The prospect of Mark Cavendish returning to race on Yorkshire’s roads remains alive and well, while organisers still retain hope of luring Chris Froome to the county for next month’s Tour de Yorkshire.
Yet representation for the biggest name of all was conspicuous by its absence yesterday when the largest field assembled for the annual race was revealed without the team that carries the name of Sir Bradley Wiggins.
Team Wiggins were one of 13 cycling squads to miss out on a place in the field for the third staging of the Tour de Yorkshire from April 28 to 30.
Britain’s first Tour de France winner and the five-time Olympic champion was the headline act at the first two race weekends, even if his ageing legs and alternative priorities only permitted him to ride half a stage on both occasions.
Wiggins retired at the end of last year having crowned his glorious career with a final gold on the track in Rio, with organisers Welcome to Yorkshire explaining last night that Wiggins’s developmental team failed to make the cut for cycling reasons.
What race organisers do have this year is as big a cast list as they have ever had, and they also have parity.
For the first time the number of men’s teams – 18 – will be matched by that of the women’s teams who will contest the Asda Women’s Tour de Yorkshire for a prize fund of £50,000 over the same course as the men, from Tadcaster to Harrogate on Saturday, April 29.
Lizzie Deignan (nee Armitstead) is again the star attraction, though this time the 2015 road race world champion from Otley will be attempting to win the race for her professional team Boels Dolmans, of Holland, instead of for Great Britain, who she represented last year.
The headline name for the men will not be known until teams start announcing their line-ups in mid-April, but the selection of Dimension Data as one of seven World Tour teams leaves the door open for Cavendish to ride on their six-man roster.
Cavendish, a winner of 30 stages at the Tour de France and a former world champion, famously crashed in Harrogate – the hometown of his mother – on stage one of the Tour de France in 2014.
The fact that stage two of this year’s race finishes along the same stretch of Parliament Street offers a romantic lure for Cavendish, even if only one of the three stages are designed for sprinters.
And organisers are still not giving up on enticing three-time Tour de France winner Froome to contest the race.
Froome traditionally rides the Tour of Romandie the same week as it is a key warm-up race for the Tour de France. But given his profile remains low in this country despite his enormous success, and the fact that Team Sky could do with a charm offensive right now, it is understood organisers remain hopeful that the door is not entirely closed on Froome’s participation.
Sky have confirmed they do intend to have a strong British contingent in their team this year.
Regardless of whether Cavendish and Froome are on the start line in Bridlington on Friday, April 28, the Tour de Yorkshire can still be proud of the fact that 49 teams applied to contest the race.
Seven of those who have made the cut come from the top tier of men’s cycling, with Sky joined by BMC, who return for a third time to the White Rose county, Orica-Scott and Katusha-Alpecin.
Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Sir Gary Verity said: “The quality of the field reflects the high esteem in which our race is held. Having the very best teams in the business coming to Yorkshire is a massive coup, but it is also important to us that British-based teams have the opportunity to race against the world’s best.
“Teams want to compete at the Tour de Yorkshire as they know they will be guaranteed massive crowds, exciting racing and an electric atmosphere.
“Last year two million spectators lined the route and the third edition looks set to be the biggest and best one yet.
“There will be a lot of local interest with Scott Thwaites of Dimension Data and Adam Blythe for Aqua Blue Sport.
“We’ve also got 11 of the 14 top-ranked women’s teams in the world alongside seven domestic squads, which once again demonstrates the strength of the women’s race.”
Tour de Yorkshire men’s race line-up: UCI WorldTour teams – BMC Racing Team (USA), Orica – Scott (AUS), Team Dimension Data (RSA), Team Katusha Alpecin (SUI), Team Lotto NL – Jumbo (NED), Team Sky (GBR), Team Sunweb (GER). UCI Pro Continental teams – Aqua Blue Sport (IRE), Cofidis, Solutions Credits (FRA), Delko Marseille (FRA), Direct Energie (FRA), Roompot – NL (NED). UCI Continental teams – Bike Channel Canyon (GBR), JLT Condor (GBR), Madison Genesis (GBR), One Pro Cycling (GBR), Team Raleigh GAC (GBR). National teams – Team GB (GBR).
Asda Women’s Tour de Yorkshire: Ale Cipollini (ITA), Bepink Cogeas (ITA), Boels Dolmans Cycling Team (NED), Canyon Sram Racing (GER), Cervelo – Bigla Pro Cycling Team (GER), Cylance Pro Cycling (USA), Drops Cycling Team (GBR), FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope (FRA), Fusion RT Fierlan (GBR), Hitec Products (NOR), Lares – Waowdeals Women Cycling Team (BEL), NCC Group-Kuota- Torelli (GBR), Storey Racing (GBR), Team Ford EcoBoost (GBR), Team Jadan Weldtite (GBR), Team Sunweb (NED), Team WNT (GBR) and Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling (GBR).