Distance: 176 miles. Climbing: 7970ft. (Over 2 stages). Difficulty: 6/10.
I rode the inaugural Tour of Yorkshire in 2014, a couple of weeks after watching le Tour go by at the top of Holme Moss. Whilst somewhat smaller in scale than the world’s biggest bike race, the NSPCC event is several levels above what you get from a standard sportive.
Split into three ability-based groups on the road, each mini-peloton receives the support of ‘Domestiques’, who are volunteer riders that top and tail each group and give you a hand when you need it or if you puncture. There’s also a few NEG outriders, some with cameramen on the back as well as support cars with spare bikes & wheels, giving this the feel of pro-level road riding.
Based in York, each day involved an 87-ish mile loop, Day One out to the East and Day Two north up to the Moors. Whilst the area is famous for it’s hilly terrain and the likes of the Rosedale Chimney not too far away and climbs like Buttertubs made famous by le Tour, both days were largely flat with some sections of climbing in the middle. Each stage featured one headline, timed, climb for a polka dot jersey that was presented at the end of the day. The second of these, up Boltby Bank, was a real test with nearly all the riders I saw having to dismount, including myself, which was the first time I’ve ever had to admit defeat up a climb. When the dead spot in each pedal revolution sees you fall back down the hill further than the rest of the pedal stroke compensates for you know it’s time to give in, or fall in a ditch as I did.
The routes themselves, whilst pretty good in their own right aren’t the main selling point of the event. Riding in the second fastest group on the road, with around 25 of us in the bunch, we managed some exhilarating sections of riding. In the quiet, rolling country lanes we would average 25mph for miles on end with our closely bunched group led by the two really strong domestiques. Puncturing was not an issue, with the team car able to switch a wheel on the spot and one of the domestiques able to pace you back to the fast moving bunch in no time at all.
The other great thing about the event is that on the first evening there’s a dinner for all the riders where the day’s prizes are awarded and everyone comes together for a beer. In 2014 we were treated to an after dinner speech by tour legend Barry Hoban to cap off the evening.
The YHA hostel in York offered cheap and convenient accommodation for the event which if I recall was much better value than the recommended options.
2016 dates don’t appear to be set yet, but if you want a trip to Yorkshire and a taste of pro-level riding then it’s definitely one to consider.