PRO SERIES: Le Tour de Yorkshire

Le Tour de Yorkshire. What. A. Race.

I’m going to begin this blog by answering a FAQ. If it’s a British race then why is it pretending to be French? Put simply, Tour de Yorkshire is the legacy race from the Tour de France Grand depart 2014 – it’s owned by ASO (French organisers), thus has kept a French name.

Now… back to the racing.

This race is huge deal for a rider in my position. Racing with Brother UK Tifosi p/b OnForm, a club level team, means that we can’t race in the Women’s World Tour (WWT) races. Tour de Yorkshire is unique in the way that it’s not WWT, but attracts a WWT tier field. This is down to the absolutely incredible stance they have on women’s racing – full stage coverage, huge prize money and, a newly added feature in this years edition, 2 identical stages to the men. This race was the perfect opportunity for us to showcase our ability to compete against the world’s best as a team.

Over 2 days we tackled 264km and 3200m climbing, as well as freezing temperatures, hail, a lot rain and strong winds.

Day 1 was the flatter of the two and was predicted to finish in a bunch sprint. There was 1 QOM and 1 savage lap of the Harrogate World Championships finishing circuit chucked in there too. Our team rode amazingly. Leah Dixon was in the break for over 100kms, earning herself the most combative rider jersey while Anna Henderson finished 8th in the bunch sprint (won by Lorena Wiebes). I came 29th in the sprint, and the other girls weren’t far behind meaning we were 5th on the team GC, as well as first British team after stage 1. It couldn’t have gone better for us really – a jersey, a top 10 finish and a top 5 team on GC. Post stage it was a case of getting the transfer out the way to our next hotel, eating food, having a massage, eating some more food and then catching some Zzzzzz.

We all knew that Day 2 was going to be the stage which produced big time splits due to the physically challenging nature of the course. Anna and I had practiced the course the weekend prior and knew exactly the severity of the climbs coming, a blessing and a curse I guess. With 5 QOMs on the route, we knew it was going to be a savage day out.

The forecast on the day was also pretty grim, and although I was cold the off-road rider in me told me to man up – come on Emily, you’ve done way worse than this. Yorkshire; show me what you’ve got.

Let’s just say Yorkshire definitely showed me what it was made of.

Despite the weather, this was one of the better days I’ve had on the bike. As well as physically feeling pretty good I had lady luck on my side. I had a front puncture as we approached the first QOM - nightmare. But, as I dropped back through the peloton our DS (directeur sportif) explained over the radios that the race would be neutralised for 6km and diverted around the first climb. Hallelujah. This was due to oil on the climb… All I can say is that the oil Gods were definitely looking out for me that day.

Anyway, so after the race de-neutralised we were off. As we descended down Robin Hood’s Bay the heavens opened and we were torrentially hailed on. It’s really difficult to describe quite how heavy the hail was, to put it into perspective I genuinely thought my face was bleeding.

It was like a thousand needles stabbing you at once. We climbed out of the bay to cross the line of the first QOM – the first proper test of the day and the first big opportunity for splits to be made. I stayed in contact with the main group and refocused on the next 3 QOMS I knew were to come.

Between the climbs most of my day was spent lined out in the gutter due to cross winds. Climbing up the last climb was savage. I’d slightly lost contact with my group on the previous QOM and was working hard to get back on as I knew it was a key moment in the race. I gave it everything up the last climb and with the help of a few other riders we made it back onto the group. I breathed a sigh of relief because I knew from here it was a 25km tailwind run in to the finish and I could relax a little.

After what was the longest 25km of my life we finally approached Scarborough. Coming towards the line was actually comical. I’ve never experienced a head wind like it and at times we were almost coming to a standstill on the finishing straight. I opened up my sprint with about 50m to go (yes, that’s how much of a head wind it was) and crossed the line 4th in our little bunch and 36th on the day, just over 6 minutes down on the race winner Marianne Vos.

4 hours 19 minutes of racing, 3070 kcals, 85 miles and 4124 ft of climbing later… it was over. My most anticipated race of the year was behind me, and I was so pleased about it. I’d raced the best race I could’ve done on the day, and it filled me with confidence heading into future races that I can mix it with the best riders in the World.

So that’s that – My Tour de Yorkshire experience. Time for a couple of days rest and recovery before getting stuck into racing again.

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