AS A Yorkshire rider, on a Yorkshire-based team, this week will see the culmination of months of hard work for Mirfield rider Jake Womersley.
The 22-year-old is a member of the Holdsworth Pro Cycling unit that will take to the start line of the fourth Tour de Yorkshire in Beverley on Thursday.
Holdsworth is a familiar name in cycling, but this is a new team.
The Holdsworth Campagnolo professional team was formed in 1968 and became a leading player in the Seventies.
A new team was formed this year to ride at UCI Continental level, the second tier of professional cycling, a step down from the World Tour.
The Tour de Yorkshire will be the squad’s first major race and, having been invited to take part, Womersley and his team-mates feel an obligation to perform.
“It is a big opportunity for myself personally and for the team,” said Womersley, 22.
“With being based in Yorkshire it is massive really. It was one of our big aims for the year to get selected to ride the Tour de Yorkshire.
“Now we are in it we’ll look at what we can do in the race and how we can get the Holdsworth brand out there, maybe get in the breakaways and there’s an opportunity to get a jersey on the first day in the King of the Mountains.
“It is exciting for all of us, it has been hard work for the team, but I think it will be worthwhile.”
You go abroad and all the crowds are on the mountains or where the sprints are, everywhere else is bare. It is quite special to have thousands of people watching you the whole way round.Jake Womersley
Holdsworth face stiff competition. The Tour de Yorkshire is growing in stature year on year and this edition has attracted a galaxy of star names, including the Tour de France’s greatest sprinter Mark Cavendish – whose mother is from Harrogate – and Olympic road race champion Greg Van Avermaet.
Holdsworth are among the minnows in the race, but that does not mean they cannot show their faces at the front, Womersley insists.
“Even the smaller teams, the Continental teams, have some good riders who have been top-10 on GC [general classification, the overall result] before,” he pointed out.
“It is doable to make an impact if you are a Continental team, but there’s a lot of big-name riders and I think now we’re seeing that big-name riders want to do the Tour de Yorkshire.
“Whether they have done it before or just seen pictures, they know about the crowds, which are just as good as the Tour de France. For any rider you want to have big crowds the whole way through the stage, which Yorkshire has.
“The crowds are massive, they are two, three, four or five deep everywhere.
“You go abroad and all the crowds are on the mountains or where the sprints are, everywhere else is bare. It is quite special to have thousands of people watching you the whole way round.”
Several of the teams have ridden the route in advance to get a feel for what they will face over the four days. Womersley will be racing on home roads and he stressed: “I definitely know what I am in for, especially on day four, from Halifax to Leeds.
“I train on those roads quite often. All my family and friends will be out and it’ll be nice to see them on the finish.”
As a local rider Womersley will have more support than most, including from one of the county’s cycling legends. His grandfather is Brian Robinson, the first British rider to win a stage of the Tour de France and the first from this country to complete the world’s most famous bike race.
Road racing is in Womersley’s blood, but he is determined to make a name in his own right.
“You might be born into something, but you still have to put a lot of hard work in,” he said. “Obviously I got my interest from my family, but there’s only so much my grandad can do to point me in the right direction. Things have changed since he has ridden a bike. It is quite different, but obviously that inspires me to get on a bike and go training.”
The final day of this year’s race is particularly hard and will be when the overall winner is decided.
Holdsworth have carried out a recce on stage four and Womersley observed: “It is going to be hard. Even the roads between the climbs are not flat.”
However, the perception once held by continental riders that England does not have hills has long gone. “They’ve learned it’s not flat,” said Womersley. “There’s been quite a few races here now. They know what to expect.”
Holdsworth Pro Cycling were speaking at a Yorkshire Bank Bike Library in Leeds. For more information on Yorkshire Bank Bike Libraries please visit www.ybonline.co.uk/bikelibraries