Even the newest cyclist has heard ad infinitum that 'Yorkshire is the home of UK cycling'. Try as we might to fight it (I mean, have they ever even been to Box Hill), it is of course true. Thanks to the Tour de France, the wonderful scenery and the hoards of screaming fans, Yorkshire really is a special place for a bike race.
The 2014 Grand Depart was a seminal event in UK cycling, and the Tour de Yorkshire keeps getting better every year. Not only that but week in week out thousands of cyclists can be seen out on the hills and in the cafes, paying homage to the good name of cycling. We've visited many times as a club and it's always been a warm and wonderful weekend of cycling. Well, not actually warm, of course. It's Yorkshire, but I mean the people are very nice.
However it's not just the size, passion and unique 'Yorkshireness' of the crowds that are going to come to define the World Championships of 2019, but the quality of racing too. Starting, for the first time ever, with Para cycling on Saturday the 21st and culminating with the men's and women's road races on the 28th and 29th, the best junior, under 23, time trialling and road racing men and women in cycling will be putting on a show for the whole world. And, I am reliably informed, it is going be reet.
The supreme talent on show and the exciting routes will combine with the aforementioned Yorkshireness to result in, we all hope, a World Championships that will be talked about for years to come. Add into this mix those wonderful variables that make a one day race so exciting - the weather, an unexpected superhero ride, a naked drunken Yorkshireman stumbling into the peloton - and you've got one hell of a week of racing!
Another great factor of the World Championships is that riders compete as national teams. The best riders in the world set aside their club loyalties and come together under the national flag to try and win their country the gold medal. You get to cheer on your country - whether that of birth or of choice, and hope that one of 'your' riders wins out in the end. But better than that you get to see a load of riders who are usually team mates competing against each other. Imagine if your office was suddenly split into national teams, and you had to all compete against each other for the ultimate prize? Do you think loyalties, friendships and alliances would be tested to breaking point? Entertaining, right!
Watch & Ride With Us
Dirty Wknd are going to be in Harrogate from Wednesday 25th to Sunday 28th of September, riding in the area and watching the racing from the Corner Haus pub with our friends All Things Ride. We will be riding with and be joined at the pub by Belgian Classics legend Johan Museeuw, Visit Flanders and Rouleur magazine. It's a Belgian pub right on the finish circuit, so will be the place to be that week. Come and say hello if you're in the area, and join us for some group rides. Full details here.
Read on below for the all you need to know guide to the Yorkshire 2019 World Championships:
Para, U23 & Junior Road Races
With this year's mens Grand Tours being won by toddlers, it would be a good idea to keep an eye on the junior and under 23 road races in Yorkshire, as the winners will likely be on the TDF podium next summer. The action is kicked off on Saturday 21st at midday with the Paralympic road race (106km), included in the program for the first time ever. After a quick TT break, the next road race is the junior men on Thursday 26th at midday (148km), with the junior women (86km) rolling out at 8:40am on the 27th, followed by the U23 men at 2pm (187km).
Knowledge of who's racing in all of the above is pretty limited, but one thing you can guarantee is that it will be full on as these guys and girls try to make a name (and a career?) for themselves. It's just been confirmed today that we will be able to cheer on local boy Tom Pidcock in the men's U23s. He's not ridden much after a crash in the summer, but if he has recovered well and is in form he has a real chance of winning on his home roads. All of the above races will be on the BBC in some form (BBC2, red button or online) and on Eurosport.
Usually one for the purists, the TTs do have the possibility of being a bit dull if you're watching on TV at home. However with a snazzy rainbow striped jersey on offer, and not much else to do for the rest of the year, you can bet your last penny that the world's best will be going hell for leather in Yorkshire. Because Time Trials are really fun when there are only split seconds in it!
First Ever Mixed Time Trial Relay!
An addition to the program for 2019, and totally worth watching, will be the all new mixed relay TT on Sunday 22nd at 1pm. A 28km course around Harrogate, countries will compete in teams of 6. The 3 men will do 1 lap before handing over to the 3 women to do a lap, with the clock stopping as the first 2 females from the team cross the line. Sadly no baton hand over or team handsling involved (wouldn't that be great), but it will be very exciting none the less. Unsurprisingly, watch out for the Dutch and Belgian teams to do very well. Maybe a theme developing here...
Women's & Men's Elite Individual Time Trial
The women's TT kicks off on Tuesday 24th in the afternoon (it's on BBC2 so get it on at work). 30km from Ripon to Harrogate over typically undulating terrain, finishing on the town circuit with an uphill drag that will really favour the powerful riders. For powerful, read Dutch! Defending champ Annamiek Vanvluten is the big favourite and, barring miracles, she can probably only be beaten by her teammate. Told you there was a theme.
The first man rolls down the ramp at 1:10pm the following day (25th) to take on the 54Km course from Northallerton, again finishing on the Harrogate circuit. Cross winds could (hopefully) play a big role in the early part of the course, and then it's lumpy as you'd expect for the rest of the run. Hopefully it will cause some upsets and shake the field up.
So who's going to win? There are a few challengers for medals in the men's field, which will keep things interesting. Primož Roglič, fresh from the Vuelta, including a very dominant TT win, is probably the favourite, but it's far from a done deal. New hour record holder Victor Campenaerts could go well, and, If he remembers to wear the right skin suit and can can keep his dummy in his mouth, then Rohan Dennis should never be dismissed. British hopes rest on TDF winner Geraint Thomas and British champ Alex Dowsett, but I wouldn't get my hopes up for either, sadly.
Keep an eye on Belgian wunderkind Remco Evenepoel though. It'll be a hell of a ride if he medals, but this 19 year old is seriously quick. He won the European TT title just days after winning the the Classic San Sebstian, and he loves a solo break. He's my pick for an incredibly popular podium place and would be a very popular winner. Did I mention he's only 19?!
Women's Road Race
Now we're into the pointy end of the week, and the really important races. The women's road race was an absolute cracker last year, with the imperious Olympic champion Anna van der Breggen (Dutch, surprise surprise) soloing to victory and leaving no scraps for anyone else in Austria.
The women's road race course in Yorkshire 2019 consists of 149 lumpy KM from Bradford into the Yorkshire Dales for a slice of Norwood Edge and Lofthouse, before flying back to Harrogate for 3 loops of the finish circuit. You can expect a good breakaway (with at least one of the Dutch riders in it) with the other Dutch riders controlling the bunch.
Just like 2018, I would bet my bike on another Dutch winner for the 2019 women's road race in Yorkshire. In fact, don't be surprised if there is an all Orange podium. With AVDB, Annemiek van Vleuten, Chantaal Black and current European champion Amy Pieters on the Dutch team, it's going to be nearly impossible to overcome this super squad. My heart, so often pulverised in situations like this, longs for a home victory for local darling Lizzie Deignan. The race even goes through her home town of Otley, but I'm afraid my head says is just ain't gonna happen!
So which of these heroic Dutch women is going to win? Well, none of them. Because I've deliberately left out my pick for winner - the one and only Marianne Vos. She's done it 3 times already, she's in incredible form (16 wins in 2019), and most importantly... she's also Dutch! Remember that break away? I predict that someone like Blaak or Pieters will go up the road in the break, with Vos reaping the rewards in a late break or power sprint for the line. And if something unfortunate happens to Vos, the Dutch still have Van Der Bregen or Van Vlueten to deploy. Buy some Orange face paint now! But if Lizzie is feeling good though...
The women's road race takes place on Sat 28th at 11:40am and will be on BBC2 and Eurosport. If you're in Harrogate then come to The Corner Haus for a Belgian beer and a great view of the race.
Men's Road Race
It probably won't be as exciting as the women's race (it never is), but it could also be won by the Dutch. The men's road race in Yorkshire 2019 takes place on Sunday 29th at 8:40am (its 285km long, they need to start pretty early) finishing up between 3 and 4pm. Heading out from Leeds and into the Dales, they'll take on almost the exact 2014 TDF route, including climbs of Kidstones, Buttertubs and Grinton Moor, before 7 laps of the Harrogate street circuit. Imagine doing 187 hilly KMs before a tight and technical 100km crit race?! The good news about the severity of the route, apart from our sadistic viewing pleasure, is that you can be damn sure that only the very best male bike riders in the world will be left at the end of this race.
So who will that be? The course is long and tough at just 7km shorter than Milan San Remo), but if 2014 is anything to go by, the climbs might not be hard enough to stop the sprinters from getting to the end. Remember Marcel Kittel won back in 2014, and if he can lug his 86kg frame through the Dales then others can too. So the Classics specialists could have their parade rained on by a couple of determined big lads. Look for someone like Michael Matthews or Kristoff to take a straight up sprint if this does happens.
Buuuut, it's unlikely. This course is so similar to a Flemish Classic, that you have to look to an out and out rouleur to take the rainbow stripes in Harrogate. Anyone who's ridden in Yorkshire, or Flanders for that matter, will know that the roads are tight, technical and come with extra poor surfaces, just for fun. So bike handling and technique are going to be really important. It also means that team riding is less effective, so the winner will need to be able to do their own work too. Dare I say it, but a cyclocross background could really come in handy.
Rider of the year Julian Alaphilippe is looking like a big favourite after a stellar Tour, and we know he can go long as evidenced in his Milan San Remo win. However can he peak 3 times in a year? And if he goes to the line with some of the 'bigger' boys, would you bet on him to best them?
The Belgians should never be counted out and they have arguably the strongest team, including two very good leaders in Greg Van Avermaet and Philippe Gilbert. They've got heaps of experience, with GVA coming into form after a win in Montreal and PhilGil taking two stages of the Vuelta. Add to this his Paris Roubaix win in the spring, and former World Champ PhilGil could be a very popular winner. However teamwork may not make the dream work in Yorkshire, and these two don't actually like each other (apparently). They each dearly want to win, but would one do the work to hand the other victory? I'm not so sure.
However, it may not matter, as there is a new kid on the block in the form of Mathieu van der Poel. The Dutch phenom is surely set to dominate one day races between now and his retirement, but can he do it in Yorkshire? Sweeping all before him at the Tour of Britain last week and 'that' Amstel Gold Race sprint lead me to believe that he can. Rumour has it he is quite good at Cyclocross too, which will massively play into his hands at the Yorkshire World Championships.
Then there is Sagan. Who ever counts out Sagan, especially at the Worlds! Remember Norway two years ago for the three-peat (three-pete)? No one saw hide nor hair of Peter for the entire race, before he popped up on the line and surprised everyone, casually taking the win. Despite an average (for him) summer, I could easily see something similar happening in Harrogate, as this course really does suit a rider like Sagan.
From a home perspective, I think the Brits have been focusing on GC success in the Grand Tours for too long to have a genuine contender. Ben Swift is probably the best shot, unless G pulls something spectacular out of the bag. I think my ideal scenario would be Stannard doing a Stannard and powering away at the end. Sadly though, I think that ship has sailed.
But what about Valverde? What about Roglič? It is safe to say that the field is stacked, and any one of a bunch of riders 'could' win the men's road race in Yorkshire. They won't though. Van der Poel will win. You just watch him!
That's it from me and our Yorkshire World Championship preview. I hope you enjoyed it, please chip in with your thoughts, predictions and counter arguments in the comments below. Or jump on social media (@dirtywknd) and have your say. If you're in London there will be World Championship group rides on the 27th and 28th before the road races, watching the finish after the ride at LMNH or The Dynamo.
If you're in Yorkshire then come and ride with us, or come to the Corner Haus in central Harrogate for a Belgian beer and a great view of the finish circuit. I'll see you there.
Images courtesy of Rouler, Bike Racer Info & Liverpool Echo, Cycling Weekly, Het Niewsblad