Tour de Force

Yorkshire is gearing up for its biggest cycling year to date, as not only the host of the UCI Road World Championships but also the fifth edition of the annual Tour de Yorkshire. Tom Ashurst gets us in the mood for what’s to come with a look back at the county’s fourth edition of the world-class cycling extravaganza.

The 2018 Tour de Yorkshire could hardly have been better. It all began in the gorgeous market town of Beverley, host for a race start back in 2016. However, this time, ponchos were exchanged for parasols as the only things teeming down were glorious golden rays. Yorkshire is magnificent all year round, but there’s nothing quite like Yorkshire in the sunshine – it’s not called God’s Own County for nothing.

After a pulsating day in the saddle, history repeated itself in the Asda Tour de Yorkshire Women’s Race as Dutch powerhouse Kirsten Wild continued her love affair with Doncaster with a perfectly timed sprint finish to take stage one. Wild’s balance, raw power and timing were impeccable as per her victory in this town two years earlier. In the men’s race it was a completely different story. A five-man breakaway held off a talent-packed peloton, which included a certain Mark Cavendish, but Great Ayton’s Harry Tanfield emerged victorious. To quote the man himself, “scenes!”.

Barnsley’s exemplary Town Hall was the backdrop for the start of Stage 2 as the bunch rolled out in earnest again. The heavyweights exchanged punches on the day’s numerous climbs, but it was on the final climb, the Ilkley Cow & Calf, that the fireworks really started. Megan Guarnier could not be passed on her birthday and held on to take the stage and with it, the overall 2018 title. This would prove to be the final professional victory in the glittering career of Guarnier – and what a way to finish. In her words “That was really hard, but I can only say, I have never had a crowd like the one coming up that climb. It was so loud, they were so amazing and it was so cool to win after all those cheers.”

Later that afternoon, another champion in Yorkshire, Serge Pauwels, made his move on this climb in an attempt to recreate his 2017 success. It looked like it would pay off, until the great Dane, Magnus Cort, showed his finishing prowess to peel around Pauwels to reach the line first.

Stage 3 saw the Tour de Yorkshire visit Richmond for the first time, where a remarkable number of spectators turned out to cheer on the peloton. Huge crowds have become synonymous with this bike race, but this particular day was something else. For anyone who remains cynical of the financial impact of this event, this was the day that all eight cash machines in Richmond ran out of money as fans poured into local tea rooms, restaurants and shops once the cyclists were on their way.

Another day of sunshine brought out yet more crowds, as towns and villages all the way through to Scarborough turned out in huge numbers to watch Max Walscheid raise his hand in the air victoriously. On finishing, Walscheid commented “I’ve never seen it like this before, at Roubaix there were massive crowds but this was incredible.”

The toughest test was left until last. Stage 4, from Halifax to Leeds, saw the riders take on over 3,300m of climbing across beautiful yet brutal Yorkshire terrain. Stephané Rossetto delivered the most incredible victory seen in the short history of the race, as the bold baroudeur rode solo for over 100km to win on The Headrow. The beers were certainly on Rossetto too, as he was first past the “Black Sheep Straight” en route to glory, thus securing himself his height in ale.

The General Classification came down to a battle of strength between Magnus Cort and Greg Van Avermaet. It looked as though the Astana man would hold on but the final climb up Otley Chevin proved one peak too many, which allowed for Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet to add the Tour de Yorkshire title to his glittering palmarès. Afterwards, Van Avermaet was effusive with praise for the race “The crowds throughout the week have been amazing. I remember the Tour de France here and the Tour de Yorkshire in 2015. This year we were so lucky with the weather and the crowds came out even more. The race really has its place on the calendar and it’s pretty amazing, so I hope to be back here again next year.”

2018 will be difficult to beat, but as Yorkshire’s cycling revolution continues to grow, you wouldn’t put it past 2019 being even better.

This article was taken from This is Y 2019.