Lizzie Armitstead headlines boundary-breaking and lucrative Tour de Yorkshire
The growing status of the Tour de Yorkshire was confirmed on Wednesday lunchtime when a record number of elite teams were announced as participants - while Yorkshire's own world champion Lizzie Armitstead will ride for the biggest prize fund in women's cycling.
Seven World Tour teams will line up at the start of the three-day race in Beverley on Friday, April 29, a rise of two on last year’s inaugural staging of the event.
And Armitstead, who won the world road race title in the USA last September, will headline the women’s event from her home town of Otley to Doncaster on Saturday, April 30, on a stage which will mirror the men’s.
Race organisers Welcome to Yorkshire and ASO have announced that the prize fund makes it the most lucrative women’s cycle race in the world, with a total of £50,000 on offer to individuals and teams.
The first prize for this one-day race will be £15,000, second will be £10,000 and third, £5,000, with prize money down to 20th place.
Otley born Armitstead, who currently tops the women’s world rankings after a series of impressive wins in the season so far, said: “The Asda Tour de Yorkshire Women’s race will be my first race in the UK in my world champion’s jersey and it’s an absolute dream to be starting in my home town.”
For the three-day men’s race - which carries a £15,000 prize fund - Team Sky and BMC Racing are back, as previously revealed, with Dimension Data for Qhubeka’s involvement also common knowledge.
But swelling the ranks of top-tier teams are newcomers Orica GreenEdge, Giant-Alpecin, and Team Katusha, while Lotto NL Jumbo return after providing a stage winner last year.
The presence of those teams could mean a visit to Yorkshire for such stellar names as Simon Gerrans, John Degenkolb and Joaquim Rodriquez.
The field will be enhanced by five UCI Pro Continental teams; One Pro Cycling, Cofidis and Direct Energie of France, Dutch team Roompot-Oranje and the Belgian outfit Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise.
Sir Bradley Wiggins’ self-branded Team Wiggins lead the British contingent, though it is unknown whether the 2012 Tour de France winner himself will return with his focus this year being on winning a medal on the track at the summer’s Olympics in Rio.
Mark Cavendish is also uncertain to participate in the Tour de Yorkshire for his team Dimension Data, given the dates are understood to clash with a British Cycling track training camp in the United States in early May.
The five remaining British teams are Yorkshire-based NFTO, Raleigh, JLT Condor, Madison Genesis and the GB national development team.
Day one of the men’s race runs from Beverley to Settle, with day two taking riders from Otley to Doncaster and the final stage on Sunday, May 1, from Middlesbrough to a finish in Scarborough.
The women’s race is set to be the first time Armitstead will have raced on British roads in her world champion’s jersey.
In total the Asda Women’s Tour de Yorkshire race will see 14 teams, including eight UCI registered, compete over 135km on exactly the same course as the men, who tackle the route later the same day.
Sir Gary Verity, Chief Executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, said: “Today is a hugely significant milestone for women’s racing. We’ve come good on our promise to expand the women’s race and rather than rest at bringing parity in terms of the men’s route and broadcast coverage, we’ve gone further to offer the world’s most lucrative prize fund.
“Together with our sponsors, we’re bringing women’s racing the respect it deserves and I can think of no better way to start our race in Otley than with our very own World Champion on the start line.”
British Cycling’s technical director Shane Sutton said: “To have a British rider wearing the rainbow jersey supported by British riders in a British race is something I’ll be very proud to see. Lizzie has had an outstanding season so far and I know she’ll do the jersey justice in front of a home crowd. I’m also pleased to say that we will be entering a second women’s team into the event, Team Breeze, which will be an excellent development opportunity for the female endurance academy squad.”