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Rapido Guide: Tour of Yorkshire 2017 – Stage 2 Preview


Despite a high speed pile-up during the final few hundred meters of Stage 1, a sprint finish decided the outcome of the opening day as expected, Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen navigating a late path to the front of affairs in order to take the win as predicted by Spokenforks. Stage 2 should be an easier day in the saddle for the peloton, lasting a relatively short 122.5km from Tadcaster to Harrogate, the course only possessing a single classified climb in the shape of the testing Côte de Lofthouse (1.7km, avg 11.4%). The racing is likely to be more intense as a result of the shorter distance, but the general belief is that a sprint finish shall once again determine the stage victor at the Tour of Yorkshire. With a finale which tilts upwards in regards to gradient, this could be a day for the punchier lightweight sprinters to stake claim to stage honours.

Tour of Yorkshire Stage 2 Preview


Nacer Bouhanni failed to capitalise on the work of his Cofidis teammates yesterday, finishing off the podium in fourth place, despite a committed effort by the French outfit in the final kilometres. He will not be best pleased with yesterday’s result, so shall no doubt be motivated to strike success at the second time of asking at the day’s finish in Harrogate. Bouhanni climbs very well for a sprinter and is unlikely to be worried about the final section of rolling terrain which leads up to the finish line itself.

Caleb Ewan has previously combined his explosive power and small build to take advantage of uphill finishes such as these, making him a likely contender for the win on Stage 2 of 2017’s Tour of Yorkshire. Beaten in surprising fashion by Dylan Groenewegen yesterday, the latter having to start his sprint from amongst traffic, Ewan will know that he realistically is the fastest rider at the race. With the finish in Harrogate expected to be less hectic than Stage 1’s finale, he is bound to be positioned well by his Orica-Scott team in order to burst uphill for the win.

Kristian Sbaragli is never afforded a great deal of time in the limelight at major races, yet is a name which is often seen populating the upper rankings of stage finishes at major races. Though he struggles against the most powerful sprinters on a flat head to head finale, today’s gradient to the line should provide him with a levelling of the field for him to take advantage of. He came home in sixth place on the opening day, which is an encouraging sign, and will have a strong roster of Dimension Data riders at his disposal to help him late on.

Dylan Groenewegen took the opening stage as anticipated by Spokenforks, remaining anonymous in the leading group until very late on in the final kilometre. The young Dutch rider showed great patience while boxed in by his rivals, eventually being reward with a small gap to manoeuvre through, from which he ultimately surged to the line to edge out Caleb Ewan. Some will argue that today’s Stage 2 is an even better prospect for Groenewegen, and with concerns over the fitness of team leader Steven Kruijswijk after crashing, the powerful LottoNL – Jumbo team could decide he is the new man to back at this race.

Danny Van Poppel should be in the mix for the win on Stage 2 and will be eager for his Team Sky teammates to stay clear of any late crashes in Harrogate this time. The Dutch sprinter could prove to be another rider who benefits from the slight rise at the finish, but his form has not been particularly consistent this season, making it difficult to know exactly how great a contender he is. Regardless, he should be guaranteed a good position when it matters most and his explosive acceleration is capable of establishing a gap which is difficult to close when racing uphill.

Magnus Cort Nielsen may be gifted leadership from Caleb Ewan for a finish such as this, but only if the Australian is not feeling up to contesting the finale. Nielsen has risen rapidly through the peloton in the last year, demonstrating a great power in tough sprints, but will struggle to be allowed to go for the win himself on Stage 2. Will not start Stage 2 after sustaining suspected broken collarbone.

Adam Blythe was not directly hampered by the crash in the final kilometre yesterday, though certainly hesitated to continuing sprinting once he realised things around him were not going to plan. The British champion was not feeling in the best of form on the opening day, so his team will be hoping he can bounce back in Harrogate to challenge for the win and deliver the first British winner of a stage of the Tour of Yorkshire.

Tom Moses is a Yorkshireman who may well find himself with greater freedom to attack now his JLT – Condor team leader Russell Downing is out with a broken collarbone. Dangerous from either a breakaway or an uphill sprint, it would not prove wise to let Moses gain too great a gap on the peloton in the final moments of Stage 2.


1st Kristian Sbaragli 2nd Dylan Groenewegen 3rd Caleb Ewan


CiCLE Classic 2016 – Gallery

Spokenforks has witnessed plenty of misfortune during its time stood at the roadside hassling riders with flashbulbs and camera lenses; punctures, wrong turns, bananas M.I.A all checked off. Rutland’s CiCLE Classic multiplies these dramas for fun, twisting roads and gravel farm tracks feeding disaster, bad luck and failure to bloom within the peloton. Sadly, for us at least, it was bad luck which saw our camera make our trip up to Rutland seem a disaster before we had even seen a pedal turned in anger.

Whether it was a case of using film cameras from the 70’s which should have been hung up many moons ago or the mean race faces on show at NFTO; one picture and the shutter had called it quits on us. No back-up because “these bags are getting heavy” seemed genius at some point along the way, so Spokenforks was now camera-less in the middle of Rutland with the country’s best one day race waiting to roll out.

Sunday morning in Oakham was slim pickings for camera shops…surprisingly…so it looked like it was game over for us at the CiCLE Classic; finito, “that’s all folks”, kaput, The End. But to come all this way and leave empty handed would have been a disaster, so scanning down the high street for a charity shop to plunder was a bolt of inspiration from the blue. A total of £1.99 later we had a “telefoto” point & shoot compact and the lowest of expectations.

CiCLE Classic Rutland Melton 2016

These may not be the most spectacular of shots, but they go some way to convey the hectic nature of the CiCLE Classic; weather you are a brave rider or just a disorganised journalist – 0h, and a menacing looking bull atop a hill.

CiCLE Classic Rutland Melton 2016

CiCLE Classic Rutland Melton 2016

CiCLE Classic Rutland Melton 2016

CiCLE Classic Rutland Melton 2016

CiCLE Classic Rutland Melton 2016

CiCLE Classic Rutland Melton 2016

CiCLE Classic Rutland Melton 2016

CiCLE Classic Rutland Melton 2016

CiCLE Classic Rutland Melton 2016
CiCLE Classic Rutland Melton 2016

CiCLE Classic Rutland Melton 2016

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A Day At The Races – Tour of Britain 2015

Tour of Britain Stage 7 – Fakenham to Ipswich

Terrain: Country lanes & military airbase

Weather: Lazy drizzle & grey skies

Total Distance: 227.1km                Crowds: Waterproof ponchos everywhere

Start: Fakenham Racecourse        Best Game Face: Graham Briggs

Bradley Wiggins Factor: Parting fans like Moses to make sign-on

Lean racing machines stalk Fakenham racecourse as commonplace, so to see a crowd gathered around the parade ring is nothing unusual here. But today’s runners and riders distinctly lack the expected glossy manes of racehorses, even if Rasmus Quaade does sport a powerful moustache, however plenty here still share a fondness for oats with the thoroughbreds who normally excite the grandstand. This toy town sized venue sits nestled amongst the intricate spaghetti work of Norfolk’s roads, testing both bus and driver as much as any Alpine ascent, resulting in a tediously drawn out transfer for all the riders.

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Unsurprisingly, the day’s dank dawn has done little to persuade the teams away from their space age wagons, with only a handful of British domestic teams bold enough to saddle up on the turbos outside. So unattractive is the weather, that for many of the squads here, the sign-on process has turned into a 100m dash from bus to stage and back. When out onstage however, the speakers gurgle with the daily spiel, guaranteeing each rider’s wave earns a cheer from the crowd; now steaming beneath their complimentary rain ponchos.

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Despite the sport’s huge groundswell of interest on British turf thanks to Cavendish, Wiggins, Armitstead Hoy, Pendleton and Froome; cycling remains a strange beast. There are no true limitations for ambling around the riders and their buses, teams relying on the constraints of social norms stopping strangers from inviting themselves onto the bus and generally being weird. The majority of today’s attendance is firmly ensconced within touching distance of the Team WIGGINS van. A sea of limbs grasping smartphones in place of autograph books, contorting their bodies to rattle off selfies with the thread slim Bradley Wiggins stalking the crowded barrier in shot.

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This knight’s fellow men-at-arms form the remaining five sixths of his battalion, three of whom slink away to sign-on and return with little interest from the crowd. Bradley on the other hand cycles the hundred meters to the stage with an amateur town crier ahead of him, negotiating a gangway through those magnetised into orbit by his charisma.

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Wiggins narrows the scope of a race so acutely that appreciation of the breadth and depth of riders here can became momentarily suspended. Regardless of whether Britain is truly enamoured or simply infatuated by cycling, the profile of the sport has struck an exponential phase of development. This 2015 line-up bolsters World Champions, several National Champions, Grand Tour jersey winners, Monument winners and one of Eritrea’s favourite sons. A once backwater race now sits at the top table of cycling with the room to grow in stature yet further still, admittedly how best to do so is uncertain, though Tour of Britain’s take on the eccentric Tour de France advertising cavalcade could be a start.

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Fakenham’s drizzled starting line becomes populated all of a sudden, the weather inspiring riders for a Le Mans style scramble to saddle up and ride out with no hanging around. The previous six days of racing are already etched deep on the brow of many, exaggerated by the tangible heavy sigh pressing down on the peloton from the cinderblock sky above. As they trickle out from the racecourse like a loose thread, it seems that a miserable day is all that lies in store for these riders.

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Finish – Ipswich Town Centre

Weather: Blue skies and obscene levels of sunshine

Crowds: Skilled in parkour to get a good view

Bradley Wiggins Factor: Encouraging the 60+ age group to sprint over walls

Like ants beneath a magnified sun, the riders now skitter across scorched tarmac, sailing through the technical kilometres preceding the Ipswich town centre finish. Britain’s climate has impersonated a more continental vibe for the latter half of the day, spectators swap their hot chocolate for cool lagers, while riders strip down to short sleeves for the heated finale into town. Whereas Fakenham’s departure point felt like a juddering steam engine building up pressure to leave the station, the habitual scanning from ‘jumbotron’ to finishing straight (and back again), is more akin to waiting for a thundering bullet train to blitz its way to the line. So eager are those gathered to witness the anticipated showdown between Elia Viviani and André Greipel, that the rooftops of estate agents, apartments, bars and banks now become sky-high terraces for those able to negotiate their way to the summit.

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If the start’s modest crowd of enthusiasts and dedicated Rapha/Wiggins acolytes demonstrated a local interest, Stage 7’s town centre finale confirms a nation’s burgeoning obsession. Barriers are five bodies deep, even beyond the finishing line, with 50km still to race before the peloton begin bearing down on the county capital’s outskirts. Time is said to be relative at best, but waiting for first sight of a rider exiting the final bend exaggerates this further still, spectators hung in suspended animation, as minute by minute nothing changes in Ipswich. ‘Jumbotron’ serves as the only assurance that there is indeed a race worth waiting for here. A breath which never quite suffices or the infinite fall of shepard tones, being a spectator feels punishing on occasion, with the prospect of watching paint dry seeming electric after a while.

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Time at the line is focused on one calculation: the exact moment at which your eyes can scan down from the live TV and register that the riders are now before you with only 100m left. From rider to spectator, road racing’s facets are sunk deep within hours of increasing tension, before venting frenziedly and abruptly for the mad rush across the line. Synapses spark in an attempt to translate the initial smattering of vibrant jerseys into rider names, and in turn, vocalise some sort of motivational howl to nudge your favoured rider over the line. Today that rider is André Greipel, cementing his season’s final victory in a year which has seen him collect at least one win from nine of his ten stage race appearances. Who said sprinting stopped at 33 years old?

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Then it dawns across the crowd – “That’s it.”
The race both comes to life and fades within several pedal revolutions; perhaps no other sports is so tightly bonded to ‘the moment’ in that respect. Rugby, tennis and football drag beyond an hour and have their entirety spectated upon from one location, while much of track and field, or even gymnastics, is the repetition of efforts in pursuit of perfection. Staying at home for armchair race coverage fails to guarantee witnessing everything either, as directors cut from camera to camera in an attempt to please every nation’s fans; missing breaks suddenly forming, riders being dropped or losing everything altogether as weather sabotages live feed.

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Those who prop themselves up against a race barrier exchange hours of staring at dire advertising hoardings, for a fleeting moment which places them alongside their heroes. In that moment comes the satisfaction of sharing it with those who inspire you, a process repeated for fans from kilometre zero to the day’s final podium presentation. Photography mirrors this attribute of cycling well, all of the shots here could be flashes in the memory of any individual who turned out for the day. There is no football style ‘build up play’ to be remembered when standing roadside, this sport hinges on being in the right place at the right time; on either side of the barriers.

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Ultimately it becomes an addiction, wanting another pass by the peloton, spotting your favourite rider or dreaming of seeing the race winning move vanish up the road. Even nowadays with parades of press motorbikes surrounding the bunch and helicopters overhead, certain aspects and stories of the race are only documented through those dedicated followers at the roadside. For those who decided to watch Stage 7 at some point from Fakenham to Ipswich, all now possess a moment which intertwines them with the race. Yet a lucky few will have walked away with a story too and it is in the pursuit of those tales which fuels interest to become obsession.



Continental Lift: Rutland – Melton International CiCLE Classic

As a nation bitten by the cycling bug relatively recently, Britain lacks the historic monuments of the sport which sees millions tune in across Europe during the spring, but perhaps that sentiment is no longer valid. The Lincoln Grand Prix has long been hailed as the sole classic upon which the British can hang their cobbles loving cap upon; the Michaelgate dishing out agony to contort faces like those on the slopes of the Koppenberg. If Lincoln is the nearest thing to a classic like De Ronde or Liége-Bastogne-Liége within Britain, where is the doppelgänger for Paris-Roubaix‘s notorious dash across farm tracks and cobbled sectors?

Nestled in Britain’s smallest county is the Rutland – Melton International CiCLE Classic, a 160km tear around Rutland’s towns and villages. Tasking the riders with draining climbs, sweeping lanes and sectors played out upon gravel roads; the race being distinctly continental in flavour. It is a difficult task to summarise the CiCLE Classic in relation to the domestic scene as it is such a stand alone event, a curious blend of Tro-Bro Léon and Paris – Roubaix perhaps the most succinct. Clouds of dust floated gently skywards as rider and bike fought for purchase over the crunching country tracks, a mad cavalcade of support cars charging from behind in anticipatory support of scuttled tyres. The attrition rate was always going to be high, and thankfully the route was baked by streaming sunshine for the most part, the parcours only ever one downpour away from becoming an authentic day in Flanders.


Exiting from Oakham, it was evident that this race attracts a passionate crowd of locals and enthusiasts, many already assembled early for the junior race’s finale. Youngsters who left the morning’s start fresh faced and eager to display their wares now came home exponentially aged by a route which saps the muscles fibres, rattles the bones and leaves them dusting themselves down. These gruelling races serve as experience to blood the next generation of hopeful professionals emerging from the domestic scene. The operation of the CiCLE Classic is exposure to a top level race, a rarity amongst a British calendar which is seeing its top races cut for the professionals; let alone the youngsters. Its ranking as a UCI 1.2 race attracts continental interest lack no other race currently existing without strong backing from British Cycling; the overnight establishment of other major UCI races such as London-Surrey and Tour de Yorkshire undermining the independent effort put into hosting a race such as this. The Premier Calendar for example has diminished greatly over the years, suffering from a devastating lack of infrastructure and funding. British Cycling’s ability to create a new race with a click of the fingers from ASO is becoming an insult to the long serving grassroots races which have brought through new talent consistently.


The parcours was immediately taking no prisoners during the elite race, Steele Von Hoff had seen his chainring concede defeat early on and called upon the strength of his NFTO teammates to find him a safe passage back to the head of the race. By now the sun had broken through and burnt away the lazy clouds which had long lingered since the departure from Oakham; the prospect of uninterrupted sunshine luring plenty out onto the roadside. From the meticulously planned family BBQs which wafted and taunted rider and spectator alike, to those who erupt from their doors in a panicked dash, the sudden realisation of a race happening as the broom wagon skirts past their driveway. Thundering through the lanes gives you only a glimpse of the faces which form the technicolour mass of cyclists, but it is enough to see the strain being etched deeper with each pass, dust which lightly floated up beneath the wheel now cakes brow and bike like clay. Shredded dossards reveal those unceremoniously introduced to the shifting gravel which left riders sprawled on the dirt tracks, scrambling to remount and begin their chase through the billowing trails signifying the peloton’s presence.


Upon the penultimate pass through Melton’s town centre ahead of the finale, the damage dealt by the terrain had become evident throughout peloton. Though a small breakaway still hung off the head of the bunch, their escape was rapidly being curtailed, the rabble of riders which now formed the nearest thing to a peloton deciding their rivals’ excursion had existed long enough. Melton would see its winner crowned on the next charge down the far stretching high road into town, a finishing straight flanked by spectators now basking beneath an unspoilt sky. Speculative whispers skimmed above the crowd, second guessing any break’s survival, those out on course the only source of unofficial updates for the masses staring intently at the final bend in anticipation.

Like desperadoes charging into Dodge City, the lead riders thundered upon the horizon, now finding only a drag race to the line standing between themselves and possible victory. Heads cocked acutely throughout the crowd, eyeballing down the road as the front runners hurtled down to the line; 400m…300m…200m…100m. No victory salute is run up like a flag above a conquered castle here however, Steele Von Hoff is the first man home in the sprint, but unaware that he has been chasing a non-existent breakaway for the final kilometres. NFTO’s awaiting reception soon enlightens him to the fact he has sprinted to more than just a minor placing at this noteworthy race. For 2015, Australian National Criterium Champion Steele Von Hoff is the latest to write his name into the history of this rather un-British of British races. Surviving exploding drivetrains, shifting tracks and the travelling circus which encompasses the peloton on a day stalked by disaster, Hoff navigated the pitfalls and secured another likely stepping stone back to the UCI WorldTour.


Whether stood in a town centre, upon a village green or seemingly in the middle of nowhere; Rutland-Melton International CiCLE Classic draws people to its roadside with ease. Assembled outside pubs, driveway BBQs or simply sitting on a bank waiting for the next pass of riders; the style of this race proves to be extremely watchable. Locals are evidently aware of how this doorstep event is worth coming out for, but it does not take much to hear accents from further afield mumbling across the crowds. Cycling unites people like so few sports seldom do, there are no losers when watching a bike race, just a shared appreciation for the spectacle set before everyone. Some might have a favourite rider or team, but it is usually the friends and family of the riders who you meet at the roadside exclusively backing one man. Unlike football, there is no club to represent where you come from for example, to support a cycling team in the same vein would be to simply back brand sponsors. Instead, the banner under which everyone can and does unite is that of the race itself, Rutland-Melton CiCLE Classic proving to be a rare beast which operates at the top of the British calendar, but retains a strong regional charm.

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Whereas other races in the country have developed in stature and forfeited their personality along the way, Melton-CiCLE Classic is like venturing across the border into a small piece of the continent. The champion of British one-day races, which would be considered alongside that of Tro-Bro Léon if it were located the other side of the channel. Within the country’s smallest county, you will not only find racing which imbues the air with a hint of frites and trappist beer, but also a race certain of its identity. Not festooned with banners for British Cycling, SkyRide et al, it instead succeeds thanks to a core team of personnel who invest the upmost into creating this day, injecting their character along the way to shape this unique event. Even the prizes have avoided being swamped by generic trophies emblazoned with sponsors names, instead replaced by Melton Mowbray pork pies or the rider’s weight in ale. Though the Rutland-Melton CiCLE Classic trades on distinctly continental traits, it is no mongrel to be attended by those considering it a discounted version of those seen in Belgium or France. A British Classic may seem impossible to some, but in Rutland you will find this unusual creature thriving, bubbling away as its reputation grows year upon year. There is no exaggeration to be had when stating household names from the WorldTour now weigh heavy on the horizon for this race; waiting for an invite to leave their mark here soon.

Tour de Yorkshire – Stage 3 Preview

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 HolohanMarcin Bialoblocki and Michael Cuming


1st Greg Van Avermaet 2nd Lars-Petter Nordhaug 3rd Tommy Voeckler

Overall Winner:

Samuel Sanchez or Tommy Voeckler


Tour de Yorkshire – Stage 2 Preview

The first day in Yorkshire proved to be the hectic affair predicted by Spokenforks yesterday; seeing star riders caught out and crash out during the ride to Scarborough. Team Sky acted quickly after the disappointing loss of Ben Swift and benefited from placing two men in the breakaway as Philip Deignan and Lars Petter Nordhaug worked over the likes of Voeckler, Sanchez and Rossetto to deliver Sky the win in the hands of the Norwegian. With major crashes and stressful crosswinds, the opening stage resembled that of an Ardennes Classic than a simple spin around Britain’s biggest county. Stage 2 should offer some relief for the peloton, but the riders will have already learnt that Yorkshire is not a region to underestimate in what it can throw at them.


As the crow flies, Selby to York is only 12 miles or so, but the organisers have managed to stretch this normally short jaunt across 174km and two moderate climbs. Only 34.5km will have passed by the time the peloton ride themselves on to the first ascent of the day; Cote de North Newbald. It is the longest of the day’s two climbs at 1.2km long and averages out at 5.3% during its entirety. An intermediate sprint at Wetwang is the next notable feature, once contested 4km separates them from the second and final climb of the day. Though 100m shorter than its predecessor, the Cote de Fimber is a steeper affair which sustains its skywards ambitions at a steady 6.2% gradient.

The riders will drop down the other side as they pass through the feed zone at Norton and make the first of two passes across the finish line at York after 133km of riding. Once again the pack will roll over the line with a little over 20km left; by now they will have had two good looks at the finish and know how to position themselves beneficially for the stage winning third crossing. A sprint finish seemed guaranteed here before the chaos of stage 1 was unleashed and with Ben Swift and Marcel Kittel now out of the race, the pressure to chase a breakaway has not fallen clearly upon any one team’s shoulders.




Domestic team NFTO will see Stage 2 as a golden opportunity to make their presence here felt as they build towards future WorldTour ambitions. Their sprinter is Steele Von Hoff who comes here on the back of winning the Melton CiCLE classic last Sunday and finished less than 4mins down on today’s winner Lars Petter Nordhaug. Stage 2 should be a much more simple affair for the teams and the Australian should have sufficient support from the likes of Ian Bibby, Rob Partridge and Dale Appleby.

Greg Van Avermaet is clearly still in great condition having ridden consistently during his spring campaign in the classics and Ardennes. No doubt he will feel somewhat frustrated after Stage 1 due to the presence of Samuel Sanchez in the lead group meaning any possible BMC chase was a no go; a lack of race radios leaving his 20km chase back into the second group a waste. He took the sprint for the minor places when finishing 6th and would certainly have been the fastest man present had he made it into the lead group. The finish in York could offer him the chance to address this; the lack of pure sprinters making his chances of a win much more plausible. However, this is only possible if his team decide not to ride for sprinter Rick Zabel instead; the 21 year old finishing almost 15mins behind stage winner Nordhaug. It seems illogical to bring such a fast rider to this race and not utilise him on the stage most likely to be decided by a bunch kick. He has taken several top 10 results in the Tour of Britain previously and this could come as the perfect opportunity to take his maiden professional win.

With local lad Ben Swift now out of the race, perhaps fellow Yorkshireman Russell Downing will be on hand to give the locals something to shout about. He won the sprint from his group which finished a little over 2mins behind the winner in Scarborough and will be all too aware of how rare an opportunity to win a WorldTour race in his home county is. CULT Energy will be happy to ride for Downing and there is little to suggest he cannot place well if the build up to a sprint finish goes off without a hitch.

Once again Owain Doull might be the best bet for Team Wiggins in a sprint finish and appeared to be coping well with the demanding day’s ride to Scarborough. Finishing comfortably within the pack, Doull looks to have judged his efforts well in order to remain fresh for Stage 2’s finish in York.

Chris Sutton is probably now Sky’s designated sprinter and could definitely fill the void left by Swift with relative success. However, he crossed the line in the final group during day one and could well have been snarled up in the crash which left Swift no option but to abandon. The team could be more interested in protecting race leader Nordhaug ahead of a difficult concluding day on Sunday, but if they offer Sutton some support, he should be able to return the favour with a solid effort.

Marcel Kittel soon packed his bags during Stage 1 and is likely to have passed over the sprinting reigns to Dutchman Ramon Sinkeldam. It is not often he is given this freedom to sprint in his own right and during Oman this year proved he can compete with the best when finishing 4th behind Guardini, Boonen and Pelucchi. Giant-Alpecin are well versed in coping with leadouts, but Sinkeldam will only have four men at his disposal all day as Caleb Fairly joined Kittel on the list of abandonments.

Team LottoNL-Jumbo are still lacking a win in their debut season and are likely to look upon Moreno Hofland in order to remedy that in York. He has form for winning from lower tier sprints, these include victories at Tour of Hainan (where he has four stages and one GC victory) and the Tour of Utah. However, his wins at Paris-Nice, Vuelta a Andalucia and Limburg Classic all help to build a noteworthy chance of winning Stage 2.

Matteo Pelucchi did not have a great time during the first day, but could bounce back in order to contest the finish in York on the second day. The course is more suiting to his abilities and with a circuit finish likely to make controlling the bunch easier, IAM Cycling will be confident of get the Italian near the podium.

Rounding out the likely top ten in York are the fast finishers from the British domestic teams: Graham Briggs & Ed Clancy (JLT Condor), Tom Scully & Tobyn Horton (Madison-Genesis), Chris Opie (ONE Pro Cycling) and Morgan Kneisky & Ian Wilkinson (Raleigh GAC).


1st Moreno Hofland 2nd Steele Von Hoff 3rd Ramon Sinkeldam

Tour de Yorkshire – Stage 1 Preview

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