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Could Yorkshire become known as the heartland of cycling in Europe?

PUBLISHED: 00:00 09 March 2015

The cobblestone climb through Haworth is repeated this year Photo Matt West/BPI/REX

The cobblestone climb through Haworth is repeated this year Photo Matt West/BPI/REX

Copyright (c) 2014 Rex Features. No use without permission.

Esther Leach reports on the inaugural Tour de Yorkshire

Robin Hoods Bay part of the scenic route Photo by AlamyRobin Hoods Bay part of the scenic route Photo by Alamy

It seems you can’t have too much of a good thing - at least that’s what cycle race organisers will hope when they begin the Tour de Yorkshire, a new international cycle race, in a couple of months. The event is part of the legacy of the enormously successful Tour de France Grand Depart held in Yorkshire last summer. The new International Cycling Union approved race is to be held from May 1st-3rd and is expected to attract high profile cyclists and top international teams. There is a chance too for thousands of riders to take part in an official sportive, a mass cycle ride along part of the route to allow as many people as possible to experience the challenge.

‘We have the ability to deliver something unique for thousands of cyclists on May 3rd by combining the aura of the Tour de Yorkshire and Tour de France legacy in combination with the hospitality and stunning roads of Yorkshire,’ said Nick Rusling, chief executive of Human Race, event organisers with partners Amaury Sport Organisation and Welcome to Yorkshire. There is support too from British Cycling, local authorities, especially in the start and finish towns and cities like Bridlington, Leeds, Scarborough, Selby, Wakefield and York, North Yorkshire County Council and East Riding Council.

Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire said: ‘Before the Grand Depart had even finished people all across Yorkshire were asking when we can have more cycling. The Tour de Yorkshire will bring back many of the world’s top cycling teams and there is an opportunity for ordinary people to ride the same roads on the same day in the sportive.

‘And this is a free event to watch so there is an opportunity for everyone in the county to be part of Tour de Yorkshire in one way or another.

The climb out of Ilkley to the Cow and Calf rocks Photo Joan RussellThe climb out of Ilkley to the Cow and Calf rocks Photo Joan Russell

‘This is such an exciting opportunity for Yorkshire. The Tour de Yorkshire is all about growing the visitor economy and this event, with thousands taking part from all over the UK and overseas, will bring even more people to visit our county.’

The sportive takes place on May 3rd before the start of the final stage of the tour and will take in many of the roads and climbs the professionals will ride around Leeds. There are three distances to choose from - 50km, 100km and 140km - as well as a women’s only Cycletta sportive.

‘For sportive riders of all abilities, this will be an experience you won’t forget,’ added Nick Rusling.

Welcome to Yorkshire is also organising a month long Tour de Yorkshire Festival to showcase the region. The Yorkshire Festival, which first took place as part of the Tour de France Grand Depart, will be held in 2016.

Team Sky cyclist Ben Swift and Brian Robinson, the first British man to win a stage of the Tour de France, are given a guard of honour by local school children to launch the route of the 2015 Tour de Yorkshire Photo Shaun Flannery SWPIX.COMTeam Sky cyclist Ben Swift and Brian Robinson, the first British man to win a stage of the Tour de France, are given a guard of honour by local school children to launch the route of the 2015 Tour de Yorkshire Photo Shaun Flannery SWPIX.COM

The Tour de Yorkshire, to be televised live in the UK and across Europe, is expected to become an annual event. Organisers hope it will grow to be one of the biggest events in the cycling calendar and Yorkshire to be known as the heartland of cycling in Europe.

Famous Yorkshire cyclists past and present including Ben Swift, Team Sky pro rider, and Brian Robinson, the first British man to win a stage of the Tour de France, helped to announce the route of the inaugural Tour de Yorkshire in Bridlington, the town where the race will start in May.

Christian Prudhomme, director of the Tour de France, said that after the grandest of Grand Departs of the Tour de France, they were keen to return to Yorkshire. ‘With its stunning landscapes, iconic cities and tough climbs, Yorkshire offers all the ingredients needed for a great cycling race. The welcome we received in Yorkshire in July 2014 was simply spectacular and I am very much looking forward to returning there in May for the Tour de Yorkshire,’ he added.

Thierry Gouvenou of the ASO, Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Gary Verity, Brian Robinson,  Ben Swift and Jean-Etienne Amaury of ASO with local school children launch the routeThierry Gouvenou of the ASO, Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Gary Verity, Brian Robinson, Ben Swift and Jean-Etienne Amaury of ASO with local school children launch the route

Tour de Yorkshire route

The inaugural Tour de Yorkshire route takes in many areas which missed out on the Tour de France as it passed through Yorkshire. Thierry Gouvenou, Tour de France’s sports director, who designed the race route, said: ‘Yorkshire offers so much with its huge variety of landscapes. For this first edition we have three quite different stages, each with their own challenges and, seen as a whole, a very exciting addition to European racing. This first edition will suit a strong all-rounder rider. In the following years we will change the routes, taking in new places and offering something new each time.’

The race has three stages

Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Gary Verity outlines the route to guests Photo Alex Whitehead SWPIX.COMWelcome to Yorkshire chief executive Gary Verity outlines the route to guests Photo Alex Whitehead SWPIX.COM

Stage one: Friday May 1st will start in the seaside town of Bridlington and 174km later finish further up the coast in Scarborough. The riders, from all over the world, will pass through spectacular coastal scenery and the iconic North York Moors landscapes. From the start line in Bridlington the riders will head along the Flamborough Head Heritage Coast before turning away from the coast into the North York Moors National Park, through Dalby Forest and towards Pickering.

They’ll then head back to the coast at Whitby, and then south to Robin Hood’s Bay with a race to the finish line on the seafront at Scarborough. The last section of this stage will be particularly tough, especially the climb out of Robin Hood’s Bay, which is 1.5km long and has an average gradient of 10.3 per cent.

Stage two: Saturday May 2nd is one for the sprinters, and will see the race start outside Selby Abbey. The route takes in much of the Wolds and from Selby will take the peloton towards Market Weighton, through North Newbald and on to Beverley, where they will turn north to Malton, then on to Stamford Bridge. Spectators will have the chance to see a circuit of York and organisers are hoping for a dramatic finish in the city. As part of the legacy of the Tour de France to encourage more women to cycle, there will be a dedicated women’s event on a circuit through York.

Five times tour de France winner Bernard Hinault seen here at Cragg Vale will be on hand with expert adviceFive times tour de France winner Bernard Hinault seen here at Cragg Vale will be on hand with expert advice

Stage three: Sunday May 3rd, the final day, sees the peloton make a return to some of the roads raced in the Tour de France Grand Depart in Yorkshire last year but with a twist; starting in Wakefield, riders will travel south to Barnsley before heading to Holmfirth where they pick up the Grand Départ route in reverse, racing to Ripponden before riding the iconic Cragg Vale – which in the Tour de France was the country’s longest continual climb and now becomes the longest continual descent. The riders then make their way to Hebden Bridge, Oxenhope and through the famous cobbled streets of Haworth. This is definitely a stage for puncheurs and climbers and a series of short, sharp climbs punctuate the entire route. After a steep climb at Goose Eye the riders hit Ilkley, with the famous climb up to the Cow & Calf rocks before a sprint point at Arthington and then what is expected to be a hugely popular finish line in Roundhay Park in Leeds.

A mini-guide to the 2015 Tour de Yorkshire locations

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