It was a typically capricious late morning overlooking Ilkley yesterday; sunshine one minute, rain driving in at you sideways the next.
For those professionals and amateurs riding up past the Cow and Calf to the summit, the mixed weather merely added to the challenge, one those who do this for a living hope to replicate to some degree of success on Friday week.
They were members of JLT Condor, one of seven British teams that will contest next week’s Tour de Yorkshire, the second stage of which concludes with a summit finish by the famous Cow and Calf rocks which peer down from the tops onto picturesque Ilkley.
Yesterday it was quiet, exposed and blustery. Eight days from now it will be packed, noisy and excitable as thousands of fans stand on the natural ampitheatres, craning their necks for a view of the conclusion of the women’s race at 12.20pm and the men’s stage some five and a half hours later.
“As soon as they announced the race would be going up by the Cow and Calf you just knew there’d be so many people up there,” said Tom Moses, following his reconnoitre ride yesterday with JLT Condor.
“It’s such a good climb, you’ll have all the people on the roadside cheering the guys up and if it’s a nice day it will be spectacular. It will be a fantastic race to watch, as it always is. It’s great how every one takes the Tour de Yorkshire on board.
“The crowds are absolutely massive. You don’t get that in other races.”
Moses is used to these roads having grown up in nearby Keighley. One man unfamiliar with them having been raised over the border is JLT’s Ian Bibby, fresh from his Commonwealth Games experience out in Australia.
“It’s steeper than I thought it would be,” said the Preston-born rider of the Cow and Calf, a stretch of terrain that could prove pivotal in his bid for a sustained run at the general classification in the White Rose county next week.
“It will be a tough finish at the end of 180km of cycling. It’s not crazy long, but if you’ve had a hard day, it’ll take the legs out of you.”
It’s such a good climb, you’ll have all the people on the roadside cheering the guys up and if it’s a nice day it will be spectacular.Tom Moses
Moses and Bibby were in good company yesterday as their JLT team-mate Ed Clancy came along for the ride.
Yorkshire’s superstar of the track is not riding his home road race this year with his team’s bid for glory in the town centre Tour Series this summer his main priority. But he’s never one to miss an opportunity to turn his wheels on familiar roads.
“I should have been elsewhere today but I got the call last night to have a ride and I jumped at the chance. I don’t need much of a reason,” smiled Clancy, the three-time Olympic team pursuit champion.
Leeds’s Tom Pidcock was also out in Ilkley yesterday, just hours after his participation in next week’s race for the Great Britain cycling team was announced.
Joining the 18-year-old former junior cyclo-cross world champion in national colours on the startline in Beverley next Thursday is Rotherham’s Ben Swift after a three-year absence from the race.
Sir Gary Verity, of race organisers Welcome to Yorkshire, said: “One of the key principles of the Tour de Yorkshire is that it allows young British talent to compete alongside the best riders in the world. That is no better personified by having Tom and Ben in our race. It is tremendous that young, British riders get to ride alongside the likes of him, Greg Van Avermaet and Mark Cavendish at the Tour de Yorkshire.”