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Who will succeed at this weekend's Tour de Yorkshire?

Joe Robinson
1 May 2018

Cyclist looks at the men and women likely to rise to the top in God's own country

The men's and women's Tour de Yorkshire races kickstart this Thursday with both events departing the small market town of Beverley on their way to Doncaster for the stage finish. 

For the men, this will be the first of four testing stages with two days designed for the fast men and two days of unrelenting climbing to decide the General Classification. 

Of particular note for the men's race will be Stage 2 to Ikley and Stage 4 to Leeds. On the second day of racing, the TdY will see its first ever summit finish on the 1.8km, 8.2% Cote de Cow and Calf.

Day four will then take the role of the 'Queen Stage' with no fewer than six categorised climbs within the 189.5km. Of those will be the Cote de Park Rash, a 2.2km climb at 10.5% with two sections of 20%. 

This will also be the first year in which the women tackle more than one day of racing with the format having been expanded to two stages for 2018.

Like the men, the female peloton will also have the difficult task of a summit finish on the Cote de Cow and Calf, which should decide the overall winner of the race.

The expanding women's race will also be joined by parity in pay as both the men and women will receive the same prize money. 

The testing parcour will suit a select number of riders and the overall winner of both races will no doubt be a savvy racer capable of climbing but also smart in conserving their energy until the right moment. 

Below, Cyclist looks at which riders to expect to go well at this weekend's men's and women's Tour de Yorkshire.

Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing)

The 2017 Paris-Roubaix champion is an overwhelming favourite to take the overall title this Sunday in Leeds. He can climb, he can sprint, he can jostle for position, he can do it all.

The constant climbing tests should suit Van Avermaet's capabilities with the lengths and gradients not too dissimilar to the Ardennes and Flanders, parts of the world the Belgian flourishes in. 

Although he had a quiet Spring with no victories, he was at the pointy end of every Classic, and he should be carrying form to Yorkshire. 

If he can survive on the Cote de Cow and Calf then expect him to be one of the race's major animators come Stage 4 as he looks to improve on his seventh overall at the 2015 Tour de Yorkshire.

Expect the 32-year-old to launch attacks on the final two climbs of the race - Cote de Greenhow Hill and Cote de Otley Chevin - if not for himself then perhaps for one of his teammates.

Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data)

While Mark Cavendish will not be riding for the overall victory, most eyes on the race will be focused upon how the Manxman returns from his extended injury layoff.

Three consecutive crashes at the Abu Dhabi Tour, Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo made for a season opener to forget.

Yet the 30 times stage winner of the Tour de France will be hoping to bounce back in Yorkshire as he takes aim at Stages 1 and 3, flatter routes designed for the quick men. 

Major competition will lie within the form of Bryan Coquard (Vital Concept), Kristoffer Halvorsen (Team Sky) and Adam Blythe (Aqua Blue Sport) yet Cavendish should have their measure.

While his form is unknown, his class is guaranteed. Give Cavendish the faintest sniff of stage victory and more often than not he snatches it from a rival's grasp.

Beyond himself, Cavendish will riding in support of his Dimension Data teammate Serge Pauwels, who will be racing as defending champion.

Tom Pidcock (Team GB)

The young cyclocross sensation was left somewhat scorned when Team Wiggins were omitted as a wildcard entry in favour of Vitus Pro Cycling and Holdwsorth Pro Cycling. Pidcock, among many, believed the young development team had earned the right to a call up. 

Luckily, the Yorkshireman has been given a second chance with inclusion in the Great Britain team which will also include trade teammate Gabriel Cullaigh and Milan-San Remo podium finisher Ben Swift.

I could say it's highly unlikely that the 18-year-old will be unable to contest overall victory come Sunday in Leeds but it will be of very little surprise if pulls off an upset.

His punchy nature suits the sharp climbs en route so it's just a matter of whether he can match the class of riders like Van Avermaet.

It will be interesting to see how the young 'prodigy' fares racing against the likes of BMC Racing and Team Sky and whether he can dictate his own race or is left feeding off of scraps from the bigger and badder teams around him. 

Jonathan Hivert (Direct Energie)

French riders have provided a podium finisher at every edition of the Tour de Yorkshire. In 2016 they even managed to take overall victory with Thomas Voeckler and third with Anthony Turgis. 

Last year was the turn of wily veteran Jonathan Hivert who took third behind Dimension Data duo Serge Pauwels and Omar Fraile.

So far this season, Hivert has taken five victories including the one-day Tour du Finistere ahead of Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) and a stage of Paris-Nice. This run of form has been quite impressive.

Expect Hivert to be there or thereabouts throughout the four days of racing and quietly work his way up the General Classification as the race ticks along.

Hivert will also be joined by Sylvain Chavanel who will be bringing an end to his 19-year career later this season. At 38-years-old, Chavanel is past his best but this doesn't stop him attacking, it's in his nature.

Chantal Blaak (Boels-Dolmans)

Fresh off of the back of victory at the Amstel Gold Race, road race World Champion Chantal Blaak will enter the women's Tour de Yorkshire as one of the favourites for victory.

The absence of Anna Van Der Breggen and Lizzie Deignan is seemingly of no concern for the Dutch team whose strength in depth and race dominance are often frightening.

If not Blaak, the team will be able to rely on veteran American racer Megan Guarnier.

Both riders are strong on steep gradients and have proved with their past palmares that they are more than capable of winning the world's biggest races.

The summit finish on Stage 2 to Ilkley should give Blaak and Guarnier the perfect launch pad for a tilt at stage and overall victory.

Hannah Barnes (Canyon-SRAM)

Hannah Barnes has slowly been progressing. The 24-year-old had a successful 2017 season and has carried on much the same in 2018.

The older of the Barnes sisters is now placing her focus on the women's Tour de Yorkshire and represents the home crowd's best chance for success. 

Two stages and the overall at the Ciclista Valenciana in February got her season off to a flyer and sixth at Gent-Wevelgem put her right in the mix.

She will be extra motivated to perform on home soil and will have a strong team around her to support her bid for glory.

The big question will be can Barnes stay in the mix on Stage 2 when the peloton finishes atop the Cow and Calf.