Simon Warren, author of 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs, takes a look at the 2017 Tour de Yorkshire and picks the five climbs that will define the race.
Although the stage does an excellent job of dodging many bullets as it navigates though the North York Moors, (namely Rosedale Chimney and Boltby Bank), it’s impossible to get across this wonderful landscape without hitting a bit of 25% gradient, and here we find some on the exit of Goathland, up Cow Wath Bank. Rolling out of the village, there’s a small hump back bridge to allow the riders to build a fraction of momentum to take into the base, but that will evaporate in an instant as the brutal slope hits their front wheels like a freight train. Passing the 25% warning sign the smooth tarmac arcs skywards bending slightly to the left on the punishing gradient. Once the brow is reached this fleeting section of merciless climbing ends and then the remaining work to reach the summit begins. With lactate filled legs here’s where the strong will turn the screw on the exposed passage across the empty moor, as on and on this demanding drag continues through the featureless beauty until it finally reaches its lonely peak and begins to drop down to the coast.
Returning for the third time, and now a fixture on the race route, The Côte de Robin Hood won’t be a welcome sight to the peloton. I was spectating toward the summit back in 2015 and some of the pain faces being pulled by the riders towards the top, especially by the heavier ones, were quite spectacular. After a long ride through the ‘lumpy’ North York Moors for many this will be straw that breaks the donkey’s back. And it’s not just about the top section, there’s plenty to this climb besides that final remorseless push to the summit. The route drops almost to the sea in Robin Hood’s Bay then at the last possible moment veers back inland to face the ridge it’s just descended. Climbing out of town and into Fylingthorpe the slope is relatively shallow but this mild introduction soon fades and leaving the village you reach a hairpin where the party really starts. Kicking up close to 20% the road banks right to line up for the summit. Although there is a visible lull it’s never easy again and following the junction on the right just gets steeper and steeper rising in a dead straight line to the definitive brow then continuing onto the actual KOM summit some 50 metres later. If riders aren’t in the front group here they can kiss their race goodbye as the leaders will capitalise on their gains and take them all the way to the finish in Scarborough.
It’s all about the one climb today, Trapping Hill or to use its new name, the Côte de Lofthouse, and what a climb it is. Isolated in the heart of Nidderdale, it stands alone, a beautiful, secluded, and savage accent to test the peloton’s legs. Heading east from Lofthouse the road kicks up right away and it’s not long before you’re fighting the 15% slopes as they bend through the village twisting up to and across the open hill side. Once the initial curves are dealt with the road straightens out yet still sticks to its relentless punishing pitch, now framed with the ubiquitous stone walls. Ahead a brow offers a fraction of respite but not enough to relax as the climb continues its direct course up the bank heading for a lone tree on the horizon. You’re now into the final bends which lie trapped, weaving between high grassy banks that offer the perfect vantage point for spectators to relish the action below. Through this rugged uphill chicane and finally the pitch of the slope abates to reveal a far more gentle ride to the summit. Will it be enough to shed the sprinters? Will it be the springboard to a decisive attack? We will just have to wait and see, one thing is for certain, it will hurt.
When the first Tour de Yorkshire hit our roads three years ago I crossed my fingers that a cobbled climb would be included, and although I’ve had to wait three years, it will be worth it, because this isn’t just any cobbled climb, this is the mighty Shibden Wall. Famous for its inclusion in the Kellogs Tour of Britain back in the 1980’s, its stones are no stranger to bike racing and can’t wait to dish out more suffering. You may have heard about the famous cobbled climbs used in the Tour of Flanders in Belgium, well, this is the equal if not superior to any of them. As Lee Lane begins to rise from the Shibden Brook at the bottom of the industrial valley, following short stretch of asphalt the carnage begins. The slope is already approaching 15% as the smooth covering turns to jarring stones, and now every pedal rev will be met with the twin hindrances of gravity and the uncompromising cobbles. Bending right it rises up to a vicious left hand bend, too steep to ride on the inside thus forcing riders wide, which on race day should create a bottle neck, so it’s essential to be at the front here as the gaps will increase exponentially behind. From now on the condition of the surface further deteriorates, the gradient increases to 20% and the gaps beneath the stones become wider as they batter the riders legs on their search for the sanctuary of the plateau at the summit. If you really want to see some suffering, then all out bike racing action gets no better than this, just make sure you turn up early to get a good spot on the hill.
Lastly I’ve picked one of the five vicious ramps that pepper the final kilometres of stage three though the infamous Strines, the climb of Ewden Bank. The first two of these successive beasts, the Côte de Deepcar and the wonderfully named Côte de Wigtwizzle, will soften the legs, then this climb, the Côte de Ewden Height will separate the wheat from the chaff before the Côte de Midhopestones delivers the knockout blow. After crossing Ewden Beck at the apex of what looks like a 10 mile tarmac roller coaster, the road heads skywards like a Saturn 5 blasting away from earth, and the riders will be wishing they were fitted with rockets as the upcoming 25% bend will all but bring them to a halt. Following this wicked corner the climb doesn’t let up, it keeps rising viciously to a pronounced brow before ushering in a slightly kinder gradient past a lone farm on the left. The summit is clearly marked by a line of trees on the horizon so the peloton will be under no illusion of how far there’s still to climb and how much pain they still have to endure. Weaving between the walls the closer to the trees the tougher the slope becomes until it reaches the hard left and right hand corners that will break the legs of even the strongest riders ensuring that whoever crosses the summit first is likely to be winning the stage.
To read more on the climbs of Yorkshire check out Simon’s book:
You can also download the new 100 Climbs App here, to help you locate the famous climbs in Yorkshire.