That was insane.
The second stage of this year’s Tour de France will be one of the toughest of the whole race. I’ve ridden the route of the Marmotte, I’ve ridden the Etape in the Pyrenees, but I don’t remember doing anything as tough as the 160km I just rode from Harrogate to Sheffield (the Tour riders will do another 41km, starting in York).
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Stage two from York to Sheffield is going to put a lot of riders in trouble – the time cut may even come in to play – and any of the big names who haven’t been over to ride the route are in for a massive shock.
Yesterday I said that stage one was no sprint stage, but compared to today it was a walk in the park.
The Tour so often follows a tried and tested path. A prologue start to create some order, and then a few sprint stages, maybe with a couple of little hills thrown in.
The peloton will have no easy start this year. After a testing opening stage with narrow, undulating roads, they are thrown straight in to the deep-end with this leg-breaking stage, the route of which may in hindsight be considered too hard for the second day of a three week race.
Today’s ride started so well. The Cote de Blubberhouses was as fun as the name suggests, and over very quickly. Then there’s the show pony of a climb through the cobbled streets of Haworth. This pretty, cobbled, narrow street is bedecked with bunting and is utterly beautiful. A joy to ride.
But it’s not classified or named on ASO’s shark tooth profile. Yet the bottom of it hits almost 20 per cent. Like us doing Wiggle’s Ride the Route event, the peloton will cruise up it enjoying the atmosphere. The trouble is, there are lots of climbs like this on the route, they’re not categorised although they’re no easier than the nine which are.
Look at that great big lump coming after Hebden Bridge for example. I have no idea what climb that was (the whole day is now a bit of a blur if I’m honest), but I remember it was damn hard.
One of my problems today was that I didn’t know what was coming up. I was focused on Holme Moss, knowing that was the biggest ‘cote’ and after it there weren’t too many climbs left.
What a mistake.
Holme Moss was tough (I’d been riding for five hours by the time I got to the summit), but the remaining 40km was even tougher. At the bottom of the fast descent the route takes the riders left and back up a long drag before another fast descent. It’s what comes next that will take a lot of riders by surprise.
The Cote de Midhopestones is steep at the bottom before dragging on over the top (a common trait among the climbs in the Peaks), as is the next climb that, you guessed it, isn’t named on the route, but is damned tough. Then comes the Cote de Bradfield. Take a look at it on the profile above, it’s barely noticable. Yet this is where I lost it today.
It starts with a dead turn straight off of a steep descent – and I mean straight off of the descent – and immediately ramps up at an eye-watering gradient. This was where I started swearing, out loud, at the organisers, the choice of route, my decision for coming and riding it…… Anything really.
I Genuinely can’t differentiate between the next two climbs of the Cote d’Oughtibridge, just a cat 3(!) and then the climb to Grenoside that, of course, isn’t named on the profile or categorised.
If the peloton isn’t split to pieces by this point, I will be amazed. And it’s one of these final climbs where I will go and watch it.
I clocked up around 3,400m of climbing today. Mountain stages in the Tour will have more, but they won’t hit the gradients that the climbs of stage two do, nowhere near.