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Riders facing challenging Tour de Yorkshire route

Press Association logoPress Association 26/04/2017 By Ian Parker, Press Association Sport
Tom Moses will take part in his third Tour de Yorkshire this weekend: 2016 British Cycling National Road Championships - Stockton-on-Tees © PA WIRE 2016 British Cycling National Road Championships - Stockton-on-Tees

The Tour de Yorkshire has quickly established a reputation for offering up unrelentingly tough stages, and a quick glance at this year's route suggests it might be the hardest yet.

While Friday's opening stage from Bridlington to Scarborough will take the riders over testing climbs through the North Yorkshire Moors, that is merely a warm-up to the daunting third stage from Bradford to Fox Valley near Sheffield, which will revisit roads used in the 2014 Tour de France.

Even the so-called sprinters' stage on Saturday, from Tadcaster to Harrogate, features plenty of climbing in the Dales, including the Cote de Lofthouse. 

JLT Condor's Russ Downing told Press Association Sport: "It's hard anywhere you go around Yorkshire, because even if you stay on the flat it's tough in the wind. But that final stage, coming through West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire for the finish, it's going to be a really hard stage."

The promise of a real test on the roads and the now familiar crowds lining the route has attracted another world-class field to Yorkshire, with seven WorldTour teams on the start line, and riders of the calibre of Luke Rowe (Team Sky), Caleb Ewan (Orica-Scott), and defending champion Thomas Voeckler (Direct-Energie). 

JLT Condor are among the UK-based teams hoping to give their WorldTour counterparts a run for their money, with local knowledge from the likes of Rotherham-born Downing and Keighley's Tom Moses key. 

The 194.5km final stage packs in eight categorised climbs, four of them in the final 22km circuit, with a total of 3,517m of ascent.

The only danger from a race standpoint is that it might be too tough, with riders merely trying to survive rather than consider attacks, although Downing does not expect the UK teams to let the big boys get away with it.

"A lot of the European guys, when they come to the UK, they've heard about the steepness of the climbs so sometimes they don't race them," he said. "But there's a lot of UK teams who are all riding pretty well and there's a lot at stake so if the UK teams want to race it the Europeans will have to race it as well."

Organisers are learning every year when it comes to maximising Yorkshire's terrain to produce an exciting race. 

Whereas 2015's inaugural edition was effectively won on the opening day - with Team Sky protecting Lars Petter Nordhaug's advantage for the next two days - last year, little separated the riders until a brutal stage three over the Moors saw Voeckler beat Sky's Nicolas Roche to victory in Scarborough.

With tough stages to start and finish this year, the goal is to split the field up from day one but make sure nobody can feel too comfortable. 

"The way the Tour is this year, the lead could change hands every day until the finish," Downing added. "That last day is going to be pretty uncontrollable, it will probably be in twos and threes everywhere at the end."

The final stage will take Moses through his hometown. The race passed close by in 2015 as well, but the experience of racing on the roads he usually uses to train is still a strange one for the 24-year-old.

"It is surreal," he said. "They don't seem like the same roads. There are so many people, rather than just you and the normal traffic. You have the whole road to race on, and it's pretty unbelievable how different it feels."

Besides testing gradients and stunning scenery, Yorkshire's main asset has been the enthusiasm of its crowds, with an estimated two million fans watching from the roadside last year - and interest only growing ahead of the county hosting the 2019 World Championships. 

This may not be a WorldTour race, but it already attracts as much if not more attention than many that are thanks to the quality of the event.

"It's not the biggest categorised race in the world but there are seven WorldTour teams coming and that shows how well the race is respected," Moses said. "Everyone just seems to go mad for it. It's an exciting race and great to watch. Some of the bigger races, they might be pan flat and you just ride around before a sprint, but there's action all day in Yorkshire."

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