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2021 Ryedale Grasscrete Grand Prix: race preview

In-depth preview of round 2 of the men's and women's National Road Series

After a blockbuster race in Lancaster last weekend, the HSBC UK | National Road Series returns for round two of the men’s and women’s competition in the heart of the North Yorkshire moors with the Ryedale Grasscrete Grand Prix.

This is our in-depth preview of the race, with detailed analysis of the route and contenders.

Photo: Swift ProCarbon Cycling’s James Shaw and Jacob Scott celebrate together as they cross the line first and second at the 2019 Ryedale Grand Prix (Craig Zadoroznyj/SWpix.com)

What is it?

Based in the historic Ampleforth School and Abbey, the 16th edition of the Ryedale Grand Prix takes both the men’s and women’s domestic pelotons on circuits of the rolling Hambleton countryside, in the shadow of the hills that make up the western edge of the North York Moors National Park.

Organised by current British Cycling President Bob Howden, the race this year forms round 2 of the HSBC UK | National Road Series. Ryedale has hosted the national championships three times – in 2005, 2008 and 2012 – before moving to the picturesque Ampleforth Abbey in 2013.

The last edition was held in 2019, won by SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling’s James Shaw and Brother UK Fusion RT’s Claire Steels. Previous winners of the race include Graham Briggs, Ollie Wood, Ian Bibby, Anna Henderson, Laura Massey and Nikki Juniper.

The route

Starting and finishing in the genteel surroundings of Ampleforth Abbey, the route incorporates two overlapping, hilly circuits featuring narrow, twisty country lanes. The race opens with laps of the ‘large circuit’ before moving on to the ‘short circuit’.

The women’s race is 94.1 km long and takes in two laps of the long circuit followed by three laps of the short circuit. The men’s race, meanwhile, is 150.6 km in length and includes three laps of the long circuit and five of the short circuit.

The long circuit

Featuring high-hedged country roads with hills scattered along the way, there are plenty of opportunities for the peloton to splinter and for riders to break away.

Starting outside Ampleforth Abbey, the peloton heads north up the ‘East Lane’ climb (see below), which continues as riders turn left towards Ampleforth village. They reach the top of the climb halfway between the Abbey and the village. The road then descends into the village, where the riders then head south.

The riders hit the ‘N Moor Ln’ climb as they reach Thorpe Beck. Once at the crest of the climb, the riders take a sharp right towards Oulston. The riders then take in a short sharp rise before they reach the village. A relatively sustained section of descent then begins, taking the riders left through Oulston, then south, before heading east towards the River Foss.

As they reach the river, the ‘second climb’ begins, the toughest of the three main climbs on the course. After a short dip, the course then rises again into Yearsley. From here, the route then descends pretty much all the way to Gilling where the riders then head east and then north back to Ampleforth Abbey.

The short circuit

The short circuit begins in the same way as the long circuit, heading west towards Ampleforth, then taking in the ‘N Moor Ln’ climb. Rather than turning right at the top, however, the riders continue straight on to Yearsley, omitting Oulston and the ‘second climb’. At Yearsley, the circuit then rejoins the long circuit back to the finish line at the Abbey.

Finally, let’s take a close look at the climbs.

‘N Moor Ln Climb’

This climb runs along Yearsley Moor Bank. It’s 1.5 km in length and averages 6.7%, with a maximum gradient of 10.9%. It features in both the long circuit and short circuit.

‘2nd climb’

This climb is the toughest of the three climbs. The climb itself is 1.1 km long and averages 7.9%. The section in the middle is particularly steep, with the road at over 15% at one point, and there is another acute section towards the top too. Once over the crest, there is little let-up either, as, after a short dip, the road continues to rise up to Yearsley. Thankfully for the riders, the climb only features on the long circuit. But whilst it’s unlikely to be a race-defining section of the route, it may be a useful launchpad for break-away attempts and will certainly help to whittle down the peloton in the early phases of the race.

‘East Ln Climb’

The ‘East Ln Climb’ may look the easiest on paper, with a mild gradient of just 4.1%, but with the finish line placed halfway up it on one of the steepest sections, it will play a decisive role if the race comes down to a sprint between a small group.

Riders to watch

As ever, we have only seen provisional startlists so far, which are subject to change. But here are some names to watch based on what we know so far…

Women’s race

Women’s provisional startlist here.

There has been a long gap since the last women’s National Road Series race at the Women’s CiCLE Classic, with all of the top-level action since then consisting of crits in the form of the National Circuit Series and Tour Series. Road racing form is therefore tricky to judge.

What we do know though is that series leaders Team Breeze aren’t racing, with Abi Smith and co. representing Great Britain at the U23 European track championships. Similarly, another powerful team, Drops-Le Col s/b Tempur only have one rider on the provisional startlist.

This leaves CAMS-Basso Bikes as the strongest force on paper. Fast-finishing Megan Barker is in sparkling form having won two Tour Series rounds and the Ilkley Cinema Women’s GP of late. If she can make it over the hills at the front of the race, it could be hard to beat her in a sprint. Illi Gardner recently broke the women’s everesting record and won the Tour of Witheridge Moor so is clearly in great shape and has the climbing ability and endurance to win. Jess Finney is another rider in fine form, having won the Owen Blower Memorial Road Race (Nat B) last weekend.

Picture by Simon Wilkinson/SWpix.com – 12/08/2021 – Cycling Tour Series 2021 Round 3, Castle Douglas, Scotland – Women’s Race – Cams Basso Megan Barker

Who might challenge them?

Jo Tindley (Pro-Noctis – Redchilli Bikes – Heidi Kjeldsen) was 8th in this race in 2019, has been on great form in recent weeks, including a string of second places in the Tour Series, and is backed by a strong team.

Lucy Ellmore (SKODA DSI Cycling Academy) is another on-form rider, winner at the Capernwray Road Race last month. Newly-crowned Scottish Road Race Champion Becky Storrie (Brother U.K – Cycle Team OnForm) will be looking to continue her good run of form here.

Lucy Gadd (Storey Racing), Jazz Jones (Bianchi Dama) and Danielle Shrosbree (Team LDN – Brother UK), Mary Wilkinson (Crimson Orientation Marketing RT), and Connie Hayes (AWOL O’Shea) have all caught the eye in recent National B road races. And Team Watto-LDN’s Marine Guerin has finished in the top ten of her last four National B road races, so is clearly in form too.

Anna Christian might be the sole Drops-Le Col s/b Tempur rider, but she has a good run of UCI racing under her belt and finished second in this race in 2018, so could go well. Cyclocross specialist Anna Kay (Team Rupelcleaning – Champion Lubricants) is another rider that will need to operate alone but has the strength to win a race like this; she was 6th here in 2018.

Wild prediction time. It’s hard to look past CAMS-Basso Bikes, who seem to be in amazing form at the moment. We think Illi Gardner will take it.

Men’s race

Men’s provisional startlist here.

With Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling sending a strong squad to the Tour of Norway, which overlaps with Ryedale, and Canyon dhb SunGod and TRINITY Racing with riders out in Belgium, this race could be another opportunity for the elite teams to shine.

If Canyon dhb SunGod’s line-up is unchanged from the team in the provisional startlist, then they once again should start the race as favourites. In Jacob Scott (2nd last week in Lancaster, 2nd in Ryedale in 2019), serial National Road Series race winner Rory Townsend, National Circuit Series winner Reece Wood, Dan Tullet (13th at the Egmont Cycling Race on Tuesday), and Max Stedman (2nd in Ryedale in 2018) they have plenty of options.

The peloton at the Lancaster GP last weekend. Photo: James York

Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling’s two best bets, 2019 winner James Shaw and the upcoming Zeb Kyffin, are both racing in Norway, so the team might not be the threat they might normally be expected to be (famous last words).

SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling return from a tough outing in the heat at the Volta a Portugal though and in Alex Peters in particular, they have a rider capable of winning. Capernwray road race (Nat B) winner Ross Lamb is another of their riders to watch.

Steve Lampier remains in good shape and is probably Saint Piran’s best option for a top result.

Crimson Orientation Marketing RT demonstrated once again last weekend that they have a squad strong enough to outperform many of their UCI Continental counterparts, and we’d expect Isaac Peatfield, Adam Mitchell and Toby Barnes to all be in the mix again at Ryedale.

Then there are three other elite riders that excelled in Lancaster: race winner Josh Whitehead (Team PB Performance)*, third-placed Finn Crockett (Wheelbase CabTech Castelli) and Zappi Racing Team strong man Ben Granger. Granger was 12th in the race in 2019 when he was just 19. All three are more than capable of reaching the podium. George Kimber (Spirit Bontrager BSS Rotor) and Samuel Beckett (Wales Racing Academy) also finished in the top ten last week and could feature again.

Finally, there are three young riders who are coming back from crashes, illness and injury: George Wood (Cycling Sheffield), Tom Couzens (Spirit Bontrager BSS Rotor), and James Jenkins (Richardsons-Trek). All three are capable of a good result should they re-find their shape.

Note that all of the elite riders we’ve mentioned above are under-23s. Are we seeing a changing of the guard in the domestic men’s peloton?

Wild prediction time. We were close last week in picking Jacob Scott, who finished second. If he races this weekend, we’ll stick our necks out and say he’ll go one better in Ryedale.

*Josh Whitehead joined SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling on 20 August

National Road Series standings

Women’s series standings here.

Men’s series standings here.

Timings

Women’s race: runs 9.30 to 12.32 approx.

Men’s race: 14.00 to 18.11 approx.

Weather

The forecast at the time of writing suggests there could be rain on the cards for both the women’s and men’s races, with temperatures not rising above 18 degrees. Could it be a Graham Briggs kind of day?

How to follow

TV

There will be no TV highlights of the race this year after British Cycling decided to shelve TV coverage of the National Road Series at the beginning of 2020.

Social media

British Cycling will be providing race updates through its Twitter account#NatRoadSeries is the hashtag to follow and use.