On a stage that race organisers ASO had nicknamed the 'Yorkshire Terrier', the remaining riders of a brutal fourth edition of the Tour de Yorkshire faced one of the most demanding courses for a race anywhere in the world.
None of the 98 riders who finished the 189.5km slog from Halifax is likely to forget this stage in a hurry. It is likely to live longer still in the memories of the 27 riders who failed to cross the finish line in Leeds, including Harry Tanfield (Canyon Eisberg), the winner of the opening stage, who was harshly adjudged not to have made the time cut.
Starting in a stunning location in the courtyard before the Halifax Piece Hall, the peloton faced six categorised climbs, but Adam Kenway, Vitus Pro Cycling Team's rider of the moment, said it felt more like 25 climbs, as the road went up and down all day.
It was a final stage when many riders in all of the teams competing, regardless of their status, were not expecting to reach the finish line. Just getting over the climbs was a true test of endurace, but still Vitus Pro Cycling Team welcomed four of its riders at the finish and another two were close to crossing the line in front of Leeds Town Hall.
While the stage was won by Stéphane Rossetto of French team Cofidis, the gap between the first and last riders to finish was over 30 minutes. Vitus Pro Cycling Team did themselves proud and there was no one prouder than team boss Cherie Pridham.
“We went out there today as positively as we could on an incredibly difficult stage, given the heat and severity of the climbs. I have never seen a course as savage as this. It was brutal.
“The day started at such a high pace. Our riders hung on and did what they could and they all gave 110 per cent. Liam Davies [the youngest rider in the race and lanterne rouge] and Ben Walsh did exactly what we asked them to do, and we knew we would get them to a point and we’d say to them, ‘That’s enough’. Liam rode virtually to a stop and fell into Eddie White's arms, thanking him when Eddie said he could stop!
“I am immensely proud of everyone. The youngsters now know what they have to do to get back here again, so there is work to do, but we had our day in the sunshine out front with Adam on stage three. I am very pleased with how the race went for us all, including the team staff, who did a brilliant job”.
“What a race,” an exhausted Kenway added. “From the gun, it was fast. On the first climb, it split to pieces and I got to the top, going around other riders on my way to the crest, and there were only 40 of us left. I looked at Ian Bibby (JLT-Condor), who finished the stage third, and he said to me: 'I have never seen 480 watts for so long in my life.'”
“There was a regrouping after that, with 80 to 90 riders in the peloton, and then the whittling down process started. After the penultimate KoM, I managed to make it into the lead group again, which was hard after yesterday's day out front in the break.
"I then went back to get some bottles, which was bad timing on my part. The race kicked off in the crosswinds and up the next climb, and I had nothing left. After yesterday’s ride, I was happy today was the last stage.”
The final day represents the culmination of a successful Tour de Yorkshire for Cherie Pridham's young team, many of whom have come of age and are now well placed to be taken seriously as an established team as the season progresses. The race seems only to have whetted the appetite of youngsters such as Davies and Walsh, and there are big things to come from these two in particular.
With a steady performance from Harrison Jones, and Julio Amores offering the first glimpse of his full potential by leading the line for Vitus Pro Cycling Team on the final stage, the team were in good spirits as they collapsed into their chairs in the shadow of Leeds' magnificent Victorian town hall. Valiant performances from both Adam Kenway and Josh Hunt ensured that majority of the team managed to tame the Yorkshire Terrier.