The two-day Tour de Yorkshire Women’s race will see the road debut in the colours of Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling for World and Commonwealth Champion Katie Archibald. The 24-year-old Scot has been concentrating her season on the track until now, taking the World Championship Madison and Commonwealth Gold in the Individual Pursuit, but can’t wait to pull on the black and orange jersey alongside her teammates on Thursday.
“I didn’t want to make a big deal of it [being my first race for the team] because it’s May!” Archibald joked. “I’m very much looking forward to it. I’ve been speaking to Elinor [Barker] about what to expect, and I’m really excited about it.”
Archibald rode in the very first edition of the Tour de Yorkshire, when it was an 80km circuit race around the city of York. This year’s event could hardly be more different, however, but the multitalented rider is looking forward to the challenge.
“I liked it, and I won the sprints jersey, but that was a very different time,” she said. “It’ll be a shock to the system this time around!”
Stage one, between Beverley and Doncaster looks to be a stage for the sprinters, while the climbers will dominate the second stage between Barnsley and the summit of the Cow and Calf on Ilkley Moor.
“It’s always funny looking at profiles and things because it really makes a big difference whether you’re looking at a Spanish climb compared a British one,” Archibald explained. “It’ll be narrow roads, especially through Yorkshire; narrow and steep, and a lot of up down, up down. Instead of glorious, Alp, threshold climbs it’s going to be punchy, into-the-red stuff.
“I guess it’ll be similar to the Women’s Tour, that kind of idea, savagery all round!” she laughed.
Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling’s Dutch sprinter Kirsten Wild is looking to build on the form that gave her a stunning stage victory in the Tour of Chongming Island. The triple Track World Champion won the second edition of the race - and the first on the same road race course as the men’s race - in 2016, between Otley and Doncaster, and is looking forward to the identical finish of this year’s opening stage.
“It’s a really nice race. I did it twice, and both times it was a different course,” Wild said. “This time one day is a bit flat, and the other day is a bit more hilly, so I think for our team it’s really interesting.
“It looks like a sprint, but you never know… it’s not flat like Holland’s flat, I think!”
Despite her victory on the final stage of Chongming Island, Wild was still feeling the effects of the high speed crash that brought her down - along with most of the top sprinters - at the end of stage one. The tough Dutch rider travels to Yorkshire with full fitness, however, having received some treatment after her return to the Netherlands.
“It’s okay I think,” she said. "I did some physio yesterday, and in Yorkshire it will have been a week ago so it’ll be fine.”
The second stage finish will suit Wild considerably less, finishing as it does at the top of the Cow and Calf. The 1.8km climb, has an average gradient of 8.2%, but its mid section features gradients of up to 19%. The finish will be far more to Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling’s Elisa Longo Borghini’s liking, as she returns to racing after a Classics season hampered by illness and allergies.
“For that we have a nice team,” Wild smiled. “We have some good cards to play with Elisa on a finish like this, so I think it’s quite interesting.”
“I’m feeling better than in the Ardennes,” Longo Borghini confirmed. “I had some setbacks with my allergies, and with my physical condition, but I’m feeling better. Hopefully I will feel better also in the race and surely if I’m feeling well I want to be up there fighting for a result.
Alongside Italian Champion Longo Borghini will be Japanese Champion Eri Yonamine, whose attacking style lit up the opening stage of the weekend’s GP Elsy Jacobs in Luxembourg. Yonamine’s climbing talent will be invaluable to Longo Borghini on the final climb, and the short, steep ‘Côte de Old Pool Bank’ that comes just before.
“It’s my very first time and I’m quite excited because it looks like a very good race,” Longo Borghini added. “I think it’s going to be really, really tough and also really fun with many people around us, cheering for us. It’s also very important for Wiggle so I hope that we will be there and we will be present in the main break.”
The Wiggle High5 team will be completed by former Track World Champion Rachele Barbieri and former Time Trial World Champion Lisa Brennauer.
Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling team for the Tour de Yorkshire
Katie Archibald (Great Britain), Rachele Barbieri (Italy), Lisa Brennauer (Germany), Elisa Longo Borghini(Italy), Kirsten Wild (Netherlands), Eri Yonamine (Japan)
photos Janos Schmidt