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Tour de Yorkshire 2017 preview: 12 riders to watch

An undulating parcours, an iconic stage finish and a brutal final day await for the third Tour de Yorkshire

Could the third Tour de Yorkshire be the first to be won by a British rider? Team Sky’s Ian Stannard will be among the riders hoping so, but he’ll face stiff competition – including both former winners – in the White Rose County.

Rolling out of Bridlington on Friday (April 28), the race heads to Scarborough on stage one where the rouleurs will look to foil the sprinters on the coast.

– Tour de Yorkshire 2017: TV guide –

Stage two takes the riders from Tadcaster to Harrogate, where a sprint finish a la stage one of the 2014 Tour de France can be expected, before the queen stage, on Sunday April 30, packs in the climbs on a 194.5km route from Bradford to Sheffield.

Thomas Voeckler rolls out as defending champion for the third Tour de Yorkshire (Pic: Simon Wilkinson/SWpix.com)

With seven UCI WorldTour teams, five UCI ProContinental outfits and Britain’s best domestic teams set for the start line, there is an intriguing mix of riders ready for the third edition of the race.

Among those lining up against Stannard will be his former team-mate, and 2015 winner, Lars Petter Nordhaug (Aqua Blue Sport) while defending champion Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie) is also returning to Yorkshire.

So who should you be looking out for? We’ve taken a closer look at 12 of the contenders for overall victory – and check out our TV guide to see when you can tune in to the action.

A balanced route includes a stage finish in Harrogate and a brutal final stage to Sheffield (Pic: ASO)

 

Sprinters

Stage one could be a stage for the sprinters, though Yorkshire’s grippy roads, a lumpy route packed with uncategorised climbs and a couple of short, steep tests – the last of which, the Cote de Robin Hood’s Bay, is 1.5km at a 10.3 per cent average gradient – added to the threat of coastal winds, means nothing is set in stone. In 2015, a similar stage saw a five-man break triumph in Scarborough.

Stage two, on the other hand, is definitely made for the fast men, with the same Parliament Street finish in Harrogate used for the first stage of Yorkshire’s Tour de France Grand Depart in 2014.

It’s enough to have attracted some of the WorldTour’s big-name sprinters to the start line, anyway…

Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo)

Dutch champion Dylan Groenewegen has enjoyed plenty of success in Britain early in his career, winning a stage of the 2016 Tour de Yorkshire, before returning for the Tour of Britain and nabbing another victory there.

Now the 23-year-old returns to Yorkshire bidding to record his first victory of the 2017 season.

Dylan Groenewegen was a stage winner at last year’s Tour de Yorkshire (Pic: Alex Broadway-SWpix.com)

Groenewegen started the season strongly, with a couple of near-misses in Dubai – enough to earn him second place overall and top the youth classification – and while he’s yet to cross the finish line first, he certainly has the sprinting ability, and confidence, to end his drought.

LottoNL-Jumbo have won a stage at each of the previous two editions of the Tour de Yorkshire too, and Groenewegen is a strong candidate to make it three in a row.

Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis)

Nacer Bouhanni arrives in Yorkshire in top form, having not finished outside of the top four in any of his four races so far in April.

Podium finishes at Scheldeprijs and the GP de Denain sandwiched Paris-Camembert victory, the latter of which was his third triumph of the season.

Watch out for Nacer Bouhanni at the sharp end of the Tour de Yorkshire sprints (Pic: Sirotti)

Controversy off the bike – including missing last year’s Tour de France after being involved in a hotel fight – have perhaps stunted his career on it, but on his day Bouhanni is one of the fastest men in the peloton.

Caleb Ewan (Orica-Scott)

Rising Australian star Caleb Ewan started the season in blistering form, with four wins at the Santos Tour Down Under and another at the Abu Dhabi Tour.

Caleb Ewan started the season in blistering form (Pic: Sirotti)

However, after crashing out of Tirreno-Adriatico, Ewan arrives in Yorkshire keen to return to winning ways ahead of the Giro d’Italia.

The 22-year-old only has five team-mates for company, but the powerful engines of Mat Hayman and Svein Tuft are not to be sniffed out, and neither is Ewan’s raw speed in the bunch kick.

Danny van Poppel (Team Sky)

Another former Tour de Yorkshire stage winner, Team Sky’s Danny van Poppel has one win to his name this year – and that came in a prologue time trial at the Herald Sun Tour.

Danny van Poppel is Team Sky’s man for the sprints (Pic: Sirotti)

After serving as a domestique throughout the Classics, however, Van Poppel will hope to cash that cheque on the first two days of the Tour de Yorkshire, with Ian Stannard and Luke Rowe among his team-mates for the race.

The 23-year-old Dutchman could not better Ewan in Australia at the start of the year, but with a strong supporting cast he is definitely capable of a result in Yorkshire again.

Adam Blythe (Aqua Blue Sport)

British interest in the sprints at the Tour de Yorkshire, should the first two stages culminate in a bunch gallop, will be looked after by the British champion himself, Adam Blythe.

The Aqua Blue Sport rider has been getting closer and closer to ending the Irish UCI ProContinental team’s hunt for their first ever victory, finishing second at both the Danilith-Nokere Koerse and Handzame Classic last month.

British champion Adam Blythe will lead the British sprinting charge in Yorkshire, bidding for Aqua Blue Sport’s first ever stage win (Pic: Muscat Municipality/Paumer/Kåre)

And the 27-year-old Yorkshireman will now hope home advantage can tip the balance in his favour as he seeks his first win in the red, white and blue stripes.

The British domestic teams will also have an interest in the sprints, with JLT-Condor’s New Zealander Alex Frame already boasting an incredible 17 top-ten finishes so far this season – including five wins. He and team-mate Russell Downing will lead the sprinting charge for John Herety’s team.

Chris Opie (Bike Channel Canyon) and Steele von Hoff (ONE Pro Cycling) will also be looking to mix it up with the big boys, as will Axeon Hagens Berman’s Chris Lawless, who is riding with the Great Britain national team.

Rouleurs and climbers

Whatever happens on the first two stages, however, it will be stage three where the Tour de Yorkshire is decided, with eight climbs packed into the 194.5km course.

A smattering of short, steep thigh burners – included the cobbled Shibden Wall (1km at 13.5 per cent) – will thin the peloton if the pace is high enough before the 100km mark, ahead of a brutal finale en-route to Sheffield’s Fox Valley.

Stage three will decide the Tour de Yorkshire (pic – ASO)

Between the final sprint at Stocksbridge and the Fox Valley finish line 19km away, there are four more climbs, all between one and two kilometres and all boasting average gradients of more than 8.5 per cent: Deepcar (1.7km at 8.5%), Wigtwizzle (1.4km at 9.1%), Ewden Height (1km at 12%) and Midhopestones (1.4km at 10%).

The final stage will be like a hilly classic, and as such could suit a number of riders…

Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie)

Third in 2015, Thomas Voeckler then wound the clock back to win the Tour de Yorkshire last year, and the 37-year-old Frenchman will return to the White Rose County for one of the final races of his career.

Thomas Voeckler powers the breakaway on his way to victory at last year’s Tour de Yorkshire, 2016 (Pic: Alex Broadway/SWpix.com)

Due to retire after this year’s Tour de France, Voeckler is exactly the sort of rider this race suits – as proved by his success in the last two years – rewarding a rider willing to slog it off the front and take a well-timed punt.

Voeckler’s win, and indeed his third place in 2015, were possible because of the breakaway succeeding into Scarborough. This time out, he will need to win in Sheffield if he is to seal overall success again.

Lars Petter Nordhaug (Aqua Blue Sport)

Another rider hoping to end Aqua Blue Sport’s wait for their first ever win is Lars Petter Nordhaug, winner of the Tour de Yorkshire with Team Sky in 2015.

Lars Petter Nordhaug won the inaugural Tour de Yorkshire, and returns with Aqua Blue Sport (pic – Sirotti)

The form book is not kind to the 32-year-old – he did not finish any of the three Ardennes Classics he raced – but the Norwegian knows how to win this race, after doing exactly that two years ago and finishing sixth last time out.

Like Voeckler, it was a win into Scarborough which sealed Nordhaug’s Tour de Yorkshire win, but he is definitely capable of showing similar form into Sheffield.

Ian Stannard (Team Sky)

Ian Stannard leads a Team Sky line-up not lacking in power: the Essex man is joined by compatriots Luke Rowe, Jon Dibben and Tao Geoghegan Hart, alongside German powerhouse Christian Knees, Pole Lukasz Wisniowski and Dutch sprinter Danny van Poppel.

Team Sky powerhouse Ian Stannard will look to replicate the form he showed in winning a stage of last year’s Tour of Britain (pic – Tour of Britain)

Stannard – racing for the first time since the cobbled Classics – proved what he can do on grippy, undulating courses with his solo stage win at last year’s Tour of Britain and a repeat of that performance could be on the cards in Yorkshire.

A stage winner already this season at the Herald Sun Tour, Stannard would be a popular winner if he were to triumph – and he certainly represents one of the best hopes of a British victor.

Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo)

Dutchman Steven Kruijswijk is in Yorkshire for a final hit-out before the Giro d’Italia, a race he was so cruelly denied a shock victory at last year after a crash into the snow, while comfortably leading overall, just two days before the race reached the Turin finale.

Steven Kruijswijk has a point to prove at this year’s Giro d’Italia, and so should arrive in Yorkshire – for his final pre-Giro hit-out – in top form (pic: Sirotti)

With a point to prove at the Corsa Rosa however, Kruijswijk should be in top shape for Yorkshire – and his performance over the hills will be an interesting gauge of where his fitness levels are at.

He finished seventh overall in his last race, the Volta a Catalunya, and the 29-year-old is definitely one to watch over the weekend – not least because he finished fifth last time out.

Other Brits to watch

Tom Stewart (ONE Pro Cycling)

Yorkshireman Tom Stewart made what was supposed to be a step up to ride for ONE Pro Cycling, only for the former UCI ProContinental to drop back down to the Continental ranks after losing a key sponsor.

Nevertheless, Stewart returns to his home county – where he finished 11th in this race last year – as one of the local riders with the best chance of cracking the top-ten.

Tom Stewart has made a habit of animating races and has continued that with his new team, ONE Pro Cycling (Pic: RCS Sport)

Sixth at the Dubai Tour, thanks to his exploits in the breakaway, the 27-year-old has made a habit of animating races, with plenty of reward to show for it too.

Backed by the likes of Kristian House, Peter Williams and rising New Zealand star James Oram, ONE Pro have got a feast of options for breakaways, stage wins and decent GC results.

Erick Rowsell (Madison-Genesis)

Erick Rowsell was eighth at the inaugural Tour de Yorkshire as he enjoyed a strong first season back at UCI Continental level with Madison-Genesis, and then finished 15th at last year’s Tour of Britain.

Erick Rowsell will lead Madison-Genesis’ bid for a strong GC placing – he was eighth at the inaugural Tour de Yorkshire (pic: SWpix.com)

The 26-year-old – brother of recently-retired track cycling ace Joanna Rowsell Shand – has enjoyed two good years with Madison-Genesis and now, with Tom Stewart moved to ONE Pro Cycling, the team’s GC hopes rest on his shoulders.

Like ONE Pro, Madison-Genesis are not short of riders keen on animating races – Jonny McEvoy and Rich Handley were both active at last weekend’s Rutland-Melton CiCLE Classic too – and you can expect to see the team involved in the breakaways at the very least.

Scott Thwaites (Dimension Data)

Yorkshire’s Scott Thwaites will race the Tour de Yorkshire for the first time – another perk of his winter switch to Dimension Data.

Having missed out on Tour de France selection with his previous team Bora-hansgrohe (then known as NetApp-Endura) for the 2014 Grand Depart, when the team opted not to field any Brits despite the race starting in Yorkshire, Thwaites also had to make do with being a spectator for the first two editions of the Tour de Yorkshire.

Scott Thwaites will race on home roads having missed out with his former team (Pic: Sirotti)

Now he can show what he is all about, however, and the third stage will hold no fears for him.

He has said himself, however, that with the exertions of a full Spring Classics campaign in his legs, he is not likely to be an overall contender – nevertheless, look out for him looking to animate the race on his home roads.

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