Bridlington and beyond as Kittel and Wiggins set sights on county

Sir Bradley Wiggins.
Sir Bradley Wiggins.
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Sir Bradley Wiggins and Marcel Kittel on the startline in Bridlington – if Yorkshire cycling fans thought they had seen it all last summer, then think again.

Because the Tour de France legacy race, the inaugural Tour de Yorkshire, has delivered the star names that will help it establish itself in years to come.

Wiggins will launch his new project, Team Wiggins, at the three-day stage race that beats a path from east to west and all points in between from Friday, May 1, to Sunday, May 3.

Kittel will spearhead the challenge of Giant-Alpecin, the German team who propelled him to victory on stage one of last year’s Tour de France into Harrogate.

While not on the same scale of last year’s Grand Depart, when the eyes of the world saw the greeting that five million Yorkshire folk gave the world’s greatest bike race, the Tour de Yorkshire is a worthy offshoot of that success.

And names like Wiggins and Kittel can only enhance the product.

Their respective teams were two of 16 announced yesterday in Scarborough by race co-organisers Welcome to Yorkshire.

If Wiggins and Kittel are the star names, then the big team is Sky, who are likely to be led by Rotherham sprinter Ben Swift due to Chris Froome’s expected appearance in the Tour de Romandie which runs concurrently.

Sky are one of five World Tour teams who are making the journey to Yorkshire, along with Giant, BMC Racing, I Am Cycling and Lotto NL-Jumbo, who last year were Tour de France contenders Belkin.

There are six ProContinental teams from the rung below the top level: Cofidis (France), Cult Energy Pro Cycling (Denmark), MTN-Qhubeka (South Africa), Europcar (France), Roompot Oranje Peloton (Holland) and Topsport Vlaandered-Baloise (Belgium). The inclusion of so many respected teams means names like Tyler Farrar, John Degenkolb, Wilco Kelderman, Sylvain Chavanel and Tejay van Garderen could feature on Yorkshire’s roads.

Five British teams make up the startlist, with Team Wiggins joined by Madison Genesis, NFTO ProCycling, One Pro Cycling and the Great Britain Development Squad.

Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme, whose ASO group is behind the new race, said: “We will be glad to return to Yorkshire after the huge success of the Tour de France 2014 Grand Départ, the grandest ever.

“The first ever Tour de Yorkshire will be another occasion to showcase the outstanding landscapes of the county, especially the coast where we didn’t go last year with Le Tour.”

The Tour de Yorkshire starts on May 1 with a stage from Bridlington to Scarborough via the North York Moors.

Stage two runs from Selby to York the following day, and stage three starts in Wakefield and finishes in Leeds.

Team Sky sprinter Swift will lead as many as half-a-dozen Yorkshiremen in the three-day race.

Swift, who finished third in Milan San-Remo last year and second in the national championships, will go into the race as Sky’s designated sprinter, battling with Kittel for stage wins.

Swift’s fellow Rotherham rider Russ Downing should also feature for Danish team Cult Energy Pro Cycling.

The 36-year-old younger brother of Dean was on the NFTO team last year after spending a year at the elite level with Sky in 2011, for whom he rode the Giro d’Italia.

He is back at continental level for one last shot.

Though he is not with NFTO anymore, they could be represented by Keighley’s Tom Barrass, 36, while Skipton’s Pete Williams is part of One Pro Cycling team run by England cricketer Matt Prior.

Prior said: “We are incredibly excited and proud to be racing in the inaugural Tour de Yorkshire, particularly in our first year.

“The Grand Départ in Yorkshire was a huge inspiration for us setting up this team as it showed the level of interest there is in cycling and racing in the UK.

“Our riders will be massively looking forward to being on the start line with some of the biggest teams in the world.”

There are two up-and-coming riders on the Madison Genesis squad named on the list of teams competing in the race.

Doncaster’s Tom Stewart, a 24-year-old, aggressive, all-rounder could potentially be joined by Leeds’s Liam Holohan, 26, who is an experienced, versatile climber.

He was 11th in last year’s national championships.

One of the first major names confirmed as taking part in the women’s race on day two is Dame Sarah Storey, one of Great Britain’s most decorated female Paralympians in history having won 11 gold, eight silver and three bronze medals across six Paralympic Games

The race will be shown live on television in the UK on ITV, on Eurosport and in more than 70 countries around the world – a huge television audience is expected.

Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, said: “Our aim is for the Tour de Yorkshire to be one of the biggest and best three-day races in the world and this incredible line-up is evidence that we can achieve that.

“It is a testament to our county that some of the top riders in the world want to come here.

“We are going to put on a show people will remember for the rest of their lives, whether they’re lining the route or watching on television.”