Tour de France 2014: ‘You can lose this race at the start on those hard Yorkshire climbs,’ says Britain's first Tour winner

 

CYCLING CORRESPONDENT

There are those who think that this year’s Tour has one of its toughest starts in nearly 40 years. And if one of the three British stages is to blame for that, you would have to single out stage two, the 201-kilometre trek from York to Sheffield on Sunday 8 July.

The Tour’s organisers have ranked no fewer than 10 climbs through Yorkshire as category four or higher. The single toughest climb on stage two is Holme Moss, 7.4 kilometres long, tackled some 150 kilometres in. It has been one of British cycling’s most famous  ascents long before the Tour even thought of coming to the UK.

In total on stage two, riders will have to tackle 3,000 metres of vertical climbing – around two thirds the total of an average Alpine mountain stage. To find such a tough day so early in the Tour you would have to go back to 1977, when the peloton rode over the Pyrenees on stage two – and it  shattered the field.

Born and raised in Mirfield, Yorkshire, Brian Robinson – the first British winner of a Tour de France stage, in 1958 – knows all the ascents like the back of his hand. “Holme Moss is ‘my’ climb,” the 83-year-old told The Independent on Sunday. “I’ve ridden up it at least once a month on club runs.” He is equally familiar with other tricky ascents, such as Jenkin Road, just 800 metres long, but he says “one to watch out for, because it comes so late in the day, when you’re all low on energy” – just five kilometres before the finish in Sheffield.

Jenkin Road also has gradients touching a ridiculously steep 33 per cent in places, or as Robinson puts it, “really, really hard”.

“The real problem for the riders, though, is not that any of the climbs are particularly long. You can ride up Holme Moss in six minutes,” says Robinson. “It’s that there’s no respite between them. The real business of the race, though, will be done between Holme Moss and Sheffield, where it’s very up and down all the way to the finish and they’re on really narrow, twisting roads. If you have a problem, a mechanical incident or a puncture the chances are you’re not going to see the bunch again.”

“The favourites really have to be on their guard at the front, too, it’ so easy for other riders to  slip away. You’ve got to stay in the first 20 or you’ll risk being in trouble.

“I don’t think it’s going to split the Tour de France peloton apart totally. Myself, I’d predict a front group of around 30 riders together at the finish at most. That’s very rare so early in the Tour.”

And, Robinson warns: “The biggest factor could be the weather. If it rains – and we’re all praying it doesn’t – then you’d maybe only have half that number at the finish. It’s not a day when you can win the Tour de France, but it’s certainly a day when you could lose it.”

Sport
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins win the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor