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Riders react to the 'tough challenge' of the 2019 Women's Tour de Yorkshire

Maria David
17 Dec 2018

Competitors agree that this will be a tough challenge, but they look forward to the iconic finish in Scarborough

Following the presentation of the route for the 2019 Women’s Tour de Yorkshire, which will be run on Friday 3rd and Saturday 4th May on exactly the same route as the men’s race, the women who hope to compete on those roads gave their thoughts on the route and Monument races.

As well as talking to the riders who have been close to the action in recent years, Cyclist also heard from a couple of their forerunners, Denise Burton-Cole and Mandy Bishop (nee Jones), who compare today’s competition with how racing was in their day.

Denise Burton-Cole

National Road Race Champion 1976; Bronze medallist, World Track Cycling Championships 1975; daughter of Beryl Burton

'This course is super. I think the two days are superb because you’ve got something for everybody. It’s a slightly flatter first day but then in that first day you’re taking in the circuit for the World Championships. It’ll be a day for the sprinters.

'But on the second day you’ve got five climbs which will be tough, and the roads in between them aren’t flat either. I’ve raced up the North York Moors in the past, and I’ve ridden up them. When riding up it at least you can get off your bike and walk!

'Stage 2 is going to be exciting for the spectators and brilliant for the riders – although they might not think it when they’re going up it!

'I wish this had happened when I was racing because this type of course is right up my street. Climbing is what I was best at.
When we raced we only did short distances – 35 or 40 miles (56-64km).

'People campaigned for longer distances, more technical and difficult events with hillier and longer mileages, but British Cycling didn’t want that, and in fact it’s not been very long since they started upping the mileages.

'Back when I raced people didn’t campaign for prize money as that didn’t exist since all women were classed as amateur racers, where men had separate amateur and professional categories. As amateurs we would win things like camping stoves and vanity cases. I still have the vanity case I won 40 years ago.

'Improvements in women’s racing have been a long time coming, but since they started improving the racing for women there has been a lot of momentum.

'Women might think they’ve got a long way to go, which they probably do have. For sure I think it would be great to have more women’s Monument races like a Paris-Roubaix, or a Tour de France. Bring it on.

'But when you think how far women’s racing has come they’ve got to appreciate and take on board what they’ve got now, and enjoy the fantastic racing there is.'

Annie Simpson, Team OnForm (formerly with Trek-Drops)

'Every year the organisers step it up in terms of the type of course we race. The first stage is pretty local to where I grew up in the Bingley area, so that’ll be really good. Everyone thinks it’s gonna be an easy stage. But it’s not at all. There’s still 1,000 metres of climbing so it’s not really that flat in my book.

'As for the second stage, a couple of years back I was in the team car with LottoNL-Jumbo so I actually managed to drive a lot of the climbs on that stage, and oh my god they're savage! I think it’ll be really tough. It’ll be tougher than this year’s edition, but it’ll be spectacular.

'The finish in Scarborough too will be good. I’ve always seen the crowds there and it does look good. As long as we get that beautiful sunny day like they always seem to get there. If they could order that beautiful sunny weather that they always seem to get there it’ll be a great race.

'Racing on the weekend is going to be special. To have that weekend crowd, and the TV viewings for the weekend will be better than for a Thursday and Friday like we had last year, and I think for women’s cycling we all know we need to keep getting in front of people and that’s always going to help to promote the sport. That’s really important and I’m excited to see how much bigger the crowds are.

'I think that to bring in the big Monuments for women is good. Races like Amstel Gold and the Tour of Flanders, when they have been tagged on to men’s races they are just amazing events. Flanders is something that I will never forget.

'I think it would be good to still have some more standalone women’s races that can seen as Classics in their own right though, without always tagging them on to men’s races.

'To be able to keep adding to that women’s calendar is important as long as other women’s races don’t suffer. I think the current Tour de France races are great but sometimes I think it’s slightly Mickey Mouse that they’re just tagging on a women’s race for the sake of it.'

Hannah Barnes, Canyon-Sram

'The roads in Yorkshire tend to be quite grippy so even though the terrain doesn’t look that difficult the roads are still quite hard. It’s almost like riding through treacle and it saps a lot of energy before you even get to the hills.

'I think both myself and Alice [her sister and teammate] will go there feeling quite confident that we’ll give a good effort. We’ve got the home soil advantage and we can really look forward to racing there and enjoying the atmosphere.

'It’s nice that they’ve included the Harrogate circuit, which is quite interesting. We’ve been up to Harrogate, but the one-way road makes it hard to try it out, so it will be good to be able to try out the circuit at full speed and get an idea of what it will be like, ahead of the World Championships.

'For the second stage I think it’s good for us to have the chance to do that course. Sometimes if a stage is too flat it can be quite negative. But I think this will be good. It’ll be really aggressive racing, and so we will have a really good race.

'This year the Cow and Calf climb was hard but it in that stage the riders used their teammates to save energy, and were able to do something when all the fireworks went off on that final climb. But next year there will be a lot of climbs, so that will make it a different type of race.

'I think it’s really great for the sport that we are able to cover the same distances as the men, and I think it’ll be interesting to see how we race.

'Generally our races are quite different from the men’s because their peloton can move along quite slowly while a long breakaway forms.

'That’s not so much the case in women’s racing. So it’ll be interesting to see the differences between the pelotons and the race outcomes.'

Alice Barnes, Canyon-Sram

'It’s nice that we’ve got a weekend stage, so the crowds will come out bigger than during the week. I know a bit about the Scarborough stage as I’ve been to watch it when the guys were racing it a couple of times.

'It’s pretty straightforward going along the seafront, but having done the really tough climbs beforehand there will probably be quite a select group coming into the finish.

'I don’t really know Stage 1 but I think it will be a little hillier than Stage 1 this year where we only really had one climb.

'I think having races on the same day as the men like with the Tour de Yorkshire, and Monuments maybe like Paris-Roubaix, are really good.

'The atmosphere on Kwaremont during the Tour of Flanders is quite spectacular especially as the spectators are already there since they’ve come up for the men’s race as well. So I think it’s nice that in our calendar we’ve got a mixture of double-headers with the men as well as our own standalone races.'

Lucy Garner, Hitec Products-Birk Sport (formerly Wiggle-High5)

'I raced the Tour de Yorkshire a couple of years ago when the stage went to Doncaster and it was nice to be on the podium. The course is quite different for next year, with quite a lot of climbing and probably a windy section on the coast, but it’s always nice to be on the start line in your home country.

'I hope I do get to race the Tour de Yorkshire. My team really wants to race there, especially with Grace [her sister and teammate] and I being on the team, but we have to see whether we get picked to do it because we’re outside the rankings for automatic spots in the race.

'I think there’s going be a lot of riders wanting to do it so that they can check out the circuit for the World Championships in Harrogate before racing later on that year. So I think the level will be pretty high.

'Normally for me, the flatter the course the better so I think the first stage would be more suited to my style of racing. However, a lot of the races in the women’s scene are getting hillier and it’s something that I’m having to work on.

'I can get over the more punchy climbs because I’ve got that quick burst of power, so that’s how I would hope to get by in the Tour de Yorkshire.

'Hopefully our team can get a place and be on the start line, as it would be really special to be able to race on this course.'

Victoria Hood, team manager, Jadan-Weldtite-Vive le Velo

'I’m so excited that the first sprint of the race will go right past my house in Elloughton. That area is the start of all my training rides to get into the East Yorkshire Wolds, so I know how beautiful the area is, and I’m pretty gutted that the women aren’t doing Stage 1 [of the men's route].

'But at the same time I’m really happy that we are doing the same distance and the same route as the men on the stages that we do. The route is going to be really testing. The roads in Yorkshire are always grippy, and then obviously you’ve always got the wind to contend with, especially now that they’re going to do the coast road as well.

'I’m really excited that the women are doing the Scarborough finish. I’ve spent a lot of time there, and all around that area because my nan and granddad lived in Scarborough (and are sadly buried there). So that’ll be quite special, seeing the race coming into the bay to the finish.

'The girls on the team are absolutely up for it, and it will be a wonderful opportunity to race on part of the World Championships course.

'You always have some of the world’s best riders in the Tour de Yorkshire, so the quality of the riding is high anyway but with the added extra of being able to ride the World Championships circuit at Harrogate a few teams that might not normally have done the Tour de Yorkshire will come and do it next year.

'Last year one of our riders, Pfeiffer Georgi got the red jersey in the Queen of the Mountains competition on the first day. That had been the plan. It was an ambitious plan, but the stage was in the East Yorkshire Wolds - roads that we ride. Thank God the plan worked and we were just so excited.

'Who know’s if we’re going to try that next year. We are a young team from Yorkshire, with Yorkshire sponsors, so it’s a big event for us.

'Once we’re at the point where we are secure with a place in the Tour de Yorkshire then we’ll start thinking about what we’ll be doing. A few of our girls know the roads well, and we will have to put together a team of good climbers.'

Mandy Bishop (née Jones), World Road Race Champion 1982

'I think the Tour de Yorkshire route is fantastic. I must admit, when I was looking at the distances I remember thinking 'Oh my God'. But when I remember when I was racing it was only gradually after the mid-80s that the distances started going up, and women have proved that they are capable of doing those distances.

'In the early 80s the distances we raced were quite short. We were riding 35 or 40 mile races. Then at the 1981 National Championships which my dad (Barry Jones) organised with our cycling club it was on a really hilly circuit at Bury in Lancashire

'It was similar terrain to the Yorkshire Dales and was 50 miles. That was the first time the National Championships were that distance. Even I was taken aback and I was a bit worried and wondered if I would be able to do it. But in the race I managed to get away on my own, and stay away.

'After that I realised that women can ride longer distances.

'The evolution in women’s racing has been great. Now women are getting prize money – sometimes equal to the men – where we didn’t have any prize money at all.

'Women have coaches, they ride as a team, and it’s now fairly normal to race for a team abroad. It has taken a long time coming, but in the last few years things have evolved massively.

'I rode the Tour de France in the early 80s when they ran a Ladies’ Tour alongside the men’s race. But there were restrictions as we didn’t ride every day, and we did much shorter events.

'Logistically, it was a nightmare for the organisers, but it was doable. So I think a parallel women’s Tour de France can be done.'

Photos:,, Maria David