Feature – NFTO Take to Yorkshire Roads

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One of the biggest races of 2015 in Britain will be the Tour de Yorkshire and top team NFTO are busy taking a look at the roads for each of the stages

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Feature – NFTO Take to Yorkshire Roads

It was day 1 of a recce by top British team NFTO of the route for the new UCI race on the British calendar, the Tour of Yorkshire in May. On a parcours that was up and down all day, any suggestion this stage is a flat sprinters one is far from the mark according to the riders at NFTO. In fact, one even suggested some riders may get eliminated it is that tough.

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The hotel the team stayed at in Bridlington, the Expanse, is on the course for the race and suitably decorated so the riders joined some of the staff for a quick picture before a day in the saddle for the NFTO riders.

In the first of a series of features on the Tour of Yorkshire, VeloUK is with the NFTO team as they do their recce and in part 1, we talk to Irish youngster Eddie Dunbar and also hear from former WorldTour pro Steele Von Hoff who won a hilly stage in the Tour Down Under this year.

Talking to the team’s sprinter Steele von Hoff and asking how important a recce like this is before a major event, he replied “it’s one of the most important things you can do, to be able review the course and see the hard parts of the stage that could possibly split the field. These are things that you can’t be told about but need to see for yourself”.

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Steele von Hoff (left) tops the climb into Dalby Forest with James ‘Hank’ Lowsley-Williams.

“The par cours for this race so far is very difficult. It definitely won’t be easy and it’s making me nervous because I think it will be tough to make time cut because it’s a super difficult course”.

Whilst Steele spent two years riding at World Tour level and racing events like this week in, week out, one youngster in the squad for the recce is hoping to be selected for the race, Irish teenager Eddie Dunbar. The ever aggressive winner of stage races as a Junior explained what this trip to Yorkshire was about for him and the NFTO team.

“As its only four hours away for us to come here, it make sense to come and have a look at the stages and see what roads we’ll be racing on. Being able to cycle on the course prior to the race gives you an advantage on your rivals so it’s important to know what the roads and terrain will be like. Once you are familiar with it, you can be a lot more confident and train for it.”

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Eddie Dunbar checks his Garmin before the ride. Post ride it revealed over 2,000 metres of climbing I believe… ouch!

The team, along with Eddie, arrived late on Tuesday evening and at a dinner in Bridlington, the plan for the first stage recce was discussed with the riders and staff and as ever with this team, the mood was upbeat with the usual banter and an air of excitement about what they were doing.

Talking about a day with the team doing the recce, Eddie explained they are up around 7ish for breakfast from 7.30 and in their riding kit and ready to get in the cars by 9.30am. This is because they were not riding the whole stage but the majority of it and today was over four hours in the saddle.

It was a little like being on a stage race; get up, breakfast, race kit on, ride the bike, get changed and back in the car for the transfer to the hotel. Shower and dinner follow before a little TV time and some sleep before doing all over again the next day.

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Night before day 1 of the recce and DS Dave Povall briefs the riders.

The time with his teammates, is, says Eddie, very useful for getting to know them better on the road and over dinner and in the cars. It’s a big change for all of them over the normal routine of being at home and training day in, day out.

“There is nothing better than being out on the road with your teammates, building up that trust and friendship with them before the big races. It helps build that confidence you have in them off and on the bike.”

Talking about the course, Eddie admits he hasn’t seen such a hilly one before. “It was up and down all day and relentless and no real place you can recover much on the stage. Being a climber, I was quite happy to see the course where there are lots of steep climbs. Nothing really long, just short steep power climbs but the recovery you get between them is not much and that is a key factor.”

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Over the Moors and not only was there plenty of climbing, and exposed sections to the wind, but the moors being ‘burnt off’ with controlled burning of the vegetation.

Asked how he felt after the day, Eddie explained “I’m one of those riders who get’s stronger after days like these. I am always a big sluggish on the first day and stage racing is where I can shine I think because I seem to get stronger as the race goes on.”

Whilst the line-up for the NFTO team has not been selected for the race, Eddie is keen to prove himself before the race and make that selection. “It will be a brilliant race to do. You have the big teams like Sky and Giant-Alpecin and to get the opportunity to race against World Tour Teams like that is going to be massive”.

“It will be a big step up from what I have been doing but with the right training and staying fit and healthy, I think I’ll be strong for it and make a good showing of myself.”

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A 33 per cent climb saw Rob Partridge try the inside line but I’m not sure it was the right race line!

Finally, asked how his Felt bike with Continental grip on the Enve wheels, was set up to cope with the big climbs, Eddie explained how his gearing did vary from the other riders in his team. “A lot of the lads have senior chain rings, a 53 x 39 but I have opted to go for lower gearing.”

“I prefer to spin a gear rather than push it so I have a 52 x 36 and will probably use that for the rest of the season. I’ve just come out of the junior ranks and have good cadence and if you’re spinning, you’re winning! Maybe in a few years I’ll switch to the 53 as I get stronger”.

On the back wheel for Eddie, whilst the others have 28 sprockets, he has a 11 x 25 cassette and that he says was more than enough to cope with the climbs which were as much as 33 per cent. “That was plenty for me going steady today and in the race we’ll be going faster so will be using bigger gears again.”

As I write this, the riders are in bed, sleeping and recovering ahead of another long ride to see what the Tour of Yorkshire has in store for them. Many of the riders have ridden the Tour of Britain before so the race should not be so different although Steele Von Hoff did say the stage felt different to those he has done in the Tour of Britain”.

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Steele takes a photo of Rob Partridge at the seaside in Scarborough

“These aren’t the same roads! I think they have found all the hills they could possibly find and packed them into one stage! There is just no flat in this stage.”

And that is the warning to riders like Marcel Kittel and others coming here expecting sprint stages. Stage 1 of the Tour of Yorkshire is going to be tough and whilst the race may not be won on this stage, it will certainly be lost by many on the day.

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Some of the scenery is stunning … although I apologise for rushing this pic as the riders came up the climb faster than I’d anticipated!

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The riders sharing the roads with the sheep across the Moors

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Lots of roads like this may make the race harder to control even by eight man teams

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Matt the mechanic waits for Dave the DS to hand him a bike post ride ….

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Whilst the riders had breakfast, I took Steele Von Hoff’s bike for a walk to the beach as you do

 

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