The Tour De Yorkshire is back this weekend with three days of hard racing covering 490km (304 miles). This is a race that in the three years since it's inception has drawn massive crowds from across the country and most certainly helped Yorkshire and the UK in their successful bid to run the 2019 World Championships. It's a race that more often that not has the weather of a European spring classic but with some arguably punchier climbs scattered mercilessly throughout; this year they have even thrown in some cobbles to bring it closer still to the classic races.
There are a couple of Yorkshire riders in the mix this year; most notably in the women's race we have Lizzie Deignan, Gabriella Shaw and Seonaid Thompson to name a few. In the mens race you'll find classics specialist Scott Thwaites and Harry Tanfield, who last year topped the British Cycling domestic points table, scoring well over 1,000 BC points.
The three days of racing are taking place all the way across Yorkshire so I thought I'd share the places that I think are some of the best for seeing the racing action and cheering on all of the riders.
Day 1 - Bridlington to Scarborough
The opening day is looking like a fairly tough day out that will most likely sort out the pecking order of the mens race fairly quickly. It's not the hardest opening stage we've seen from the race organisers but it's certainly a challenge. This isn't a part of the world I'm overly familiar with but there is one particular climb that I would recommend.
This is the Cote De Goathland. The climb starts in the village of Goathland where the road rears up to an eye-watering 25% for around 0.2 miles before dropping back to a still painful 10% all the way up to the coastal road nearly a mile later. You can pick a good vantage point either in the village where the riders will be at the slowest on the steeper part of the climb, or further up where the road straightens out and opens up onto the exposed moors, offering a view of the riders for much longer.
Day 2 - Tadcaster to Harrogate
Day two could be described as the easier of the three days but still contains some pretty mean climbs. The day starts with a nice rolling section out of Tadcaster towards Knaresborough before hitting the Yorkshire Dales and the short, sharp climbs it has to offer. The route on Saturday is the same for both the men and the women so you get double the fun wherever you go. The one place everyone is going to be is Cote De Lofthouse, or as it's otherwise known "Trapping Hill".
The climb averages a brutal 11.7% over 1.1 miles but has regular sections that are over 25%. It's a narrow climb that has the potential for an amazing atmosphere. Hemmed in by the dry stone walls and with freshly laid tarmac I think it's going to be the decisive point in the race for the ladies race and could well see the mens race torn apart too depending on what the teams have planned.
The KOM currently stands with my friend Andy at a pacy 6 minutes 21 seconds so it stands to be seen if the pros will tear up this time, or will be too busy thinking about the third day of racing to take it that hard. Does anyone think the time will be beaten?
If you're heading here there is the Crown Hotel with a bar and open fire right at the foot of the climb so you can grab some hot food in-between the women's and men's races.
Day 3 - Bradford to Fox Valley
In typical Tour De Yorkshire style, day 3 is a course for only the hardest of rider. There are eight categories climbs during the day and countless more short kicks that will sap whatever energy is left from the riders legs; four of those categorised climbs come in the final 20 miles!
You could pick any of the climbs from this stage but once again, there is one climb that will attract a massive crowd. Cote De Shibden Wall, climb number four of the day. This is a true cobbled climb that features in the Top 100 Climbs book. At an average of 15% with a maximum gradient of 30% it's sure to cause some problems if it rains on Sunday, especially as the crowds are likely to be so dense that riders won't be able to take the cheeky option of the gutter.
However, if on the other hand you fancy a bit of a party atmosphere and being close to the TV to watch all the action unfold, head down to Ilkley where The Commute Cycle Cafe are holding a street party. The tour passes through earlier in the stage which means you can see all the riders, party on down, then see the rest of the race on the flat screen TV in the cafe over some cake.
So, that's the plan for the weekend. What's everyone else got in mind?