Tour de Yorkshire 2017
Words by Timothy John
Photography by Matt Randall
The third Tour de Yorkshire met all expectations with exciting racing and tremendous crowds. Yorkshire’s burgeoning status as a centre of world cycling that might one day rival the Belgian Ardennes received a further boost from the presence of some of the world’s best riders, biggest teams and massive roadside support.
An opening stage of 174km from Bridlington ended in a bunch sprint on Scarborough seafront and a high-speed collision that engulfed a host of riders, including local hero Russell Downing (JLT-Condor) and rising star Magnus Cort Nielsen (Orica-Scott).
Downing, a 38 year-old veteran, who rode for two years in the UCI WorldTour with Team Sky, ended his day with a broken collarbone and the opportunity of finishing the race two days later in his home town of Sheffield gone.
Cort Nielsen was another too badly injured to take the start the following day. The 24 year-old Dane, who last year won two stages of the Vuelta a España, was visibly shaken after the high-speed incident, and had suffered serious abrasions in a crash that reduced his skinsuit – and a fair portion of his skin - to shreds.
Stage two from Tadcaster ended with a finish in Harrogate that paid homage to the opening stage of the 2014 Tour de France. While three years ago, a crash outside the famous Bettys Tea Rooms ended the hopes of Mark Cavendish, the Tour de Yorkshire’s reprise finished without incident.
Frenchman Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) was the clear winner of a tactically complex finish, launching early and driving clear of a fast-moving bunch headed by Orica-Scott’s Caleb Ewan. The diminutive Ewan gained the considerable consolation of the leader’s blue jersey.
The hilly, 122.5km stage marked another successful day in the saddle for three of the five domestic teams competing. Team Raleigh, JLT-Condor and Bike Channel-Canyon were represented in the day-long breakaway by Sebastian Mora, James Gullen and Harry Tanfield, respectively. Tanfield collected the day’s combativity award.
Lizzie Deignan (Boels-Dolman) provided a popular home victory in the women’s race. The former world champion, who hails from Otley, rode into Harrogate alone after launching a decisive attack 15km from home, in an impressive display that left fellow Briton Dani King (Cylance Pro Cycling) and team-mate Anna van der Breggen, leader of the Women’s WorldTour, with no answers.
Race organisers ASO had made much in the build up to this third edition of the Tour de Yorkshire of the concluding stage, billing it as a rival even to the Ardennes Classics. The 194.5km slog from Bradford to Sheffield was peppered with climbs, and in the concluding kilometres, Team Dimension Data unleashed a one-two punch that left their rivals reeling.
Serge Pauwels and Omar Fraile took off as the stage reached its climax, finishing in that order to conclude another successful visit to UK soil for the African team, which last year won the Tour of Britain with Steve Cummings.
Each stage was again marked by the presence of huge crowds in the start and finish towns and at the roadside. Sir Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome To Yorkshire, and the architect of his county’s successful bid for the 2014 Grand Départ, is continuing his campaign to extend the race to four stages.
The presence in Yorkshire of Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme augers well for a return to Yorkshire of cycling’s greatest race, sooner rather than later. And with the White Rose county set to host the world championships in 2019, Verity’s hand could be strengthened further.