Tour de Yorkshire still shines brightly despite blackout

Team Sky's Danny Van Poppel (right) wins stage two of the Tour de Yorkshire. (Picture: Tim Goode/PA Wire)
Team Sky's Danny Van Poppel (right) wins stage two of the Tour de Yorkshire. (Picture: Tim Goode/PA Wire)

On the day the town’s football club were all-but relegated, and 24 hours before its rugby union team play the biggest game in their history, Doncaster witnessed a quite thrilling finale to the second stage of the Tour de Yorkshire.

Danny van Poppel of the Netherlands and Team Sky edged out blue-jersey wearer and compatriot Dylan Groenewegen in the teeming rain on South Parade.

The men's race weaves through South Elmsall on Saturday. (Picture: Andrew Bellis)

The men's race weaves through South Elmsall on Saturday. (Picture: Andrew Bellis)

Such a rousing finale was a fitting reward for the hundreds who lined the finishing straight, who had stared up through the rain at the great screen above hoping for a glimpse of the action unfolding in the lead up to that moment, only to be as disappointed as the rest of the country after the television blackout of Saturday.

A malfunction in the television relay plane – one that left the blameless organisers desperately scrambling spare parts from Paris – meant barely any of the day’s two races were screened live. Such misfortune was harsh on those who had put so much effort into producing another great spectacle of cycling, and unfair on the towns and villages from Otley and Doncaster, who were more than worthy of their moment in the lens.

Sir Gary Verity, chief executive of co-organisers Welcome to Yorkshire, said: “We had huge crowds all the way around, and well over a million people watched two bike races today - the first one creating history with the women’s race, and the second the crowds were even bigger for.

“We had crowds at least as big as the Tour de France and those people had a fantastic day.

“Clearly we are disappointed that the live television coverage came and went and then finally went all together, but our first priority as organisers is safety - the safety of the riders, the safety of the spectators and the safety of the people who put the event on, and that includes the pilots of the plane.”

The plane is owned and operated by a French company hired by race organisers ASO, who have used the plane in question to cover the Tour de France four times, as well as many other events.

Christian Prudhomme, director of the Tour de France, said he had never known issues like those seen in Yorkshire in his 30 years’ experience.

Despite the blackout, those who braved unseasonable weather once more were treated to another uplifting spectacle.

The race may have been won by a Dutchman in Van Poppel, and a Frenchman in Nicolas Edet may have continued a love affair with the White Rose county that dates back to the Tour de France in 2014 by being named the day’s most aggressive rider, but it was a Yorkshireman who led from the front.

Josh Edmondson, 23, of Leeds and Yorkshire-based NFTO ProCycling put local knowledge he had forgotten he had to good use to take his place in a six-man break that stretched the race.

“I realised as I got into that break that I recognised loads of places from junior races in Harworth, and then training rides around South Yorkshire,” said Edmondson.

“Out of Otley and through Pool was where I grew up, it was an advantage to know the roads. It was the second attack of the day and I just rolled onto it which was perfect for me.

“The support was unbelievable. The amount of people shouting ‘Josh’ or ‘NFTO’.

“And then there were the people in groups on the top of climbs just chanting ‘Yorkshire’.”

Edmondson’s six were swallowed up close to home before the trains of the leading world tour teams sought to get their sprinters to the front, with Lotto NL Jumbo pro-active in attempting to keep Groenewegen in the leaders’ blue jersey before Van Poppel stole glory in a photo finish amid the spray of South Parade. But the honours were not all shared out among the big hitters. Skipton’s Pete Williams lost the pink jersey for King of the Mountains but only handed it across the team bus of OnePro Cycling to Richard Handley.

And Rotherham’s Russell Downing, 37, finished ninth in the sprint for JLT Condor.