Words by Louise Mahé
“Even as we set out, we could tell today’s race was going to be something special.
“First off, we don’t often get to race on fully closed roads at a domestic level, so having total freedom as to which line to take was great, and really allows us to get stuck in and race hard.
“Second of all the crowds were already forming along the route during our race, crowds that were quite deep in places. People weren’t just there to watch the men’s race, they had turned up early to watch us race too.
“All along the course there were people clapping and cheering. It really shows that the people of Yorkshire have taken cycling into their hearts after last year’s Grand Depart, and it’s having a knock on effect on women’s racing too.
“With this in mind I think many riders wanted to make it a good one today. The race was fast from the start and stayed consistently so, with very few lulls in the pace. Different teams and riders were hitting it from the start, no one team really seemed to have control and despite a few attempts from various different groups to get away nothing stuck.
“Constantly I’d look back and just see the bunch strung out back down the road, but it seemed likely it was going to end in a bunch finish.
“About halfway round the final lap I realised the pace was high and that I was quite far back and was struggling to move up without putting my nose in the wind. Suddenly my teammate Julie Erskine was there with me and she put in a big effort to take me back nearer to the front.
“This was perfect timing as a few teams began organising their sprint trains, though this was still quite early. I bided my time and surfed some wheels, but as we rounded the final bend I began to worry I was too far back.
“In fact this probably worked in my favour as the finishing straight was longer than expected and I think a few riders went quite early.
“A gap opened and I just went for it. I knew it was close with Eileen Roe [second] and Katie Curtis [third] and just lunged. Even after the finish I wasn’t sure if I’d got it!
“As a race I think today will be a platform to bigger things. The race was quite short, but hopefully it will develop and attract some bigger name riders and teams in the coming years.
“If the race were longer – or a stage race – it would probably attract those big teams. After the success of the Women’s Tour last year, the women’s peloton knows that the UK can host awesome races!
“Hopefully today will be just a starting point and as the profile of women’s racing continues to get bigger, so will the women’s Tour de Yorkshire.”
Tour de Yorkshire blog #1: “by ‘eck that were a tuff’un”
Words by Richard Abraham
There weren’t many riders who thought stage one of the Tour de Yorkshire would turn out to be quite so tough.
Even Thomas Voeckler, an honorary Yorkshireman for the weekend going by the number of cheers of ‘go on Tommy’ along the road, found it harder than he expected.
“Perhaps we knew that it would be difficult, with the little roads and so on,” he told Cycling Weekly. “There was a bit of wind here and there but it was little roads all the time. It was much tougher than we thought.
“And look at today’s profile in the roadbook, and then look at that one on Sunday. That’s a pretty scary prospect now!”
Right from the rollout in Bridlington (which echoed to the sound of ‘Suspicious Minds’ and was full of men dressed as the King as the race coincided with an Elvis tribute weekend in the seaside town), the race was wide open.
There was no previous edition to go by, and no standout race favourite or strong team although ‘home’ team Sky took up much of the work.
Many riders entered the race unsure of their form following a post-Classics break, and the field featured a spectrum of cyclists from former Olympic road race champion on WorldTour BMC to an 18 year-old on British continental team NFTO.
The day was one with over 2,000m of climbing but never went more than 350m above sea level. A good proportion of that climbing came in chunks of a few hundred metres, and often at gradients topping 20%.
It was what you’d call ‘grippy,’ and the race was run in conditions that people around here would call ‘nithering’ [brisk and breezy].
“Is it still winter here or something?” questioned one VIP driver with race organisers ASO.
Marcel Kittel dropped off the back of the bunch on the climb up out of Rosedale Abbey, eventually getting into the Giant-Alpecin team car along the top of the North York Moors with 70km to go. All those bookies that had the big German down as odds-on favourite for the overall race title will be able to treat themselves this Bank Holiday weekend.
At least it meant he didn’t get involved in the crash, which brought down Ben Swift and tore the race to pieces as it descended onto the North Sea coast and billowed in a stiff cross-tailwind blowing in from the North East.
That Scandinavian breeze must have favoured Norwegian rider Lars Petter Nordhaug, but at the end of the day nearly 17 minutes separated him from the last man on the road, Doncaster’s Graham Briggs (JLT-Condor).
Although we didn’t see the crowds on the same scale as the Tour de France, we still saw that same spirit.
From the man dressed as a sheep riding up the Cote de Rosedale Abbey, the person riding along Scarborough promenade with a giant papier mache head in the likeness of Bradley Wiggins, or the blokes who had dressed up as pirates and moored their ‘ship’ along the intermediate sprint in Pickering.
The riders might moan of stiff legs when they roll out of Selby on stage two on Saturday, but Yorkshire seems to like the Tour de Yorkshire just as much as it liked the Tour de France. And we like it too.
Roll on tomorrow.