The inaugural Tour de Yorkshire opens its doors to a strong peloton of WorldTour and ProConti squads today; as well as the plucky British teams aiming to cause an upset during the three days in the county. As was seen during Le Tour de France’s excursion to Yorkshire last year, the terrain and course could prove more testing than the European riders expect; being caught short on day one could prove costly. Glancing upon Stage One’s profile for the first time gives the impression of a sprint finish being a guarantee, but with a rolling day in the saddle which includes 5 nasty climbs, this could prove a banana skin for many.
Exiting from the costal town of Bridlington, the peloton will then travel 174km en route to the finish at the seaside resort of Scarborough. The riders will have 51km under their belt before they are tasked with the day’s first climb; this being Cote de Dalby Forest. Though only 600m in length, the average gradient of 8.9% is likely to give some riders an idea of what shape they will be in come the finish in Scarborough. A touch over 40km will separate the bunch from the second ascent of the day which comes at Rosedale Abbey in the North York Moors National Park; Cote de Rosedale Abbey to be exact. It is the longest of the day at 2.8km and possesses and average gradient of 7% over its entirety.
A drop down the other side will offer the peloton a certain level of recovery as they approach a potent double header of climbs in under 10km; beginning at 123km with Cote de Grosmont. A length of 400m might induce a scoff from some, but Grosmont is sure to get the blood pumping as they haul themselves up its ferocious gradient of 16.9%. It is here we could see a few riders have their doors blown off by the tempo and slip out the back of the peloton as the bunch reorganises itself for the following ascent of Cote de Briggswath. An average of 6.2% over 1.3km will ensure any recovery found between the two climbs is short lived, rolling onwards through Whitby and onto the day’s final climb. If a breakaway has been swallowed up already by this point, the Cote de Robin’s Hood Bay could act as a solid springboard for anyone fancying a late attack for the line with approximately 27km remaining. The climb itself is 1.5km long and offers up an average of 10% in order for anyone wishing to spoil the sprinters’ day by launching a bid for home; a move Robin Hood would surely endorse.
The remaining ride into Scarborough should prove a more comfortable affair for many and the finish itself looks distinctly flat on paper. A sprint does seem likely, but the size and representatives present in such a bunch will vary greatly depending on the attrition rate apparent in the preceding hours of racing through Yorkshire. If a breakaway proves troublesome to catch, or the county displays its knack for four seasons in one day, the peloton could find life much harder if they hope to keep their sprinters happy come the seaside finale in Scarborough.
The German sprint ace Marcel Kittel attends this race as a marked favourite for the bookies, but many will be surprised by this factor given his recent struggles with form and condition during 2015 thus far. Had this opening day been a flatter affair it may have been possible to make a case for the ‘be-quiffed’ sprinter, but with five climbs present likely to build fatigue Kittel has not experienced for sometime now, doubts are well founded that he might not even be present to contest the finish.
As a Yorkshire lad himself, Ben Swift is likely to be eager to give the locals something cheer about during this three day spin around his home county. The harder nature of Stage 1 certainly leans towards a stronger sprinter such as Swift, but the flat finish negates this enough to place him back at square one. Team Sky are registered a British team and would certainly like to put Yorkshireman Swift in the first leader’s jersey of the Tour de Yorkshire and will work hard to do this. The finish itself should mean the purer sprinters go speeding past him, but a day ‘blessed’ with typical Yorkshire weather and motivation stoked by home pride are factors not to be ignored.
A sprinter who started the 2015 season well was Matteo Pelucchi of IAM Cycling, but heading into the first day in Yorkshire, his form has been absent for sometime now. Having won his opening two races in the shape of Trofeo Santanyi-Ses Salines-Campos & Trofeo Playa de Palma-Palma, he then proceeded to finish on the podium twice in Oman before a solid 10th place at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne in March. Since then his placings have been far from impressive, averaging between 150th – 170th during his time at Tirreno-Adriatico and Catalunya; as well as a few DNS or DNF along the way. His lack of recent competition could be interpreted fairly as a positive or negative; is he race fit or lacking race fitness for example? Regardless, Pelucchi has not offered much for a while now and Stage 1 does not suggest he will change this in Scarborough.
Though Bradley Wiggins makes his debut for his eponymously titled team here, attention on Stage 1 will be better focused upon the performance of their strongman sprinter Owain Doull. He is young still, but has shown encouraging form during the season so far with solid performances at Tour de Normandie, Le Triptyque des Monts et Châteaux and ZLM Roompot Tour for Great Britain. A win would be a dream result for the promising Welshman, but he should certainly feel comfortable aiming for a top ten placing; beyond that is hard to say.
BMC offer up Greg Van Avermaet, Jean-Pierre Drucker and Rick Zabel as viable options for the opening day’s ride to Scarborough. The Belgian Avermaet has had an impressive Spring campaign, charting in the top 5 at Amstel Gold, Paris-Roubaix and Tour of Flanders thanks to his great form. He certainly enjoys a hard day’s racing and often benefits when attrition leaves a reduced bunch to duke it out for the stage win. Teammate Drucker enjoys a testing day too and could secure himself a top ten if allowed the space to ride for it, though yet to take a win this year, he should see this as a chance to open his account. Zabel is still learning the ropes, but much is still expected of him due to his surname, a quick finisher who will benefit on the simple run into Scarborough; remaining in contention will be his major challenge.
Though JLT-Condor will fancy their chances of a good overall placing, this has not stopped them from bringing Ed Clancy, Tom Moses and Graham Briggs to Yorkshire in hope of a stage win. Clancy has not done a great deal in 2015, but such a naturally talented sprinter can never be ruled out from causing an upset. Moses and Briggs on the other hand have had more convincing openings to the season, the former finishing 11th in the testing Melton CiCLE Classic on Sunday and the latter displaying promising form during his only outing so far this year at February’s Herald Sun Tour.
Tom Scully had a great time during the Tour of Normandie, eventually finishing third overall having sustained a great level of form after his second place on the opening day’s prologue. Having spent several seasons racing in Britain now, he is certainly not adverse to a bumpy day of riding, but he is yet to capitalise on his domestic results when it comes to races such as the Tour of Britain for example.
NFTO will look to former WorldTour rider Steele Von Hoff as their man for the sprints here in Yorkshire. On Sunday he emerged as the champion of the arduous Melton CiCLE Classic and has form at the Tour of Britain in 2012 & 2013 where he had to settle for podium places behind the winner. He is evidently in good form right now and will be motivated to demonstrate that he still has what it takes against the best quick-men in the bunch as he eyes a move back to the top tier.
1st Ben Swift 2nd Steele Von Hoff 3rd Matteo Pelucchi