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Exclusive preview: Yorkshire 2019 UCI Road World Championships official sportive

Take on the same roads as the pros this Sunday, 22nd September, at the Yorkshire 2019 World Championships sportive. Photos: Simon Renilson

Jack Elton-Walters
16 Sep 2019

This September, the UCI Road World Championships will visit the UK for the first time since 1982 as Yorkshire plays host to the world's best riders. Along with the pro races, Human Race Events and the UCI have teamed up to run a one-off sportive, which will give everyday riders the chance to take on some of the same roads as the pros.

Joining Cyclist for an exclusive look at the route were Olympic track champion Dani Rowe – an ambassador for the event – along with Simon Warren - whose 100 Climbs books will be familiar to many readers, and riders from the Yorkshire Lass Cycling Club.

Back in the winter, on a cold and blustery day just before February's temperatures crept up to record-breaking levels, the long route was tackled from its planned starting point in Harrogate.

The North Yorkshire town will be the centre of proceedings when the UCI World Championships start this weekend, as it plays host of the finishing circuit for each Worlds race, repeating the honour it enjoyed thanks to the visit of the 2014 Tour de France.

Yorkshire 2019 UCI Road World Championships sportive: Key information

Date: Sunday 22nd September 2019  
Entries: Long route sold out, more tickets released for medium and short    
Number of participants: Capped at 5,000  
Find out more and enter:  
Routes and distances: Click here to jump to maps and profiles

The Harrogate finishing circuit itself is typical Yorkshire: continuously up and down, with long drags and shorter, much sharper ramps that will sap the legs of any rider. The Elite women's road race will tackle the circuit three times while the men face seven loops.

In the men's race, expect to see the ascents prove too short for out-and-out climbers while being too steep for the likes of Marcel Kittel and Mark Cavendish. After a full year without 'his' rainbow jersey, the Harrogate circuit looks like prime territory for Peter Sagan to lay the foundations for a fourth win in five years.

Tackled at the start of the preview ride – thankfully only once – the climb set the tone for a tough day on lag-sapping, grippy roads. The circuit also contains some technical descents with sharps bends, so keep an eye on the pro races when the time comes for anyone switching off for just a second and finding themselves hurtling into the hay bails.

Greenhow, more like Green Hell

For anyone who's ridden the most recent edition of the Tour de Yorkshire Ride sportive, some of the highlights of the route will be familiar, in particular Greenhow Hill. Although to call it a highlight will be very much a matter of opinion when the time comes.

Straight out of Pately Bridge at around 37km on the long route, the first and steepest part of the climb rears up in front of you at a gradient well into double figures.

But even once the gradient calms down it hardly flattens out and the climb goes on at varying steepness for another 4km. The circa 10% average over the whole climb actually belies its difficulty, especially with so much of the route left to cover.

Even once the climb is done there's little chance to rest as you fight the wind over the exposed moor.

Easier second climb, but in no way easy

Rolling roads then account for the distance to the next main climb of the long route, Kidstones Pass. Coming at 70km, around half the distance of the long route is now covered and every preceding kilometre is felt in the legs as the road heads upwards.

If you can, make the most of the scenery here (and for the whole ride, of course) as the road winds between drystone walls and proper Yorkshire moorland. It's views like this that make us urban-dwelling riders realise what we're missing out on with our park laps and busy A roads.

If you can't make the most of it then that might be because you're wondering where the road goes and how long until the top.

Dropped early by Dani and Simon, I made my way up the climb solo. From a distance, it had appeared that the road hit some dangerously steep gradients to get over the ridge, but halfway up a glance to my right showed two bicycle helmets just visible over the top of a wall, moving away up a distinctly manageable incline.

The main road, it turned out, actually swung to the right at a lower gradient before a plateau. The intimidating lane ahead turned out to be a gated, gravel farm track.

After around 95km, our numbers were swelled by three members of the Yorkshire Lass Cycling Club. Formed after the founder felt intimidated when riding with an existing club in the area, the club has proved so popular with women in the county that they've had to close membership and start a waiting list.

The club is also popular with local pros and talk between the members and Dani Rowe soon turned to mutual friends from her days on the track and in the peloton.

The lasses may have joined for only the final 50km, but they still didn't have an easy ride – this is Yorkshire, after all. Out of Masham (you don't pronounce the 'h' apparently) came Hackfall Hill.

It doesn't look like much on the profile (see below) when compared to Greenhow and Kidstones but its place in the route and its variable gradients with false flats make it a challenge.

At least three times I thought I was at the top and wasn't, which didn't help.

Traffic management on the day will be key

From here it's just a matter of riding back to Harrogate. Once out of the lanes and onto the main roads there's the potential for the ride to end on a less than pleasant note.

Finishing the preview on a Wednesday when schools are closing and people are driving walkable distances to collect their children is a much different prospect to a Sunday during the World Championships when Yorkshire will be gripped by cycling fever.

However, the organisers will need to ensure efficient traffic management to make certain that riders enjoy the final 5-10km as much as the preceding distance. With as much experience as the Human Race Events team has, I'm confident this will be the sorted.

A fully closed road starting and finishing circuit would be ideal, but that will require support from (and probably a sizeable payment to) the local authorities, which might not be practical for a one-off prestige event such as this. A low traffic alternative is likely to work well enough.

However the last part of the route looks come the day of the event, riders will be certain to reach the end with aching legs but smiles on their faces after a fantastic ride out on a route that showcases some of Britain's best cycling roads.

Following the original publication of this preview, event organiser Human Race Events confirmed at the time of the ballot launch that the route will take in the closed road circuit - a feature of the professional course - and then head off into the Yorkshire Dales for up to 145km.

Yorkshire 2019 World Championships sportive: Routes and profiles

Long - 145.2km/1909m

As previewed


Medium - 97.7km/1300m


Short - 72.1km/916m