Bike route: All roads lead to next year's Tour

For my final column of 2017, I wanted to go out with a bang and tackle one of Yorkshire's true landmark climbs but the ice and snow forced me into a rethink.

Howden Minster. Picture: Terry Carrott

Instead I took on a flatter route which straddled the East, South and West Yorkshire boundaries on many of the same roads that will feature on the opening two stages of next year’s Tour de Yorkshire. While the terrain was far from challenging, the wintery weather made for a cold day in the saddle and I definitely had a workout.

Before we get into the route I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for following my travels over the last 12 months. I’ve really enjoyed it and massively appreciated all the kind words I’ve received along the way.

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1. I parked up in Garforth and caught a train to Howden before jumping on my bike and making my way back to base. Howden station is actually a mile away from Howden itself but I headed through the centre of town and past its impressive Minster before continuing on to Airmyn and then Rawcliffe. The roads up to this point were fairly busy but after I’d crossed the M62 I peeled off onto a far quieter country lane. As I was riding it was crazy to think that some of the world’s best cyclists will be doing their thing on these same remote lanes in five months’ time, but it is sure to look spectacular. At this time of year the fields are ploughed but by the time May rolls around many of them will be covered in a blanket of yellow rapeseed flowers which will make for a stunning backdrop.

2. I followed the stage one route all the way to Stainforth before crossing over to stage two via Barnaby Dun, Arksey and Hampole. I’d ridden 34 miles by the time I was back on the raceway and my total ascending up to that point had been a measly 55 metres! The only lumps I’d encountered along the way were bridges over the waterways and roads, although the wind did play its part.

3. Another thing that was noticeable was the rise in traffic as soon as I’d passed through North Elmsall. When I’ve got used to the back-roads it always takes me a few minutes to adjust to transport again, and I much prefer the solitude. The peloton will have the luxury of a rolling roadblock when they tackle this route but on the day I rode, it was busy from there all the way into Castleford. There are alternative roads if you don’t fancy the congestion but I pressed on and the road become more undulating on my approach to Pontefract.

4. I’d noted High Ackworth’s charm on a previous ride so it was nice to pass through it again in a different direction, and All Saints Church in Pontefract also turned my head before I passed under the M62 again and began the short climb into Castleford. The gradient on there must have hit double figures in places. After dropping into the town centre a longer, more gradual ramp was waiting for me across the River Aire and this one took me up to Kippax. I was panting as I entered that village but there were no further bumps on the final two miles and I made it back to my car cold but happy to have ticked off my final ride of 2017.

Difficulty Rating: HHHHH

Time: 3 hours 26 minutes (at 15mph average speed)

Distance: 51.5 miles (83km)

Parking: Main Street car park in Garforth

Grid Ref: Grid Ref: SE 40388 33369

Public toilets: On Charles Briggs Avenue in Howden

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