Tour de Yorkshire bares its teeth with Shibden Wall and Buttertubs but will it live for ever?

The Tour de France peleton rounds the Buttertubs on stage one back in 2014. (Picture: Tony Johnson)
The Tour de France peleton rounds the Buttertubs on stage one back in 2014. (Picture: Tony Johnson)
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“Vive La Tour de Yorkshire,” boomed Christian Prudhomme to a packed house at Leeds Civic Hall yesterday for the route announcement of the 2020 edition of the county’s annual race.

Roughly translated, Monsieur Prudhomme was declaring ‘long live the Tour de Yorkshire’.

Scaling the beast: Cyclists ride up the crowded, cobbled Shibden Wall in the 2017 Tour de Yorkshire. (Picture: Allan Mckenzie/SWPix.com)

Scaling the beast: Cyclists ride up the crowded, cobbled Shibden Wall in the 2017 Tour de Yorkshire. (Picture: Allan Mckenzie/SWPix.com)

Prudhomme’s energy and enthusiasm, his passion for Yorkshire since being wooed by Gary Verity back in 2012, has never been in question.

As he says on every visit, he loves the ‘bunting’, he loves the ‘smiles’ on people’s faces.

Quite how long it will live for, however, is another matter.

The contract to stage the race between co-organisers Welcome to Yorkshire and Prudhomme’s Amaury Sport Organisation expires at the end of this year’s edition, which runs from Beverley on Thursday April 30, to Leeds on Sunday May 3.

It just looks savage to be honest. Being a Leeds lass I know how tough Buttertubs and Grinton Moor are on training rides, so tackling them in a race is going to be epic.

Gabriella Shaw

In the Verity era a new contract would have been signed over a glass of Champagne, but Welcome to Yorkshire has gone through a chastening 10 months since he stood down over expenses and bullying claims.

James Mason is the new chief executive, and as revealed in today’s news pages, for him this year’s Tour de Yorkshire is pivotal and must prove it is sustainable to sponsors and stakeholders.

Prudhomme expressed a willingness to continue the event – where else other than the Tour de France does cycling get such welcoming and enthusiastic crowds? – but he is a realist, and knows a race is only as strong as its sponsors.

So if it is a ‘pivotal’ race in a contract year, what better time to show Yorkshire at its very best.

Christian Prudhomme at the 2020 race route reveal at Leeds Civic Hall. (Picture: Tony Johnson)

Christian Prudhomme at the 2020 race route reveal at Leeds Civic Hall. (Picture: Tony Johnson)

And even six years into route-planning, Welcome to Yorkshire, together with ASO, have excelled themselves with a brute of a parcours, so much so that the buzz on social media around the time of the announcement yesterday was for sprinters to stay away.

Because the 2020 edition of the Tour de Yorkshire is one for the climbers.

Buttertubs and Grinton Moor are back for the first time since the 2014 Tour de France. Their return on day two from Skipton to Leyburn is also noteworthy because they were taken out of the UCI Road World Championship men’s race last September at the 11th hour due to a week of rain leaving both passes too dangerous to negotiate.

That 124km second day for the men, and first for the women, on Friday May 1, follows a more coastal route to open this year’s race from Beverley to Redcar on the Thursday, even though climbs up Robin Hood’s Bay and Lythe Bank will test the legs.

Stage three for the men, the second and final stage for the women, is another short, sharp beast from Barnsley Town Hall to Huddersfield via the cobbled behemoth that is Shibden Wall.

The women’s route is 19.5km shorter than the men’s due to UCI regulations decreeing that distance of stages in women’s races cannot exceed 120km.

“It just looks savage to be honest,” said local female rider Gabriella Shaw, who survived last year’s race in the wind and rain.

“Being a Leeds lass I know how tough Buttertubs and Grinton Moor are on training rides, so tackling them in a race is going to be epic.”

“I remember riding Shibden Wall in 2017,” added Chris Lawless, the defending men’s champion from Team Ineos. “That was amazing. It’s good to see it come back.”

The final act for the third year running is a 177.5km run from Halifax to Leeds, though this year the route is different, taking in a record seven categorised climbs up a whopping 3,304 feet.

Climbs include the Cote de Greenhow Hill, the picturesque Cow and Calf in Ilkley and one final stretch up Otley Chevin before the run onto the Headrow in Leeds, by which time few exhausted riders will be shouting ‘vive la Tour de Yorkshire’.

Whether Prudhomme and Mason will be, is another matter.