A Cyclist's Bucket List
The Tour de Yorkshire Ride
Yorkshire - The land of flat caps, whippets and dales. Away from bustling cities such as Leeds and Sheffield sits some of England’s most picturesque countryside, much of which has remained untouched for hundreds of years.
The largest county in England, Yorkshire spans 11,903 km² yet has a population just 2/3's the size of London. This, combined with a vast network of quiet roads, has in recent years made the northern county a mecca for cyclists.
Yorkshire really has been bitten by the cycling bug, with the 2014 Tour de France departing from Leeds and winding its way towards the finish in Harrogate. Since then, the Tour de Yorkshire has become established and has steadily grown in popularity, with both the professional peloton and the Yorkshire public fully embracing the event.
This unforgiving landscape is punctuated by tough climbs and sometimes less than kind weather, and has produced some of British cycling’s biggest names over the years. The likes of Brian Robson, first British winner of a Tour de France stage, and Beryl Burton, multiple world champion, hailed from the county. More recently, the successes of former national champion, Adam Blythe, Olympic Gold winning cyclist, Lizzie Deignan, and up and coming cyclocross star, Tom Pidcock, have put Yorkshire on the map again.
Keen to see what makes this county so special for cycling and why it has produced so many champions over the years, we headed to Leeds to take part in the Maserati Tour de Yorkshire Ride.
Taking place on Sunday 6th May, this ride was put on in conjunction with the men’s and women’s Tour de Yorkshire races. There were three routes on offer, a short 49km, medium 84km and a long 129km option. Each would throw up a series of challenges to test even the hardiest of riders, with leg sapping climbs dotted along the routes.
A strong Sigma Sports contingent were lining up for the long route, with directors, Ian and Jason, resident photographer/videographer, Jake, and myself, heading to the start line at 8am.
Although early, the temperature was already 17 degrees, with the forecast predicting a tropical 25 degrees later in the day. The blue skies and warm conditions gave Ian, Jason and Jake the perfect opportunity to don the new Sigma Sports Kit, while I opted for Mavic's new limited edition Allure range.
We set off looking the part, and from the first few kilometres we knew we were in for a nice day in the saddle. Quiet roads, light to no wind and a good group of fellow cyclists meant we were spinning along with ease.
Yorkshire is beautiful. Fact. From the Eccup Reservoir to the quaint towns around Harrogate, there was plenty to take in out on the road. With the heat rising and the importance of keeping hydrated apparent, we stopped at the first feed station after just over an hour of riding. Topping up the bottles and having a quick breather, we were soon back on our bikes, heading north towards Ripon, where we turned at Kirkby Malzeard for the journey south.
The climb of High Moor Road was the first real test for the legs. With a 6% average gradient and a 1.6 kilometre length, although no mountain, this ascent split the otherwise compact group.
Although the area does not have any climbs to rival Europe in sheer length, it makes up for it with gradients that can make even the strongest of mountain men and women weep. Just one of these was the 10% Hartwith Bank ascent, which featured ramps of up to 21%.
Before long we were hitting the slopes of one of the biggest hills in the region, the Cote de Greenhow Hill. With steep sections a shock to the system from the off, the gradient eased slightly and the tree-lined road opened up, revealing a breathtaking view over the Gouthwaite Reservoir and north Yorkshire countryside.
The Sigma ensemble were starting to feel the effects of the elevation and now sizzling hot temperature. Dreaming of a cool, refreshing Coke and spurred on by the desire to get to Leeds before the pro race finished, we charged down the descent and began a team time trial to the bottom of the next climb, just outside the town of Otley.
With a segment of this hill on Strava named ‘The Kilometre of Pain’, we knew the East Chevin Road climb was going to be far from a walk in the park. The Garmin was displaying over 100 kilometres ridden at this point, so tackling the two kilometre, 8% average gradient ascent was going to take all the energy we had left in the tank.
Welcomed onto it by a sea of fans lining the roads, cheering every one of the 6,000 participants up the gruelling, arrow-like straight road. These kind of climbs are as hard on the head as they are on the body. With the summit in sight, yet the distance to it remaining painfully far away, you have to fight the bike and try to keep the lactic acid at bay.
Being the last challenge for the day, there was a unanimous sense of relief as we crested the top and began the last 25 kilometres or so towards the finish in Leeds.
The fast tarmac ensured the kilometres flew by and soon we were in the outskirts of Leeds, heading under the flamme rouge and turning onto the last 300 metres. We headed into the finishing funnel, the same route in the pro race would be following just a few hours later, tired but jubilant after a tough but thoroughly enjoyable ride through the Yorkshire countryside.
129 kilometres, a touch off 2000 metres of climbing and over four hours in the saddle, the 2018 Maserati Tour de Yorkshire Ride was complete.
Inspired to go and explore Yorkshire for yourself? Find out more about the Tour de Yorkshire Ride and other Human Race events here.