. Over 2.2 million people stood roadside last year to cheer on these two wheeled titans. Yorkshire knows how to support a bike race. This kind of support just isn’t seen in most races in the cycling calendar. Secondly, the terrain. Yorkshire is as beautiful as it is brutal and the riders know that taking part in the Tour de Yorkshire will be rough and rewarding in equal measure.
Cyclists want a challenge and Yorkshire provides that in abundance. As Aqua Blue Sport rider Matt Brammeier summed up quite perfectly; “Without pain and suffering we would be nothing and life would get pretty boring. [The Tour de Yorkshire] provided a fair share for me this weekend but I bloody loved every minute.”
For the women taking part in the two-day Asda Tour de Yorkshire Women’s Race, there are other aspects of huge significance. Most important of all is the parity that the race brings. The race takes place on the same roads that the men tackle. The race has one of the largest prize pots in women’s cycling and it gets the same, full television coverage that the men’s race does – exposure that is crucial for riders, teams and sponsors alike.
The 2017 event was particularly enthralling viewing as a world class field including Olympic Road Race champion, Anna van der Breggen, lit up the roads from Tadcaster, through the Yorkshire Dales. The finishing podium was made up of a two-time World Champion, Giorgia Bronzini and American pocket rocket Coryn Rivera. However, the top spot was reserved for someone much closer to home. The Yorkshire flags in Harrogate were waved all that bit more vigorously than usual as the county’s very own hero, Lizzie Deignan, spectacularly sprung a solo attack with 15km to go and powered her way to victory.
“The finish was so special and so surreal and it meant so much to me to receive such great support,” Deignan said afterwards. “It was incredible and I’m struggling to get my head around it. This is up there with the biggest wins of my career, definitely.”
This year sees both races move into new ground; as the Asda Women’s race doubles in length to become a two-day race and the men’s race also gains an extra day, taking it from three to four.
From a racing perspective, this is exciting as it gives both races more time to develop and it presents the stage planners with more chances to create truly spectacular stages.
From a fans perspective, it gives more people more opportunities to see their cycling heroes and allows for more of Yorkshire’s remarkable scenery and brutal climbs to be showcased too. On top of this, 50 per cent of the host towns for this year are first time hosts, with Barnsley, Halifax, Ilkley and Richmond joining Beverley, Doncaster, Leeds and Scarborough in welcoming this year’s race.
The Tour de Yorkshire powers on and on and I, for one, cannot wait to see what future events deliver.
This article was taken from This is Y 2018