In 2014 the Tour de France will stage it’s Grand Depart in the UK for the second time since the 2007 London depart. This time around the northern county of Yorkshire will play host, with two tough stages across its rolling country roads. These exact roads will likely become an early test for the peloton. We decided to preview the route with descriptions and photos of key points.
Leeds – Harrogate
Yorkshire is sometimes referred to as ‘God’s own country’ and once witnessed it’s easy to see why. The picturesque winding and narrow roads often flanked by stone walls wrap across rolling countryside like a gymnasts ribbon. These narrow roads could be a cause for concern when the peloton rolls through them on the 5th July.
That Saturday will be the day when Mark Cavendish’s Omega Pharma Quick Step are expected to work hard to give him the victory in his mother’s hometown Harrogate, making him the first Mallot Juane in 2014 as well as for the first time in his career. If they have done their homework the early parts of the race could be reasonably easy to control. Due to the narrow roads the peloton is likely to be strung out and keeping the pace up should limit any attacks.
The stage is not mountainous but the first half does feature rolling hills and a few categorised climbs that could be used as a launch pad, if a breakaway can get free. Similarly, very tight and winding technical descents will most likely favour solo riders and not the peloton. Expect to see these at Kidstones (Cat 4, 122km from the finish), Buttertubs Pass (Cat 3, 87km from the finish) and Grinton Moor (Cat 3, 61km from the finish).
Various ‘pinch points’, such as a tight turn by a bridge in Thwaite (just after the descent from Buttertubs) could prove to be problematic, while other turns off long descents could be dangerous, such as the ‘Widow-makers turn’ so named by the land-owner in West Fanfield. The clock tower turn in Ripon may be entertaining for the spectators but will likely cause problems for the riders, who will enter it after a long and fast section of road. Finally, the last turn onto the home straight on The Sway in Harrogate could be chaotic, especially if there is any rain around.
While the largest of the days climbs tops out at 493m (Buttertubs Pass) there are a number of steep ascents of up to 25%. Such terrain would normally suit the one-day specialists if it wasn’t for the flatter, wider and faster conclusion to the stage that should allow the sprinter’s teams to pull the race back together for a group sprint finale.