Clear blue skies surrounded Whitby Abbey and at long last it felt as if Spring had finally arrived.
No doubt Sir Gary Verity opened his curtains yesterday morning cursing his luck. For the man behind Yorkshire’s cycling revolution, this bout of warm weather has come a week too early.
Because he, like the majority of the sports-mad public of the Broad Acres, wants the weather Gods to shine upon us next weekend when the cycling world descends on the White Rose county for the second instalment of the Tour de Yorkshire.
But at least yesterday’s fair weather gave the riders of JLT Condor a clearer view of the challenge that faces them on Sunday week, when for the third day in a row this British team will line up alongside some of the biggest professional outfits in cycling.
“All the best teams are starting to notice this race,” said Tom Moses, a 23-year-old from Keighley, who is one of three Yorkshiremen, alongside Rotherham’s Russ Downing and Doncaster’s Graham Briggs, cycling for JLT Condor in next week’s Tour de Yorkshire.
“That in turn makes it even tougher each year for the UK teams to win a stage.”
Not that JLT are throwing the towel in before a wheel has turned in anger.
They will line up with the large proportion of the 18-team men’s field in Beverley next Friday morning hoping merely to get recognised amid the star-studded names of the World Tour elite.
Team Sky, BMC Racing, Orica GreenEdge, Dimension Data, Katusha, Giant and Lotto NL Jumbo are the seven teams from the top echelon of the sport from whom the main prizes of stage wins and jerseys will be shared in this UCI category 2:1 three-day race.
Last year, the stages were won by riders from this select group and to put it into context, it is akin to dumping seven Premier League teams into the Championship and saying ‘go on then, let’s see what you’ve got’.
JLT Condor’s answer is to be as well prepared as possible, starting with a thorough reconnoitre of the three stages from Beverley to Settle, Otley to Doncaster and Middlesbrough to Scarborough. “It gives you an idea of where to conserve energy, where to attack and where best to defend,” said Moses of the fact-finding mission that began yesterday at Kirbymoorside some 83km into the final day’s 198km slog over a variety of gradients.
“From what we gleaned on our reccy on Wednesday, that final day is going to be really tough with all the climbs.
“For us it will all be about getting into that final group and surviving.
“The first two stages are better for the sprinters which makes it easier for us to compete.”
Australian Caleb Ewan will be a rider to watch in the final shakedown of the first opening two flat stages into Settle and Doncaster, but in the intermediate sprints that punctuate the course, do not be surprised if the black and yellow of JLT Condor is prevalent.
“Something like the points classification or the King of the Mountain’s jersey are the races we’ll be looking to get ahead in,” said Moses, whose victory at the arduous Tour of the Reservoir last weekend at least gives him confidence going into his biggest race of the year.
“With intermediate sprints and climbs, we as a team and as individual riders can get noticed. And it’ll be team orders no doubt to try and get people into the break and get our jersey on television.
“For us the Tour de Yorkshire is an opportunity. We’re riding against the best in the world and even to get into the break at first will be a big challenge but one we’ll no doubt look to accomplish.
“On a personal level it’s a chance to test yourself against the best in the business, to see where you are in the pecking order and how you stand up against them.”