As the county races towards its sixth Tour de Yorkshire, Tom Ashurst reflects on the annual world class cycling event ahead of this year’s international sporting extravaganza.
“Of course, I’m excited to be back and racing the Tour de Yorkshire. It’s a place I used to spend a lot of time as a kid, and I’ve always had such an incredible welcome here. It’s a special race.”
These were the words of the great Mark Cavendish on the eve of the 2019 edition. The fact that a 30-time stage winner of the Tour de France still gets excited about competing in Yorkshire is testament to how far the race has come in five years. Joining him on the start line in Doncaster was another of Britain’s greatest sportsmen, Chris Froome, who was racing in God’s Own County for the first time since his participation in the 2014 Grand Départ, and 2018 TDY champion Greg Van Avermaet. Stellar names for a stellar race.
Whilst the line-up for the men’s race looked good, the names for the Asda Tour de Yorkshire Women’s Race were positively extraordinary. Three-time world champion Marianne Vos, reigning world road race and time trial champions Anna van der Breggen and Annemiek van Vleuten, plus Yorkshire’s Lizzie Deignan all featured as the race included 15 of the top 16 teams on the planet.
Cycling is going from strength to strength here, but it is perhaps the strides that are being made to create genuine gender parity within the sport that Yorkshire can be most proud of. Equal prize money coupled with full television coverage is what these heroes of the sport deserve, and it is exactly what they receive in the White Rose county.
Looking at the women’s race first, Stage One from Barnsley to Bedale, and incorporating a lap of the Yorkshire 2019 Harrogate circuit, was fiercely competed but it was the new sprint sensation Lorena Wiebes who would win on the day, thisvictory would prove to be one of 14 in a breakout season for the Dutch speedster.
Stage Two was always going to be the crucial day though as they faced 132km of sheer Yorkshire viciousness from Bridlington to Scarborough, including the small matter of five categorised climbs.
Chuck in the most brutal weather conditions the race has ever faced and it was clear it was going to take someone with true Yorkshire grit to win. After attacks from van der Breggen, van Vleuten and Deignan, it was Mavi Garcia and Soraya Paladin who forced the decisive break. Unfortunately for them though, they took the legendary Vos with them and it was the Dutchwoman who would ultimately reign in the rain on the Scarborough seafront.
In the men’s race lightening actually and metaphorically struck twice on Stage One as, in a repeat of 2018, a victory on what looked like a routine bunch sprint stage was won from the day’s breakaway. Unlike in 2018, when Yorkshire’s Harry Tanfield triumphed from the breakaway group, Jesper Asselman was the only escapee to hold off the baying peloton as his sprint into a soggy Selby was unparalleled. Stage Two into Bedale was more by the book, with the mighty German Rick Zabel outsprinting the field in a bunch kick to the line. Stage 3, Bridlington to Scarborough, saw the General Classification spark into life as a
Team INEOS-led group forced a searing pace in crosswinds to blow the peloton to bits as an elite group made their way to Scarborough’s North Bay. It was the demonstrative Dane, Alexander Kamp, who would win on the day but Team INEOS rider Chris Lawless would move into the overall lead with one stage to go.
So, onto the final stage that saw a repeat of the Halifax to Leeds route of 2018. Lawless, a sprinter who climbs a bit, was not expected to hold on with the likes of Olympic champion Van Avermaet breathing down his neck but he clung on over climbs like Park Rash and Greenhow Hill, ably supported by his teammates Owain Doull, Eddie Dunbar and Froome, and by the time they reached Leeds, he was with just Van Avermaet and teammate Dunbar. The 2018 champion Van Avermaet would win the sprint for the stage, but it was the man from Wigan who would seal the overall title by just two seconds.
What the Tour de Yorkshire lacked in weather, it more than made up for it in atmosphere as the villages and towns along the route came out in force to do Yorkshire proud yet again.
Not only was it the vociferous support on the roadside but it was the creative efforts that communities went to when adorning their streets with bunting and flags and some of the incredible land art seen too. This included an amazing creation featuring a winking goose and turkey riding Chopper bikes in Goose Eye which was crowned the winner of the 2019 Land Art competition.
The legacy of 2014 and the Grand Départ lives on, not only with the Tour de Yorkshire but also with the UCI Road World Championships, which for nine days in September 2019 saw the world of cycling yet again descend on Yorkshire.
Cycling in God’s Own County has come of age and 2020 will yet again show off the county in all its glory.
THIS ARTICLE WAS TAKEN FROM THIS IS Y 2020 - YOU CAN VIEW THE FULL MAGAZINE HERE.