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The Maserati Tour de Yorkshire Ride: A tough but rewarding way to ride in the tyre tracks of the pros

The Maserati Tour de Yorkshire Ride, the sportive before the last stage at the Tour de Yorkshire is made by the scenery it travels through

Continuing the theme of emulating its older cousin - think de rather than of - the Maserati Tour de Yorkshire Ride sportive copies the Tour de France's Etape du Tour by changing its route each year. This gives amateur riders the chance to experience the already-gathering crowds as they ride many of the same roads that the pros will tackle later on the same day, including the closing kilometres and finish line.

Five thousand riders took part in the event, a sell-out number of entrants across the three distances - 49km, 84km and 129km, and the 2018 event was the sportive's fourth edition.

For the first time this year, the sportive partnered with Strava to designate a Queen and King of the Mountains on the day. Black Hill Lane was the chosen segment, which was ridden later by the pros, and the amateur winners were awarded Tour de France polka dot jerseys.

Entries are already open for the 2019 sportive, and despite the route still being under wraps the organisers would need to go out of their way to choose a bad parcours in Yorkshire.

Early start, warm day

The 2018 event took place on what ended up being the hottest Early May Bank Holiday on record, so despite the lack of sleep and early start I was glad to get away with the first riders at 06:30 from Woodhouse Moor, north of Leeds city centre, to try and cover as much distance as possible before it got too warm.

Attending as a guest of headline sponsor Maserati also afforded me the lowest sportive bib number I can remember having: 2 (I didn't spot number 1), but despite going off in the opening wave I was far from the second finisher.

The plan had been for the assembled group to set off together and naturally form into speed groups, each with a ride captain or two to provide assistance - taking the wind or mechanical - where needed.

This soon wasn't the case for me when some of the others in the opening wave went off on a high speed club run, riding at a pace that a number of us had little hope of maintaining for nearly 130km.

The group was in bits across the opening few kilometres and, seeing us all chase each other up the road, the ride captains settled into the slower group behind to assist where needed.

Stranded alone I considered sitting up but pushed on hard - as my early heart rate stats will attest - and finally got back in contact with a group that had been dangling ahead of me for at least 10km.

This group was led by Bryan Steel, dressed in eponymous Bryan Steel Cycling Club kit, a former Olympian who represented Great Britain at four Olympic Games - a fact I discovered later.

Steel, clearly a cut above me and the three others in this group set the tempo on the front and kept us all ticking along at a pace I would not have managed had I sat up and resigned to riding solo.

Sitting in the wheels

I'm not above admitting that I didn't put my nose in the wind for quite some time after making contact with Bryan's train. Realising I may have gone a bit deep a bit soon I tried to conserve as much energy as possible before we hit the main climbs of the day.

The route took us north away from Leeds, near to Harrogate and into the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Some of the roads were those used in the 2014 Tour de France Grand Depart, the amazing few days that kickstarted this whole thing.

Looking along the profile of the ride, there were very fewer kilometres of flat road until near the end, and it was on one of the earliest testing climbs - gradients well up in double figures - that our little group finally split up.

I said my thanks to Steel for his pacemaking and made my way on while he waiting for his mate Lee to catch back on over the crest of the ramp.

Keep rolling

Having chosen wheels over water by going straight past the first fees station in order to keep with that group, I was glad to learn from my toptube sticker that the second assistance area was coming up, but so was the toughest climb of the day.

The ascent of Greenhow Hill is a brute that hits you hard at the bottom with its steepest gradients, but rises in three ramps and doesn't full peak until 4km after it started. That quickly eaten sausage roll was starting to look like a much less wise move about halfway up.

Sweating all the way up and wondering why I hadn't stripped my arm and knee warmers off at the feed station, the wind cutting across the moorland at the top soon had me pulling the arm warmers back up to my shoulders where they stayed despite the rising temperature and strong Spring sunshine.

Greenhow was by far the toughest climb but it wasn't the last, and even the pro race sprint point was at the top of a 10%+ ramp on a sheltered country lane.

Rolling on over the hills, the knee warmers and open gilet finally found themselves in my jersey pockets as I topped up my bidons for the final time.

Now alone with 20km to go, I was determined to get my official elapsed time under five hours; not rapid but respectable.

To do so I needed to stay above 31kmh for the remainder, which meant pushing harder on the flat sections to make up for slower speeds on the climbs, which continued most of the way into Leeds.

There was one final deviation from the pro race route, where the signage for the sportive sent riders straight on while the pros would later swing a hard right down a steep residential street.

With my target time looming large I pushed on, now passing some early finishers from the short and medium routes, as well as riders I recognised from the long route who had given too much on the climbs and were now crawling their way to the conclusion of the sportive.

The mass participation route rejoined the pro parcours for the run-in, including the closed-road and fenced final kilometre.

Hot and worn-out, I tried to open up a bit of a sprint - against the clock as there weren't any other riders nearby - with around 700 metres to go but sat down again until 250 when the crowds started banging on the barriers as I came into sight.

I crossed the line 4:54:22 after setting off from Woodhouse Moor, pleased enough with my time and very happy to have spent another morning riding in such a fantastic part of the world.

Maserati Tour de Yorkshire Ride sportive 2019

Date: TBC 2019
Start: TBC
Distances: TBC
Entries: letour.yorkshire.com/maserati-tour-de-yorkshire-ride   

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