The route takes in cycling hotspots Otley and Ilkley, then heads via Addingham and Skipton into the Yorkshire Dales. In the Dales, the parcours is the same as that of Stage 1 of the Tour de France 2014. It goes to Kilnsey, Kettlewell, the Côte de Cray (Kidstones), Aysgarth, Hawes, Côte de Buttertubs, Reeth, and the Côte de Grinton Moor.
The riders will have done 182km already when they arrive in Harrogate. Seven laps of the Harrogate circuit - no big hills, but plenty of attritional ups and downs - takes them to the full race distance of 280km.
As during the Tour de France, the finish line will be on West Park, roughly in front of Cathcart House and the United Reform church.
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See also a Google map of the race route.
|Date||Sunday 28th September 2019|
|Event classification||Road race|
|Distance||280km (route plus 7 circuits)|
|Climbs||Cray (Kidstones pass)
The official stage profile for the elite men's road race:
|Leeds||Start of neutralised section||0840|
|Grinton Moor summit||125.6km||1151|
|Harrogate start lap 1||181.8km||1307|
|Finish line (West Park)||280km||1521|
Seven ideas for places to watch the elite men's road race, including the start, the climbs in the Yorkshire Dales, and the finishing circuit in Harrogate.
The elite men's road race starts in Leeds, at Millenium Square, which has Leeds Civic Hall on one side and Leeds City Museum on another. This is the start of the neutralised section, rather than the racing, so it's a procession at a reduced pace as the competitors leave Leeds. That should mean you get a better look at the peloton than if they were at racing speed.
The riders go down Cookridge Street to the Headrow, where they turn right. The Headrow becomes Westgate.
They go over the A58(M) urban motorway, join Park Lane, and turn right on Hanover Way by the Leeds City College.
The College has some signs that demonstrate much of what we've got wrong on our roads in recent decades. We put all the responsibility on potential victims not to get run over, and none of it on the operators of dangerous machinery. Wouldn't it be better to rip out these signs, and put in some big speed bumps and signs to drivers along the lines of 'don't run anyone over'?
The race route is past Woodhouse Square and up Clarendon Road. If the students have been out the night before, there might be an opportunity for an impromptu feed zone outside the National Centre for Atmospheric Science.
At the top of Clarendon Road, the riders turn left on the A660 Woodhouse Lane. A milepost shows 9 and a half miles to Otley.
After the Hyde Park junction, the A660 is called Headingley Lane. The bike lane is reasonably wide, but only painted. Paint isn't good enough: it doesn't give people physical protection from vehicles, and it won't bring about an increase in the number of people riding bikes.
Headingley Lane leads, unsurprisingly, to Headingley.
After Headingley, the A660 is called Otley Road. It passes Leeds Beckett University, then crosses the Ring Road near the Brownlee Centre. The elite men's race forks left off the A660 just after the Ring Road junction, onto Otley Old Road to Cookridge.
The flag goes down and the racing starts at the northern edge of Cookridge.
From the outskirts of Cookridge, the climbing starts straight away. It's only a modest amount - from 147m up to 233m on top of the Chevin. On the way up, the riders pass within sight of Leeds Bradford airport.
Otley Old Road becomes East Chevin Road as it drops steeply down to Otley.
The race takes Gay Lane, Bondgate, and Kirkgate into the centre of Otley (the Black Horse junction).
The route is left at the Black Horse, to head out of Otley on the A659, then join the A660 Ilkley Road at the next roundabout. The A660 follows the river Wharfe to Burley-in-Wharfedale. The riders continue towards Ilkley on the A65.
The race leaves Ilkley on the A65, but diverts off it to go through the centre of Addingham.
After Bracken Ghyll golf club, the riders rejoin the A65, passing Chelker reservoir and heading for Skipton.
A little further on, a left fork on the A6069 leads to Skipton High Street. At the top of the High Street, the route is left (in front of the Skipton church) on the B6265. The B6265 passes the Castle Inn, and crosses Mill Bridge.
Leaving Skipton, the riders are heading for the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
Bradt have published a new 2019 edition of their Slow Travel guide to the Yorkshire Dales.
It's well-researched, logically-ordered, and contains pleasing nature notes. Even those who know the Dales well already are likely to discover new tips and places.
They pass through the hamlet of Rylstone, then continue to Cracoe (only slightly larger than Rylstone; known for the Cracoe Reef Knolls).
The next village is Threshfield, which is separated from its near-neighbour, Grassington, by the river Wharfe.
Beyond Threshfield, the race route follows the Wharfe upstream. There are views across the river to Grass Wood. A mile or two later, the riders pass under Kilnsey Crag (see main photo at the top of the page). Then after crossing the river Skirfare near its confluence with the Wharfe, they arrive at Kettlewell.
Still following the Wharfe upstream, the riders pass Starbotton, and reach Buckden.
After Buckden, the riders must eschew the left fork to Langstrothdale, lovely though it is, and take the right fork next to Cray Gill. This is the start of the Cray climb.
There's plenty of interest on the way up, including the White Lion in the hamlet of Cray, and a number of picturesque waterfalls. After crossing the bridge over the stream, there's one nearly-hairpin bend. Then it's on up past Cow Pasture to Kidstones Pass.
The climb is about 3km, and the height gain from bottom to top is 165m. That means an average gradient of about 5.5%. On the 2014 Tour de France, it was Category 4. The top of the climb, Kidstones Pass, is at 419m. Beyond the pass, the road is undulating, and it reaches its highest point a couple of hundred metres further on, at 424m.
I'm sure there are places in the world which are transformed by rapid development in the space of 4 or 5 years. Luckily, at Cray/Kidstones, not much has changed since I made this video of the climb before the 2014 Tour de France:
The descent from Kidstones into Bishopdale is quite steep at first - 16%. (It's a slope which will be a test for the junior men, who ride in the opposite direction, so climb Kidstones from the other side).
After the initial steep descent into Bishopdale, the gradient eases. The riders will nevertheless need to remain alert, notably just after passing Ribba Hall, when there's a narrow bridge over Bishopdale Beck, with a right turn onto the bridge and a sharp left turn off it.
Near Newbiggin, there's a pub with clear, no-nonsense signage.
After passing West Burton, the road in Bishopdale (the B6160) meets the A684. Here it's a sharp left turn, and soon after there's a bridge over Bishopdale Beck, again with a bend off the bridge. Then it's up the hill to Aysgarth.
The A684 now follows the river Ure upstream. This is Wensleydale (a Yorkshire Dale not named after its river). It's a rolling road, with good views across to the other side of the Ure. The road passes a characterful pub at Worton, the Victoria Arms.
Then it's on to Bainbridge. On the little hill to your right just as you arrive in Bainbridge, there was a Roman fort. The higher ground at the entrance to Bainbridge gives a good view over the village.
The first business on the left is the garage, which advertises refreshments and newspapers on a rather nice hand-painted sign.
As they cross the river Bain, the competitors could look out for the Archimedes screw to their left. The village itself has a large, open green. Leaving Bainbridge, there's a sharp left turn, to stay on the A684. It's quite flat between Bainbridge and Hawes.
The road continues to shadow the river Ure as it takes the riders west, and the scenery either side is classic Yorkshire Dales.
After about 6km, they reach Hawes.
The riders turn right in Hawes, to cross the river Ure. The Buttertubs climb looms ahead.
The height at the start is about 230m. The road climbs towards Simonstone.
The Simonstone Hall Hotel is more famous now than it was at the time of the 2014 Tour de France, because of Jeremy Clarkson. The BBC says there is a plaque in the hotel, bearing the inscription, 'Here lies the BBC career or Jeremy Clarkson, who had a fracas on this spot, 4th March 2015.'
(At Simonstone, the route is very close to Hardraw Force, England's highest single drop waterfall (100ft); it featured in 'Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves', as the location of a scene in which Maid Marian sees Mr Hood having a shower).
Just after Simonstone is High Shaw, which has a camp site called Shaw Ghyll. Beyond High Shaw, the road kicks up more steeply, then the gradient eases. Cattle grids rattle your teeth on the way up, and dozy sheep stand in the middle of the road.
Sheep are not the only fauna in evidence; there are ground-nesting birds including lapwings.
The road is open and exposed as it heads to the top of Buttertubs (526m).
The total distance of the Buttertubs climb is about 5.5km, the height gain is 296m, and the average gradient is 5.4%. At the top of Buttertubs pass, Great Shunner Fell (716m) is to the left, and Lovely Seat (675m) is to the right.
This is the Buttertubs video I made before the 2014 Tour de France:
Just after the top are the Butter Tubs themselves.
The Butter Tubs are 20m deep limestone potholes. It is said that farmers who took this route to market would rest here, and during hot weather, they would lower the butter they had produced into the potholes to keep it cool.
As the descent begins, there's fencing to the right, and a view of Cliff Beck beyond the barrier.
There's one right-hand bend on the steepest part of the descent, soon after the top. It's followed by a left-hand bend, then the road's more or less straight.
The descent off Buttertubs is a couple of miles, into Swaledale. The route reaches a T-junction, where it's a right turn onto the B6270, which initially runs alongside Straw Beck. There's a humpback bridge over the beck.
The first village in Swaledale is Muker.
Leaving Muker, the B6270 crosses Straw Beck again (another narrow bridge with tight bends to get onto and off it). Straw Beck soon flows into the river Swale, and the road follows the Swale downstream. It's a pleasant ride in bucolic surroundings.
The road bends left and crosses over to the north side of the Swale at Gunnerside.
In Reeth, the riders cross Arkle Beck, then it's back over the Swale to Grinton, and that's where the race leaves Swaledale.
From Grinton, the Grinton Moor climb begins.
The riders head up Whipperdale Bank towards Grinton Lodge Youth Hostel.
There's a hairpin bend as the race route crosses Cogden Gill, then it climbs up onto Cogden Moor (with Grinton Moor to the right).
This used to be lead mining country, and there was a lead smelt mill on the moor. These days, it's a popular place for cycling.
You'll also see red grouse up on the moor, betraying the fact that the landowner manages the land for grouse shooting.
The Grinton Moor climb is over a distance of about 4.4km, from a height of 180m at the bottom, to 420m at the top. The height gain is 240m, and the average gradient 5.5%. The top of the climb is by Robin Cross Hill.
This is a video of the climb, which I made before the 2014 Tour de France:
From the top, the riders descend Whipperdale Bank past an army firing range, Bellerby Ranges. Red flags fly when shooting is taking place, and you can hear and see the soldiers firing. The more you don't wander onto the range on red flag days, the less you get shot.
The race continues gently downhill to Leyburn.
In Leyburn, the peloton passes the market place.
Shortly after, the route takes a right turn to cross the river Ure on Middleham Bridge. The bridge's machicolations give it more of an air of history and grandeur than it perhaps deserves, but they echo the architecture of the genuinely historic Middleham Castle.
It's then slightly uphill to Middleham, a village better known for racing with four legs than two wheels.
A mile or so after Middleham, the riders reach the Cover Bridge Inn at Ulshaw.
The bridge by the inn is a proper humpback job. It spans the river Cover, near to the Cover's confluence with the Ure.
After crossing the Cover, the peloton will ride gradually uphill to East Witton.
The pub there is the Blue Lion. The village has an elegant church.
The next point of interest on the road (the A6108) is Jervaulx Abbey.
There are bends, dips, and rises as the A6108 takes the riders south east, but the run to Masham is likely to be fast. In Masham, the riders bend left down to the river. They'll see the Black Sheep Brewery on their left.
Then they cross the bridge over the Ure.
The next settlement, 6km after Masham, is West Tanfield, on the river Ure.
Leaving West Tanfield, the A6108 is relatively flat, and the peloton should charge through North Stainley.
Kingfishers thrive on the river Ure in this area.
After North Stainley, it's on past Lightwater Valley amusement park to Ripon.
In Ripon, the riders turn right on North Street, which takes them to the market place. Then it's along Kirkgate, Duck Hill, and King Street over the river Skell. After crossing the river, they are on Bondgate, then they take Quarry Moor Lane to Harrogate Road, which in turn brings them to the A61.
The competitors are now on the A61 all the way to Harrogate. It goes through Wormald Green and past South Stainley to Ripley. After the second roundabout at Ripley, there's a pedestrian/cycle/horse/puffin crossing, where the Nidderdale Greenway intersects with the A61.
(Using the crossing leaves you in no doubt that North Yorkshire County Council gives priority to motor vehicles. It's thought that ZZ Top's beards grew while they were cycling the Nidderdale Greenway and waiting for the lights to change here. If you're expecting to use this crossing, bring a crossword, and, as a precaution, enough food and water to sustain you for a few days).
Then the road goes over the river Nidd, and climbs slightly to Killinghall.
After Killinghall, the road dips down to Oak Beck, then rises slightly again as it comes into Harrogate.
The competitors will enter Harrogate at the New Park roundabout. They pass Chevin Cycles on the left, and Harrogate Hydro swimming pool on the right. Then it's uphill to the Cairn Hotel, down for a short distance, right on Swan Road past the Mercer Art Gallery, and left at the Royal Pump Room Museum on Crescent Road.
The riders head up Parliament Street to cross the start/finish line on West Park. Then they have seven laps of the Harrogate circuit to do.
The riders will have done just short of 180km when they arrive in Harrogate. The Harrogate circuit is up Otley Road to Beckwithshaw, right on the B6161 Pot Bank/Oaker Bank, right on Penny Pot Lane down to Oak Beck, steeply up Penny Pot Lane/Cornwall Road/Harlow Moor Road, down Harlow Moor Drive alongside the Valley Gardens to the Royal Pump Rooms, up the other side of the Valley Gardens on Cornwall Road, then Hereford Road and Kent Road back to the A61 Ripon Road, and the start/finish point of the circuit.
The men's road race finishes on West Park at the junction with Victoria Avenue and Beech Grove.
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I think the course is too hard for pure sprinters like Mark Cavendish, Dylan Groenewegen, Elia Viviani, or Fernando Gaviria. The ride up Penny Pot Lane/Cornwall Road from Oak Beck isn't long, but it's a steep little climb, and doing it seven times is going to be tough.
Among the favourites could be Peter Sagan and Greg van Avermaet. John Degenkolb has said that this is a target, and it could be the type of parcours to suit him. Perhaps the most talented all-rounder in 2019 is Julian Alaphilippe.