Vitus Pro Cycling Team, powered by Brother UK will field two of the county’s best known riders in the fifth edition of the Tour de Yorkshire, with Scott Thwaites and Graham Briggs among a seven-man line-up characterised by strength-in-depth.
Thwaites, who hails from Burley in Wharfedale, and Briggs, a Doncaster native who will start the race on Thursday (May 2) in his home town, are two of the most significant closed-season signings for team manager and owner Cherie Pridham.
The Yorkshire duo will roll out alongside Adam Kenway, Chris Latham, Chris McGlinchey, Mikey Mottram and Ali Slater in a line-up vastly strengthened from last year’s youthful selection. Only Kenway, a former British hill climb champion, will have raced in both squads.
“I’m very pleased by the quality of riders I’ve been able to select for Vitus Pro Cycling Team, powered by Brother UK for the 2019 edition of the Tour de Yorkshire. It’s a superb race, with massive support and excellent organisation. We intend to do our sponsors and the race proud,” Pridham said.
“On a personal note, I’m proud to have had a team in all five editions of the Tour de Yorkshire, and to receive this vote of confidence from ASO and Welcome to Yorkshire. They know that we come to race, and that we leave everything on the road. This year, I’m delighted to bring two local talents with such impressive reputations to a race that deserves the best.”
Briggs, a former British circuit race champion, and Thwaites, who has ridden two Grand Tours and nine Monument Classics, are assured of a rapturous reception at the fifth edition of a race launched as a legacy of the 2014 Grand Départ of the Tour de France.
“The Tour de Yorkshire is such an iconic race. Obviously, the Tour of Britain has been around longer, but the Tour de Yorkshire has the highest profile of any race in the UK. It’s the one everyone talks about. It’s the one that draws the biggest crowds," Thwaites said.
“It’s a great opportunity for Vitus Pro Cycling Team, powered by Brother UK to showcase ourselves against some of the best teams in the world. Obviously, with me being a local guy, it will be extra special. There will be people watching who have followed me through my whole career, and it will be a privilege to be on the start line.”
During a long career, Briggs has built a reputation as one of the most respected professionals in the British peloton. With seven participations in the Tour of Britain, and two already in the Tour de Yorkshire, he will roll out on Thursday for a third time in his home county’s biggest race, keenly aware of the significance of the occasion.
“To have the Tour de Yorkshire start in my home town with the likes of Cav there [Mark Cavendish] will be massive. Doncaster is a real cycling hotbed with legends like John Tanner and Kev Dawson, and riders like Ben Swift, Tom Stewart, the Downings and Connor Swift on the chain-gang. The race will start in a part of town that’s been regenerated, so it will be great to showcase that, too,” he said.
“The crowds at the Tour de Yorkshire have always been unbelievable and they help you to go that little bit deeper and give that little bit extra. The race was one of my early season targets and I’ve had some good sensations in training, so I’m hoping to go well. I’m under no illusions, though. It’s not an easy race, even to get into a breakaway is tough, but I’ll give my best for the team, as well as myself.”
The Tour de Yorkshire has enjoyed a meteoric rise. Race organisers estimated that some 2.6m people watched last year’s four-day spectacle from the road side, while millions more watched live coverage of every stage on national terrestrial television, courtesy of broadcaster ITV4.
The television camera crews and the millions of live spectators are expected back in Yorkshire on Thursday, when the four-day race will begin with a flat, 189km run from Doncaster to Selby. Stage two, 132km from Barnsley to Bedale, and stage three, 135km from Bridlington to Scarborough, are both hilly affairs, albeit with potential for a bunch kick on Scarborough seafront.
The final stage, 182km from Halifax to Yorkshire, is another demanding engagement, and a case of finishing the race on home roads for Thwaites. While he is under no illusion about the scale of the task ahead, he vowed that Vitus Pro Cycling Team, powered by Brother UK would take every opportunity in a four-day battle with some of the biggest teams in the sport.
Tour de Yorkshire 2019 - rider roster