The second day in Yorkshire proved to be a much more predictable affair as Moreno Hofland broke Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s long standing duck of no wins and sprinted to victory in York; as forecast by Spokenforks yesterday. All the major contenders for the overall win navigated a safe passage to the finish and kept their powder dry by hiding amongst the bunch for most of the day, knowing ignition point comes imminently in the form of Stage 3.
A testing conclusion awaits those with an eye on becoming Tour de Yorkshire’s first ever champion, ensuring this race becomes a noteworthy addition to any rider’s palmares. Though slightly shorter than the previous two days, Stage 3’s 167km route from Wakefield to the city of Leeds encompasses six categorised climbs and offers the peloton little in the way of flat roads. Focus will be centred upon the day’s ascents, but with an unexpectedly gruelling opening stage to this race, the riders will be all too aware that labelling uncategorised uphill sections as ‘rolling’ can prove costly.
Having rolled out of Wakefield a little after lunch, the riders will progress upwards over the opening 20km or so before having to tackle Cote de Holmfirth’s summit at the 40km marker. Its 2.9km ascent being the second longest of the day and is sure to set a foundation for the day’s attrition rate with an average of 5.5%. Only 15.5km separates them from the following climb, this time riding up the 2.2km slopes which form Cote de Scapegoat, shorter than its predecessor, it will require greater grunt work to make it over the 8.3% gradient at the head of affairs. Officially, the profile shows no climbs for another 40km, but the terrain in this part of the world guarantees some will be caught out by the hills missing on their route maps. By 88.5km the bunch will have dropped into the feed zone at Mytholmroyd and the domestiques will have to be quick to share the jam sandwiches out, as the day’s longest climb begins almost immediately upon snatching their musettes.
The climb of Hebden Bridge ( to drop the ‘Cotes’ for a moment) is by far the longest they will be tasked with during Stage 3; demanding 4.1km of climbing in total. The average gradient of 5.5% might not seem that terrible on paper, but after nearly 95km in the legs and the possible need to shelter from wind and rain; this could be even more attritional than expected. Insight should be apparent by this point, it becoming clear which teams are eager to chase any such breakaway and who within their roster is the protected rider with eyes upon being the overall winner come Leeds. A short descent follows on from Hebden Bridge and leads the peloton onto the day’s fourth climb of Cote de Goose Eye; 1.3km long and an average of 10%. This has the potential to blow the doors off a fair few riders and could possibly act as a launchpad for an ambitions attack given its length and gradient. Whoever is leading the race at this point will have a 20km break from the day’s official climbs, but will still have to churn away over the lumpy Yorkshire terrain towards the sprint at Ilkley.
The sprint itself links directly into the penultimate climb Cote de Cow and Calf, appearing with 35.5km remaining and should prove decisive when paired with the day’s final ascent. Cow and Calf is 200m shy of 2km and manages to sustain a draining gradient of 8% throughout its entirety. An elite group is likely to have formed by now and its components will dictate the subsequent run into Leeds; some will wish to take it to the line, as others try to formulate a plan of escape to give faster finishers the slip. Regardless, there is still all to play for on the gruelling slopes of Cote de Chevin with less than 25km separating the leaders from the finish by this point. Only 100m longer than the shortest of Stage 3’s six climbs, Chevin packs a bunch despite its size; an average gradient of 10.3% has the power to bring a breakaway to a grinding halt in the path of a fast chasing peloton. For those who manage to remain in contention after the last climb, they will have a clear run to Leeds interrupted only by another sprint, this time at Arthington. Whichever rider raises their arms aloft having taken Stage 3 is also likely to be crowned the first ever winner of Tour de Yorkshire; who that might be is a hot topic.
The leader’s jersey currently sits upon the shoulder’s of Team Sky’s Lars-Petter Nordhaug; winning it after a dominant display of form during Stage One. He will have the whole team at his disposal in their attempt to win this race, but is unlikely to be afforded the same opportunity he benefited upon in the chaos of the first day. He suits this almost classic style parcour and will no doubt give it everything to keep the jersey by the end of the day. Though Nordhaug is not fancied to win the day, the Norwegian has the grit and determination to limit the winner’s gains and hopefully be crowned champion.
Samuel Sanchez is next best on the general classification and certainly has the ability to take the overall win if he finds himself on good form once again. The BMC rider has a strong team, though will do well to find its entirety at his disposal due to the presence of Greg Van Averamet; Sanchez has the nous to ride this solo if need be and cannot be ruled out.
Belgian classics specialist Greg Van Avermaet sits a further 70 seconds back on teammate Sanchez and will no doubt be an antagonist during the day. They Ardennes style route suits Avermaet and he could certainly double up with Sanchez to create a troublesome headache for an elite breakaway. If both should be present in a race deciding group, Averamaet can attack and allow Sanchez to sit on the wheel of those trying to bring the Belgian back. If timed late enough, Avermaet might be allowed to contest the win solo while others higher up the general classification try to calculate who is a bigger danger to their ambitions; Sanchez possibly taking the overall as a consequence.
Like Samuel Sanchez, Tommy Voeckler is only ten seconds behind Nordhaug and clearly has this race well within his sights. Europcar seldom have qualms when it comes to animating a race and the French outfit will not hesitate to bury themselves in the name of national treasure Voeckler. He enjoys this terrain and has an incredible ability to read a race in the absence of race radios; an attribute which could lay the foundations of a stage or overall win here. If one man is to cause the most hassle and frustration for Team Sky and the peloton during Stage 3, it will surely be Voeckler.
Cofidis came to this race with little to draw the eye, but now have two riders placed inside the top 10 heading into the final day. Stephane Rosetto was part of the breakaway group which contested Stage One’s conclusion and appears to be flying in regards to form right now; perhaps only missing out on a higher placing due to some overzealous riding in the final moments. Being only 12 seconds down on Nordhaug will surely encourage the Frenchman to have a go at taking this race by the horns and a place upon the podium in Leeds would be great for Cofidis. Anthony Turgis is placed 6th on the general classification and is somewhat of a dark horse for the day; despite being only 20 years old. He won the U23 Liége-Bastogne-Liége last year and evidently copes with this sort of terrain; he potentially offers a similar plan of attack for Cofidis as Sanchez & Avermaet at BMC.
Steven Kruijswijk has not had a great time at this race so far and could try to make his presence here worthwhile during Stage 3. He is unlikely to fear the day’s climbs given a palmares which includes a top 10 finish at the Giro d’Italia; while being almost 17mins down on the general classification will mean any breakaway attempt will provoke little reaction from the peloton. Those from the British scene who could feature in one last breakaway alongside the Dutchman include Liam Holohan, Marcin Bialoblocki and Michael Cuming
1st Greg Van Avermaet 2nd Lars-Petter Nordhaug 3rd Tommy Voeckler
Samuel Sanchez or Tommy Voeckler