Hosting a professional cycling race is a little like throwing a party. You do everything you can to sell it to potential guests, make wild promises that its going to be a belter, and pray the good ones turn up.
Here at the Tour de Yorkshire, organisers pulled out all the stops in the build-up to the women’s race in the hope of enticing the best riders on the planet. Come to our two-day stage race! The same course as the men, on the same day, with the same prize money! A chance to try out the World Championship course!
An excited Peter Dodd, the commercial director for Welcome to Yorkshire, told The Independent last week he was optimistic they could bring in the biggest names. “This is the first time the two stages are identical to those of the men so it’s the longest and hardest edition for the women, over 3,200m of cumulative climbing, and there’s complete parity in terms of prize money,” he enthused. “Lizzie Deignan is confirmed, and in the next few days we believe some of the top women riders in the world are going to confirm too, and make it a special edition.”
It was a big bold sell, and it worked. Among the 180-strong pack on Friday’s start line in Barnsley will be the reigning world time trial champion Annemiek van Vleuten, the reigning Olympic and world road race champion Anna van der Breggen – the Queen of the Ardennes – and arguably the most talented female cyclist ever, Marianne Vos. The presence of the Dutch trio immediately elevates this race to a party not to missed.
For Deignan, of course, it makes her challenge of becoming the first rider to win the Tour de Yorkshire twice all the more difficult, after she triumphed in 2017. This will be only her fourth race back after 18 months away from the sport having a baby girl, but the Otley-born rider is bullish about her chances of delivering in front of her home fans following promising performances at Liege-Bastogne-Liege and La Flèche Wallone last month.
“I think it would have been crazy to come into this race expecting any kind of result had it been my first race back but I’m optimistic,” said Deignan. “At home in Yorkshire, anything can happen and Yorkshire roads are really well suited to aggressive racing.” It comes on the back of her first full week away from daughter Orla. ”That was difficult, but Trek [new women’s team Trek-Segafredo] have been brilliant. They gave me full maternity leave effectively.”
The course is a mixed bag – flatter on Friday before a more lumpy profile on Saturday up the coast to Scarborough where crosswinds could disrupt the race. But Deignan holds no fear, either of the course or the stellar line-up persuaded to come to her home patch. “I think it all suits me. It suits an all-rounder and that’s what I am.”
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