Tour de Yorkshire: ‘Incredible feeling’ as Armitstead shrugs off disappointment

Olympic hope Lizzie Armitstead at the end of the women's Tour de Yorkshire race from Otley to Doncaster. PIC: Tony Johnson
Olympic hope Lizzie Armitstead at the end of the women's Tour de Yorkshire race from Otley to Doncaster. PIC: Tony Johnson
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It was perhaps fitting that the first person to pedal past a shrine to Tommy Simpson on the road from Otley to Doncaster on Saturday, was another pioneering cyclist from these parts.

Lizzie Armitstead has done as much for women’s cycling in the last half-decade than anyone, and although the world champion was unable to land the richest first prize her sport has ever offered, the Asda Women’s Tour de Yorkshire was still an uplifting experience for the 27-year-old.

“It’s not something I thought would ever happen to me, to start a race in my home town as a world champion,” said Armitstead, who, after setting out on the road with 97 other riders from Otley, had broken away with three rivals by the time the race reached the Simpson museum in Harworth, 20km from home.

“It was an incredible feeling.”

That she could not turn that humbling experience into gold did not detract too greatly from the occasion.

Armitstead competes for honour, not money, and if she wins no other race this year other than the Olympic title in Rio, then she will have no qualms.

The woman to prosper and pocket the £15,000 first prize when Armitstead’s break was swallowed up 3km from the end was Kirsten Wild, a 33-year-old Dutch sprinter riding for Team Hitec-Products.

Britain’s Lucy Garner, of Wiggle-High5, came home in second in front of a large and enthusiastic crowd along South Parade.

The great shame of the day was that few others saw it. The aeroplane that relays images for the live broadcast had to be grounded after it encountered a technical problem, bringing a prompt, untimely end to the live broadcast on Eurosport and ITV4.

Organisers Welcome to Yorkshire, who had defied convention to place greater emphasis on the women’s race in a bold move aimed at narrowing the gender gap in cycling, deserved better fortune.

But at least in Armitstead they have an ambassador and champion on whom to be proud.

“It’s one of those things,” she said, before quipping that she was disappointed no-one would have seen her break on the descent from Conisbrough Castle.

“At least all the people on the streets saw us and I hope we’ve inspired all those girls and boys on the side of the road.

“It was brilliant along the route. Every corner was covered and I’m really proud of everyone for coming out and supporting us. So thank you.”

Armitstead will now switch her focus to Rio, starting with a month-long training block in the Alps. After the Olympics she has the chance to race for financial rewards again in London; a prize fund of £100,000 for that race showing that where Yorkshire has led, the rest are following.

“I’m realistic about the growth of women’s cycling and Yorkshire is the start of it,” said Armitstead, who through much of her career has been crusading for equality in her sport.

“I’m really proud that it’s started in my home county.

“Now we’ve had the inaugural stage I think next year it will be better and it will just grow and grow.

“I’d like to come back next year and maybe then I’ll be able to train a bit more specifically for it, once I’ve got the Olympics out of the way.”