YORKSHIRE RIDER Liam Holohan is “counting down the days” until top-class cycling returns to the county.
The second Tour de Yorkshire, run by the Tour de France’s Amaury Sports Organisation, will begin in 56 days’ time, on Friday, April 29.
Among the field will be Holohan, 28, originally from Leeds and a firm fan of the race after finishing a creditable 41st in its inaugural staging last year.
The professional cycling season is just getting into gear and Holohan and fellow Team Wiggins riders will be spending the next few weeks racing in northern France, Belgium and Holland as they build up to three days in the Broad Acres.
For a cyclist raised in Leeds, having a world-class event in the county is something Holohan is still struggling to grasp.
“As a young lad, I remember standing on the side of the road cheering the Tour of Britain on,” he said. “It’s surreal to think young lads will be doing that for me. I get goosebumps just thinking about it. I can’t wait. For me, it is my favourite race of the year, it is awesome.
“Last year, it was great riding up the road to the Cow and Calf as I have been riding up there since I was very young.
“With the roads closed and riding up there with Bradley Wiggins and people lie that, it was like a dream come true. I am counting down the days.”
Yorkshire’s own race was launched off the back of the huge success of 2014’s Grand Depart, when the Tour de France took the country by storm.
Holohan was competing abroad at the time, but believes the event transformed how his sport is viewed across the region. “When some of the guys who have ridden the Tour de France showed up for the Tour de Yorkshire last year they were saying ‘this is unreal’,” he recalled.
“They could not believe the amount of support they got. They ride in races supposedly of a higher calibre, that don’t get half as much support.
“It is amazing how much people have taken it to heart. They get out and support the race and that makes it special for the riders, especially those of us who are local.
“To see so much support, it is something I could never have dreamed of.”
Holohan is likely to be riding in support of Team Wiggins’s sprinters next month, due to the nature of the course.
Stage one takes the peloton from Beverley to Settle. Stage two is Otley to Doncaster and the final day’s racing begins in Middlesbrough, with the winner crowned down the coast at Scarborough.
Holohan said: “I don’t think it is as hard as last year, the first two stages anyway.
“For me, being a climber, that’s a bit of a disappointment, but the last day is going to be tough.
“Whether that will create a more aggressive race than last year, because people are not as worried about the course, or whether it will be more of a sprinters’ race remains to be seen.
“A lot will depend on the weather and the wind. If there’s a bit of wind about, the race will be blown to pieces. But, as a climber, I would have liked to see a few more hills.”
Holohan rode last year’s Tour de Yorkshire for Madison Genesis and finished one place behind Sir Bradley Wiggins, four-time Olympic champion and the first Briton to win the Tour de France.
After three years at Madison, Holohan switched camps three months ago to join the former Sports Personality of the Year’s own squad – Team Wiggins –and that has proved an ideal move. “It is brilliant, I am absolutely loving it. It was exactly what you would imagine. It is a mega-professional set-up, a bit like a mini-Team Sky.”
Holohan has already got one race under his belt for his new outfit, placing 82nd overall in the Tour of Dubai.
He was racing in support of his team’s sprinters and he said it was good to get some miles into his legs. “That was a nice start to the season, warm sunshine and five-star hotels.
“It is quite a big race. Cav (Mark Cavendish) has won it before and Marcel Kittel won it this year. The top guys from the Tour de France were there, so it was good.”