What the heck is the Tour de Yorkshire?

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Emma Nicholson lifts the lid on the Tour de Yorkshire by highlighting the local delicacies to eat, the landmarks to visit and the global stars to watch…

What is this Tour de Yorkshire of which you speak?
If you’re unfamiliar with the domestic racing scene, it’s a really high-profile multi-stage bike race that rolls out the red carpet for the royalty of men’s and women’s pro cycling. For the women, it’s probably one of the biggest women’s stage races of the year.

What makes the event extra special is that you can watch the pro’s doing their thing, then get a taste by riding the same roads – stacked with the same roaring crowds – by taking part in the Maserati Tour de Yorkshire Ride sportive.

How did it come about?
Cast your mind back to Grand Départ of the 2014 Tour de France and you may remember that the biggest bike race in the world enjoyed one hectic sprint stage into Harrogate, followed by a ferociously lumpy ride from York to Sheffield, before heading for London.

All of Yorkshire poured out onto the roadside, giving the famous race its finest crowds in living memory and firmly cementing the county in the psyche of our great sport. So much so, in fact, that people in France watching on TV rushed to book holidays in the stunningly beautiful county – no, honestly.

As a result of all that success and support, the following year Yorkshire threw another huge party in the form of a three-day stage race. They added a women’s event to the calendar in 2016.

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When does the Tour de Yorkshire 2018 take place?
Since 2015, the Tour de Yorkshire has taken place over the first bank holiday weekend in May. This year’s race adds an extra stage to both the men’s and women’s events – both now starting on Thursday 3 May.

After a tough day out in the hills, the women will cross the finish line in Ilkley in time for lunch on Friday, while the men’s winner will be crowned after a sprint into Leeds on Sunday afternoon.

Tell us about the prize money for women…
The Aviva Women’s Tour has already made history by promising to equal the men’s and women’s prize pot later this year, which literally means almost doubling what the women fought for last year. The Tour de Yorkshire follows suit, not just setting the men and women on the same routes, but matching the prize money too.

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Who do we need to keep an eye on when it comes to the women’s race this year?
Frankly, it looks nigh-on impossible to keep an eye on all the promising riders lining up on Thursday. Not only are we getting a former winner in the form of sprinting star Kirsten Wild, but the World Champion Chantal Blaak, fresh off the back of her Amstel Gold victory. 

As if that wasn’t enough pro pedigree, there are going to be plenty of home-grown talents to look out for too, not least the in-form Hannah Barnes of Canyon SRAM Racing, whose 25th birthday falls on stage 2 and who has been targeting this historic home race.

Other Brits to keep an eye on include Katie Archibald (Wiggle High5) and Dani Rowe (riding for Great Britain), who are both returning from the Commonwealth Games weighed down with medals (gold on the track and bronze on the road respectively).

We’ll also have an eye on the young Trek-Drops squad which is bursting with British up-and-comers like Manon Lloyd and Abby-Mae Parkinson. Speaking of young guns, it will be exciting to see how uber-strong seventeen-year-old Georgi Pfeiffer measures up against the world’s best in her first outing on the country’s biggest stage.

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Though the women’s race kicks off with a sprint day into Doncaster on Thursday, we can be sure it won’t be a sprinter pulling on the overall winner’s jersey after stage 2. With a jagged profile not dissimilar to that of Amstel Gold, Friday’s stage 2 finishes with a hilltop finish in Ilkley, so let’s hope they pack their climbing legs!

If you are heading to Yorkshire for this, what else do you need to stick on your must-do list?
The whole country is expecting good weather this weekend, so if you’re planning on joining millions (literally) of other cycling fans on the roadside, you’re in luck! There’s plenty to enjoy in Yorkshire besides this great race. The heaving great rocks and banging views across the Ilkley Moors are not to be missed, and you can combine a good yomp with watching both women’s and men’s races finish up the infamous Cow and Calf climb (1.8km, average 8.2%, max. 17%!) on Friday afternoon.

Both the sportive and the final stage of the men’s race finish in Leeds city centre, and with that in mind, the Tour de Yorkshire and Leeds International Festival have joined forces to open ‘The Village’ for one week only: a central cultural hub in Millennium Square which is playing host to entertainment, art, music, and, of course, an abundance of local food and drink. We don’t need to tell you Leeds has also been known to host one or two good nights out.

While you’re enjoying your weekend, keep an eye out for the Tour de Yorkshire Land Art and Best Dressed competitions. Of course, Land Art might be a little difficult to see without the help of the TV helicopter, but the four Best Dressed categories, including village, town, host location and individual Spirit of Le Tour, should be more than obvious. Perhaps you’d like to give it a go yourself?

…and what about your must-eat list?
If you’re heading to the beach over the weekend, you’ll obviously want to sample one of the many chippies in the area. You can’t do much better than Whitby’s retro-hip Magpie Café, if you don’t mind joining the long line – always a good sign! – for some of the best fish and chips the county has to offer, with a beach view no less!

For those with a mouth full of sweet teeth, you haven’t experiences Yorkshire until you’ve tried the traditional Yorkshire parkin and gingerbread. Both are nice cheap treats, but of undeniable quality, and available from almost any high street bakery in the country. If you’re looking for the definitive parkin in all its sticky, crumbly glory though, you’ll need to head straight for Lottie Shaw’s, in Brighouse near Halifax, for a century-old family recipe and winner of many national awards.

Finally, you can’t leave Yorkshire without sampling a native Yorkshire pudding. Whether you’re riding the Maserati Tour de Yorkshire Ride or cheering on the pros, you’ll be needing a good hearty refuel after the race is over, and what better way to do that than with a good old-fashioned roastie? The 3 Acres Inn in Huddersfield does an absolute stormer.


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Images: letour.yorkshire.com

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