Established in the wake of the 2014 Tour de France's successful Grand Départ in the region, the ASO-organised Tour de Yorkshire is now in its fourth year. With that comes an extra stage, making it a four-day race.
Taking in the eastern Pennines, as well as the North York Moors, the Tour de Yorkshire is one for the puncheurs and baroudeurs. It’s not all hills, though, with at least one opportunity for the sprinters along the way.
Rather than a staging ground for new talent, the race has so far proven to be a battle of established riders. Looking at the roll of honour and seeing the names of Lars Petter Nordhaug, Thomas Voeckler and Serge Pauwels gives one a good idea of what to expect.
Riders to watch
Last year’s champion, Pauwels (Dimension Data) is the only previous winner in the field. The Belgian was in the top 20 at La Flèche Wallonne, so he’s in form for a title defence. Fellow Belgian, Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) is well suited to the terrain and looking for his first win since February. Teammate Brent Bookwalter has form here, finishing fourth overall last year.
Aqua Blue Sport come armed with a cadre of options. Irish prodigy Eddie Dunbar crashed out of the breakaway on his debut here in 2015, but the 21-year-old was in the break at Amstel Gold - his WorldTour debut - so he’s in strong form. Another option is Mark Christian, who finished seventh overall in 2017.
Team Sky's young squad is spearheaded by Dylan van Baarle. The Dutchman knows how to race on British roads, having won the Tour of Britain in 2014. Owain Doull is another versatile threat for Sky. Van Baarle’s compatriot, Roompot’s Pieter Weening, won the mountains classification here last year and arrives straight from finishing second overall at last week's Tour of Croatia.
Katusha-Alpecin are led by Tiago Machado and Robert Kišerlovski. Neither is a huge favourite, but they should be ones to watch given their climbing ability. The same goes for Direct Énergie’s Jonthan Hivert, who was on the podium in 2017 and is on form after a win at the Tour du Finestère two weeks ago. Teammate Sylvain Chavanel enjoys this style of racing too.
Yorkshireman Ben Swift is here racing for the Great Britain national team, rather than his trade team UAE Team Emirates. His skill-set is a great fit for this parcours but he hasn’t raced since suffering fractured vertebrae at the Tour of Flanders. The 18-year-old star-in-the-making Tom Pidcock will also be one to keep an eye on.
Stage 1 looks the prime opportunity for the sprinters here, with stage three another possibility. For these sprints, keep your eyes peeled for home favourite Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), as well as Magnus Cort Nielsen (Astana), Bryan Coquard (Vital Concept), Kristoffer Halvorsen (Team Sky), Adam Blythe (Aqua Blue Sport) and Wouter Wippert (Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij).
An extra day means extra climbing
As in 2016, the race starts in the East Yorkshire town of Beverley. Back then, the stage ended with a sprint and it should here too. A largely flat 90km run into Doncaster follows the first climb of the race at the Côte de Baggaby Hill. Look for the names listed above to be prominent, as this stage might be their only chance at a victory.
Stage 2 runs 149km from Barnsley to Ilkley and should see the GC action start. It’s an up-and-down day, though one with only two classified climbs before the finish. The Côte de Old Pool Bank (one kilometre at 10 per cent) will be a tester, coming 19km from the hilltop finish in Ilkley. There, the Côte de Cow and Calf - 1.8km long at a stinging 8.2 per cent gradient - awaits the peloton. As the only hilltop finish of the race, it could well be a GC decider.
The third stage sees a return to Scarborough, which has featured as a finish town in every edition so far. Late hills and coastal winds meant the GC-deciding attacks came on this stage in both 2015 and 2016. However, with the toughest stage yet to come it seems more likely that this 184km-long day will be one for the sprinters, much like last year’s, which was won by Dylan Groenewegen. The racing here, though, is anything but predictable.
The final stage - a 189.5km horseshoe from Halifax to Leeds - is the longest and hardest of the race. Six classified climbs litter the route, with many more unlisted. Four climbs feature in the first half of the stage, so the day’s break could decide the mountains classification.
Attacking opportunities abound all the way to the finish, with the Côte de Greenhow Hill (3.3km at 8.2 per cent) and the Côte de Otley Chevin (1.4km at 10.3 per cent) - plus five unclassified hills - packed into the final 60km.