By David Hunter
This is the 4th edition of the race, due to increased popularity it is now a four day event. Unfortunately, this year it clashes with the start of the Giro, which means we have a weaker startlist than usual. The organisers always have the race on the May Day holiday weekend, in the UK, which is the first Monday in May. This year it’s the latest it can be, which means it clashes with the Giro. It is a shame, but we’ll still get some brilliant racing.
The race begins with an easy sprint stage.
Another easy day in the saddle, but it has a sting in the tail. The sting is 1.8km at 7.9%, making this too hard for the sprinters. This finish is one for the puncheurs and GC riders.
Another sprint stage, but the unclassified lump at the end will provide a launchpad for a late attack.
The Queen stage. The riders have to face an incredibly difficult stage, with 2888m of climbing. Not only do we have 6 classified climbs, but the day is full of unclassified climbs, some of which are very demanding.
Always a risky business, having a race in northern England at this time of the year! It looks like the race will stay dry, but most days will have a relatively strong wind coming from the south-west. When we hit the moors, the wind will be strong enough to cause some splits.
Serge Pauwels – the defending champion is back, but without Omar Fraile. Last year, they got their tactics spot on and dominated the final stage. This year, the Belgian will find things much harder, but he does arrive with good legs. He managed to finish in the top 35 of all the Ardennes races, which is a good indication of where his current form is.
Dylan Van Baarle – as it is a home race for Team Sky, they always want to perform well. With some of their big stars at the Giro, the pressure will be on their Dutchman to claim the title. Sky have the team to make the final stage very difficult and Van Baarle seemed to get better the longer the spring classics went on. A rider who consistently does well in Flanders, he should have no problem with the Yorkshire roads.
Mike Teunissen – Sunweb would have been very pleased with his classics campaign, 2nd in DDV was a particular highlight. Not only can he cope with the climbs, Teunissen is a very fast finisher, which will be important when trying to collect bonus seconds in intermediate sprints. If his form holds, he’ll have a big say in the outcome of this race.
Jonathan Hivert – the Direct Energie rider is currently enjoying a fine season. Not only did he take a world tour win in PN, but he also won both stages and the GC in Haut Var and recently claimed the Tour du Finistère. Hivert is a rider who copes well with short climbs and packs a sprint faster than most riders in the bunch. Going against him is that his team aren’t very strong.
BMC – speaking of strong teams, BMC look full of talent. Not only do they arrive with Van Avermaet, but they also have Brent Bookwalter and Paddy Bevin. With quality like that, they will have a large say in the outcome of this race. They have the riders to challenge for the win on stage 2, taking crucial bonus seconds and they have the depth to make the final stage very difficult. Team tactics will dictate who their protected riders are, but I expect one of their riders to be challenging for the win.
Mark Christian – was in the break in LBL, but he is much more than just a breakaway rider. The Aqua Blue team will want to do well, it’s as close as they get to a home race. Christian is a solid climber, who also packs a punch. He was 7th here in 2017 and will hope to improve on that result this year.
Yevgeniy Gidich – the young Kazak rider is a rising star for Astana. He recently finished 3rd in the Tour of Croatia and also finished 6th in Langkawi early in the year. Not only can he climb, but he’s a very fast sprinter. Astana are enjoying a brilliant season and will be challenging for the overall win.
Max Stedman – riding for the continental team, Canyon Eisberg, the youngster took an impressive result in the recent Chorley GP, finishing in 6th place. He is one of the British riders who will love the challenge of riding against the best in the world, hopeful it gets the best out of him. He’s certainly one to watch out for in this race.
Karol Domagalski – a rider who is in brilliant form. He recently won the Chorley GP and finished 2nd in the Cicle Classic. The Pole is now in his 3rd season with One Pro Cycling and seems to be in the form of his life.
Tom Pidcock – a lot of attention will be on this youngster. He is a former junior world champion in cycle-cross, but he’s also enjoyed success on the road, winning the junior version of Paris-Roubaix. He has signed for Team Wiggins, but will be riding for the GB team in this race. Not only that, but he’s a Yorkshire boy, he’ll want a big race on home roads. Still just 18 years old, it’s unlikely he’ll challenge in this race, but he’s one for you to watch for. His current form is also very strong, on Sunday he won the Klondike GP, not bad for a kid!
BMC v Team Sky. Both squads have the power and depth to isolate the other leaders and put them under pressure. Looking at the final stage, I think it’s right on the limit of the puncheurs and the climbers will fancy their chances. For that reason, I think we’ll see Serge Pauwelssuccessfully defend his title.
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