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8-time Tour stage winner from Yorkshire says peloton will be "split to smithereens" on its way to Harrogate...

Barry Hoban, one of Britain’s most successful ever riders at the Tour de France, says that the opening stage of this year’s race is much tougher than most people are expecting – and he believes Mark Cavendish won’t win it.

Instead, the 74-year-old who won eight Tour de France stages between 1967 and 1975, a record for a British rider until Cavendish overtook it in 2009, thinks that Cannondale’s Peter Sagan will triumph in the opening stage in Harrogate.

Cavendish, whose mother comes from the town, has made no secret that his big goal for 2014 is to win that stage and get into the yellow jersey, something that has eluded him to date despite winning 25 stages of cycling’s biggest race.

Hoban, who was born in Stanley, West Yorkshire and knows the roads that will feature in the opening two days of the race better than most, believes the first two days of the race, featuring stages from Leeds to Harrogate and York to Sheffield, will be “explosive.”

He told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “It’s going to be two explosive stages for the Tour de France but I think a lot of people are going to be in for a surprise. I keep seeing comments to say it is a reasonably flattish stage – the first stage is not flat at all.

“There are some lumps in there that are going to hurt a lot of legs – it’s certainly not going to be an easy stage. I think the field is going to be split to smithereens, there will not be a big bunch sprint through Harrogate.”

We’ll have to wait until July to see whether Hoban’s forecast of a Sagan win on the first day of the race comes true, but no-one would argue with another of his predictions – that the Tour’s visit to Yorkshire will attract bumper crowds.

“The people in the media don’t really appreciate how consumed the British cycling cyclist is and the support they give to the sport,” he explained. They will turn up in their millions, it will be an amazing thing.

“It is a financial and economic boost. People won’t just go for one day, they will go a couple of days beforehand and ride up the iconic climbs and they will probably take a week off and that will be spent in Yorkshire.”

Besides those eight Tour de France stages Hoban also won two stages of the Vuelta, and is the only British rider to have won Gent-Wevelgem.

One of those Tour de France victories came the day after Tom Simpson’s death on Mont Ventoux in 1967, with agreement in the peloton that a British rider should win as a tribute.

Two years later, he married Simpson’s widow, Helen, and the couple now live in Wales.

Hoban will be returning to Yorkshire next month when the Specialized Concept Store in Harrogate hosts an evening in his honour on May 13 from 7.15pm. Contact details for the store are here.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

12 comments

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jasecd [389 posts] 2 years ago
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Does he really think that Cav won't win or is it just a bit of reverse psychology? It is pretty flat and we've all seen Cav stay in the front group on some tough routes - considering the team he has surely this is just more fuel to his fire.

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Gkam84 [9086 posts] 2 years ago
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I'm pretty confident that Cav won't be winning it either. There are some serious sprinters aiming for that stage, who've been over with their whole team to check out the route a number of times  3

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eddie11 [110 posts] 2 years ago
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Fully aggree with Barry Hoban. Its a real saw tooth profile with 3 lumps in the last 4-5k and an uphill drag before the flat few hundred metres to the line. Its not that cav wouldnt have the legs but i can't see any of the sprinters teams keeping the peleton together for a sprint. There'll be a crash or a group of Gilbert/Sagan/cancellara type riders will get away.

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banjokat [20 posts] 2 years ago
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I don't think it's tough enough to split it up too much but if it does come down to a bunch sprint, and Kittel's on the form he had last year then Cav won't win. I think OPQS will be trying to shake Kittel before the finish. Gonna be exciting!!

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paulrbarnard [182 posts] 2 years ago
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Looks like the commentators are split on this  7 Should make for an interesting stage. Potential for surprises and no clear favourite. I can't wait. At least one of Barry's predictions will come true. I'll be making the trip.

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leeleejaspero [3 posts] 2 years ago
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I live in ripon and have ridden the route from grassington to Harrogate on my motorbike a few times and there is nothing at all on the first stage that will trouble the riders in terms of difficulty of climbs,it really is anyone's race,I hope cav does win but it certainly isn't a given

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TheSpaniard [97 posts] 2 years ago
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As an aside - "Two years later, he married Simpson’s widow"

Opportunistic fella isn't he?

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antonio [1120 posts] 2 years ago
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And I remember there were lots who said Cav could not win Milan san Remo because there were hills to be got over near the end.

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ColT [287 posts] 2 years ago
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Does he do Lottery number predictions, too?  3

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DanTe [188 posts] 2 years ago
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TheSpaniard wrote:

As an aside - "Two years later, he married Simpson’s widow"

Opportunistic fella isn't he?

And also a true British Cycling Legend in a time where there were very few!!

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2wheelzgood [2 posts] 2 years ago
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MSR has much tougher climbs than Buckden (cat4), and Buttertubs and Reeth (cat3) and no-one discounts sprinters do they. It's on all main roads after the climbs and with a rolling downhill profile. The finish is a sharp uphill for 50 M outside Betty's Tea rooms but comes with a big fast run in. Deffo a sprinter's stage.

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allez neg [497 posts] 2 years ago
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DanTe wrote:
TheSpaniard wrote:

As an aside - "Two years later, he married Simpson’s widow"

Opportunistic fella isn't he?

And also a true British Cycling Legend in a time where there were very few!!

He'll get no criticism from me for that - affairs of the heart are unpredictable and often defy logic.

Besides, in the convoluted love lives of pro cyclists he's got a very very, very long way to go compared to Jacques Anquetil.