The Tour de Yorkshire left Bridlington for Scarborough this morning, and while the main star is Olympic Champion and former Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins, there are a few riders who have won a number of stages in the best grand tours of the world – and an unknown (Team Sky’s Ben Swift) who might take it away from them.
Let’s look at the three giants of the cycling world in the race, and also the stalking horse from Sky.
If you’re reading this blog I doubt I can tell you much more about him than you know already! Injury and other setbacks prevented the UK’s first Tour de France winner from repeating the feat, and this year he’s made it plain he’s in the race to keep his legs supple ahead of an attempt to go the furthest of any track cyclist in a times hour, at the Olympic Velodrome next month. He’s not going to make it easy for his rivals, so expect some fun and games in the race from the famous Briton, but he’s not planning on risking breaking something for glory in the Tour de Yorkshire
Though not uttered in the same tone of voice as Wiggins in the UK, Thomas Voeckler is a giant among French cyclists. Coming from seemingly nowhere, he became famous in 2004 for taking the Yellow Jersey in the Tour de France and keeping it for 10 days straight.
France has similar problems with cycling to the UK with football. Where in the UK we have the richest domestic football league in the world yet an honestly below par national team, France has the greatest cycling race in the world yet few cyclists with a chance at wearing yellow at the Champs Elysees. Voeckler though, is certainly a dangerous competitor and with the rolling hills of Yorkshire is a significant threat to the field.
German Marcel Kittel is a sprint specialist who won four stages in the 2014 Tour de France. Sprinters are there for the Green Jersey and should win stages, but are not renowned for being monstrous mountain climbers. Though in the UK you break a sweat on some hills, a cyclist Alpine climber would be barely warmed up when he reaches the summit. As such, Kittel is going to be a problem over the three days, but could be ground down by the climbs.
British youngster Ben Swift was spotted by Team Sky in 2010, but he has yet to make his mark on the Grand Tour circuit. His best place on a longer road race was third in the Milan – San Remo race in 2014, and earlier in the year had made 6th in one stage of the Tour de France.
Racing at this level isn’t for young starlets to blast the field apart. It often takes years of racing in the peloton before you really get in the swing of things and get to make your mark. 28 year old Swift is at an age and has the experience to start getting noticed. He’s not afraid of mountains and can put on a good turn of speed on the flat.
Where Wiggo won’t be ready to break bones and get in the mix of a breakaway to win the Tour de Yorkshire, the likes of Swift have a lot to gain in taking risks. We may well see him rivalling the best for glory in years to come.
With cycling, ultimately you never know who will win. Road conditions and the unpredictability of the peloton could throw up a complete unknown who outshines the rest at every stage. Ultimately, this is only three days long and two wins for someone is all it takes! Lady Luck will have chosen her rider already, and that person will show their spurs at the Tour de Yorkshire this weekend.