A road cyclist's guide to the climbs of Yorkshire's Grand Depart, by '100 Greatest Cycling Climbs' author Simon Warren
By Simon Warren
Not so long ago the news of a major sporting event coming to Britain would have been met with groans of “We’re no good at hosting things like that”, or “It’s bound to be rubbish”. But Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony and the fantastic Olympic Games that followed changed all that.
It turns out we do know how to do things properly and the build-up, together with the inspired route for this year’s Grand Départ is certainly more proof of that. As soon as the news broke that the Tour was coming to Yorkshire I created a list of hills in my mind that I wanted to see on the route. Fleet Moss or Park Rash, Rosedale Chimney or the Shibden Wall. None of these made the cut but I wasn’t for a moment disappointed with the selection of great roads that did make it onto the route.
The opening stage from Leeds is of course, slightly managed to ensure a certain Manx sprinter has more than a fighting chance of bringing home the bacon in Harrogate. On the way though it’s also going to showcase the best of the Yorkshire Dales as it passes through some of the most stunning scenery our island has to offer. The first climb up through Cray will wake the riders up, the ride over Buttertubs Pass will soften them up then the last of the big three, Grinton Moor, will rough them up before the long run-in to the predicted sprint.
Stage two is when the climbs will be the stars though, and they start almost from the get-go. Oxenhope Moor, Cragg Vale, Ripponden Bank, Holme Moss, bang, bang, bang, they come and this is just the warm-up. Following the long descent off the Woodhead Pass, that’s when the real fireworks start.
I went out to recce the last 60km over the winter and by the time I got to the end I was broken, it’s relentless. I’m no pro but I think I’m a pretty good judge of a tough course and it’s remorselessly tough.
The finale kicks off with Midhopestones Bank then Ewden Bank and High Bradshaw, with the only rest in-between spent hurtling down through 25% hairpin corners, your hands gripping the brakes for dear life.
Then next there’s Oughtibridge Lane, or the ‘Jawbone’ and once you’re in the city, Herris Road before the cherry on the cake (or the final nail in the coffin) Jenkin Road. Some say one of its corners peaks at 33%; I’m not so sure about that, but after 190km of hard racing it will take a very strong man to break away from what’s left of the peloton in his bid for glory.
So chapeau to the organisers, chapeau for providing the canvas that should all but guarantee two thrilling days of racing, the only problem is, where do I stand to watch it?
I’ve rated each climb in five categories to give you a feel of what to expect
Can I get to the climb? 5 stars means multiple avenues of access will increase your chance of getting to the action. 1 star means you’ll have more luck landing a 747 close to the route than finding anywhere to park.
Will there be constant attacking or will the bunch just be rolling over? 5 stars means all out battle, and 1 star means they will be riding along tweeting ‘selfies’ of themselves with flat caps on.
How busy will it be? 5 stars means you’ll be standing on the shoulders of the man in front while two people hang from your arms. 1 star means it will be just you and the sheep.
Is there anywhere to hide from the elements? 5 stars means you’ll never be that far from at least a tree to hide under. 1 star means the chance of serious exposure is very real.
Whilst waiting patiently, guarding your spot will you be surrounded by 5 star grand vistas? Or 1 star urban decay?