The 2017 Tour de Yorkshire route has everything required for an exciting race, and a worthy one too. The winner will be the best; three humdinger stages, especially the brutal third one, should see to that. Not being a UCI WorldTour race, and therefore much less controllable and predictable, raises the excitement potential as well.
We actually predicted the stages, in correct order, in October this year when the stage towns were announced. The beautiful logic and potential of the route stood out simply from looking at the places it would visit.
The route is tough with potential for decisive action on stage one (Friday, April 28), where we had to wait until stage three (Sunday, April 30) for the race really to come alight in 2016. The reason is the 2017 Tour de Yorkshire starts on the terrain it finished on in 2016.
After an undulating run from Bridlington across then along the edge of the Yorkshire Wolds, the riders hit the exposed North Yorkshire Moors, before facing the crosswinds of the coast. It’s a combination that strong riders look forward to and the weaker ones dread.
The Cote de Goathland could be the crux, with its steep start and exposed draggy top across Sleights Moor. Any gaps caused there could stick, with help from the hills and wind along the coastal leg between Whitby and Scarborough.
Stage two, Tadcaster to Harrogate will also host the women’s Tour de Yorkshire, and that could be tough in places too. The Cote de Lofthouse, which the riders hit after a dead turn at the bottom is long and hard. The moorland section after it could cause problems, although it does trend downhill.
The undulating final leg from Masham to Harrogate should see both races largely back together, but just before Harrogate there are a couple of hills, including a little brute in Birstwith, that could frustrate the sprinters.
Of course, the level of frustration depends on which sprinters are there. Mark Cavendish’s mum comes from Harrogate, and after his crash in the 2014 Tour de France he has unfinished business in that Yorkshire town.
So that sets things up for the final day, and if a strong team isn’t in control there could be carnage. There are 3000 metres of climbing in 194.5 kilometres between Bradford and Sheffield Fox Valley.
Four hills just before halfway, including the terrible cobbled Shibden Wall, will soften things up for a finale in the ‘land of the Strines’.
Four climbs in the last 20 kilometres, including the Cote de Ewden Height, or Ewden Bank or Deliverance if you know it better. It’s just under one kilometre long, with maximum a gradient of 23 per cent, and there are six kilometres from the summit to the finish.
Ewden Height (Bank or Deliverance) could provide the perfect springboard for a stage, or even an overall victory.