An invitation to the 2019 Tour de Yorkshire would represent a “huge opportunity” for Vitus Pro Cycling Team, powered by Brother UK, says team owner and manager Cherie Pridham.
Speaking from Leeds, minutes after the four-stage parcours was unveiled to an invited audience of riders, teams, sponsors and media on Friday December 7, 2018, Pridham said an invitation to manage a team at the Tour de Yorkshire for a fifth time would also represent a significant personal achievement.
Despite having directed a team in every edition of a race established as a legacy from Yorkshire’s Grand Départ of the 2014 Tour de France, Pridham is taking nothing for granted.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy an eyewitness view of the Tour de Yorkshire’s incredible growth,” Pridham said. “To have managed a team in each of the four editions so far has been a pleasure. To manage a team in the fifth edition would be a privilege.”
Sir Gary Verity, chairman of Welcome To Yorkshire, told guests at the route unveiling that an estimated 2.6m roadside spectators had watched the 2018 edition of the race. Pridham’s own memory of the crowds concurs with this view.
“The crowds this year were unbelievable,” she said. “On some of the climbs, we had to fold in the wing mirrors and pray that we wouldn’t run over anyone’s toes. They were scenes to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.”
Pridham’s young squad gained invaluable experience in the most recent edition of the race. In May, teenager Liam Davies laid the foundations for a season of unbroken progress in his first year of senior racing, after refusing to quit as lanterne rouge on the first three stages. He eventually climbed off on the brutal final stage, but only at Pridham’s insistence.
Meanwhile, at the sharp end of the race, former British hill climb champion Adam Kenway went wheel-to-wheel with the heavyweights of the UCI WorldTour on the brutal summit finish of stage two, before spending most of stage three in a five-man breakaway that survived almost until the finish in Scarborough.
While Pridham’s team retains a youthful core, next season she will lead a significantly strengthened squad. Triple Olympic champion Ed Clancy and former British circuit race champion Graham Briggs are among a host of proven winners and experienced campaigners recruited for 2019.
Next year’s race will start in Briggs’ hometown of Doncaster on Thursday May 2, 2019, with a flat, 178.5km stage to Selby. The following stage, a flat 132km run to Bedale, will begin in Clancy’s hometown of Barnsley. An identical course will be used for the UCI World Championships next September.
Both Briggs and Clancy will be assured of a tremendous reception, if the team is selected by race organisers ASO and Welcome To Yorkshire. With outfits from the elite UCI WorldTour on the start list, however, Pridham expects competition for places to be fierce.
“A place in the 2019 Tour de Yorkshire would represent a huge opportunity for Vitus Pro Cycling Team, powered by Brother UK,” Pridham said. “Our primary ambition would be to animate the race, get into the breakaways and show the jersey, in a bid to do the race organisers and our sponsors proud.
“Having said that, with the strength-in-depth we now possess, perhaps we might enjoy an opportunity to raise our sights even higher. Both Ed and Graham are proven winners, and another new recruit, Ali Slater, came very close to winning the opening stage of this year’s Tour de Yorkshire.”
Pridham’s squad, then competing as Team Raleigh, took part in the first three editions of the race. This year, following a change of sponsor, she returned to Yorkshire with Vitus Pro Cycling Team. Next year, she will hope for an opportunity to bring further publicity not only to Vitus Bikes, but also to supporting headline sponsor Brother UK.
“Having managed teams in each of the previous four editions of the Tour de Yorkshire, I’d regard the opportunity to put a team on the start line of next year’s milestone event as a significant personal achievement,” Pridham said.
“I appreciate, however, that invitations are a matter for the race organisers. Competition for places in a race so prestigious is likely to be fierce, particularly with the World Championships being held in Yorkshire next September.”