Yorkshire’s Tour de France routes have been much-travelled by generations of cyclists.
In Le Tour’s 111th year, organising body Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) have come to appreciate the rolling Yorkshire Dales, the Pennines and the county’s urban cityscapes as cycling destinations.
A 12-man team led by Yorkshire Post photographer and experienced rider Bruce Rollinson tackled the strenuous 190km stage one route just weeks before the world’s greatest cyclists do the same this Saturday.
The 55-year-old, who has road raced regionally and cycled cross-country nationally, filmed the group’s reccie of the Leeds to Harrogate route on a handlebar-mounted camera to give our readers a taste of the ride.
He said: “I never thought that the Tour would ever come here, I think the whole route is good and shows off what Yorkshire’s all about – it’s challenging and has great scenery.”
Following the Grand Depart send off from Leeds’ Headrow, stage one officially starts when riders cycle from Harewood.
The route ventures through Pool-in-Wharfedale, Otley, Ilkley, Addingham, Skipton and up towards Rylstone and through Buckden and then on to the stage’s three main climbs.
After tackling the Kidstones, Buttertubs and Grinton Moor climbs, riders will cycle their way back to Harrogate.
Having taken on the route, Bruce and his team have offered their advice on the cycling highlights of the July 5 ride in a specially created web video.
He said: “Both Yorkshire stages are comparable in difficulty to a medium mountain day in the Tour de France.
“They are not stages that will see a winner as a climber they’re stages where you will see a winner who is a sprinter.”
The climb from Buckden over Kidstones into Wensleydale
Kidstone pass is a medium difficulty category four climb from Buckden towards Aysgarth in the Yorkshire Dales.
It climbs to around 445m or 1,463ft. The mile-long ascent has an average gradient of eight per cent, and tops out at 15 per cent at its steepest.
Bruce said: “It’s not really even that long, it just gradually ramps up – the steepest bit is at the top. The descent is very fast with some off-camber corners, while the road starts wide and goes into a narrow funnel.”
Buttertubs is a testing climb from Hawes to Muker, taking you between Wensleydale and Swaledale. The climb from Hawes to Buttertubs, at 526m or 1,725ft, is the highest point of the Tour during its stint in Yorkshire.
The climb is 4.4km long and has an average gradient of 6.5 per cent, but ramps up to 20 per cent at its steepest.
Bruce said: “It’s the hardest in terms of elevation. Much like Kidstones, Buttertubs is steepest at the top – it’s been called a category three climb by the Tour.
“Off Buttertubs the descent looks down into Swaledale, it’s probably the best place to watch the Grand Depart as a spectator.”
Tour riders will cycle through Swaledale via Low Row on their way to the dale’s unofficial capital Reeth on Saturday July 5 at around 2.40pm.
The Tour route winds through the picturesque dale into Reeth, which is recognised as a centre for recreational mountain bike riding, cycling and walking as the 5km-long wall of crags called Fremington Edge is situated just north of the village.
Bruce said: “It’s quite a narrow valley and it’s quite a fun road to ride too. It’s probably the most picturesque place across both Yorkshire Grand Depart routes.”
The ride out of Grinton back to Leyburn
The climb up over Grinton Moor is the third main climb on the first stage of the Tour, and is ranked as a category three climb by the organisers. Around 4.4km-long, the climb rises around 240m or 787ft over an average gradient of 5.5 per cent. The summit is by Robin Cross Hill and after the top of the climb, the road passes Stainton Moor, Preston Moor and Bellerby Moor.
Bruce said: “The Grinton Moor climb starts very steep until you get to the Grinton youth hostel and it gradually climbs up on the moortop before dropping into Leyburn. It’s only picturesque to people watching, looking back down, rather than to people riding up it.”