ILKLEY sees the start of its Tour de France festivities for locals and visitors this Sunday with the popular White Rose Classic Cyclo Sportive. It forms the curtain-raiser for a week-long celebration in the town ahead of the arrival of the world-famous race.

The White Rose Classic is acclaimed as one of the region’s most prestigious Sportive events. It is a supported endurance event where 1,000 cyclists opt to complete one of three challenging routes around the Yorkshire Dales of 110, 84 and 50 miles. Riders will be pitting themselves against some of the toughest road climbs the region has to offer.

The event is run by Ilkley Cycling Club. In comparison to many Sportives, which are commercially organised, the ICC event is run entirely by volunteers from the Club. Any profits are ploughed back into grass roots cycling, enabling the Club to provide youth cycle training and put on new events such as the successful Autumn cyclo-cross races. A donation from the proceeds is also made annually to a local charity, which this year is the Yorkshire Air Ambulance. The event is also made possible by generous sponsorship by a number of sponsors: Jet2 Cycling Holidays, Hope Technology, Ilkley Brewery and Ilkley Cycles.

Starting and finishing at Ilkley Rugby Club, the riders will head out through the heart of the stunning Yorkshire Dales.

The epic long route will take riders as far afield as Wensleydale and over the much revered – and feared – Coal Road from Garsdale Head into Dentdale.

Riders taking on the 84-mile medium route will head up Littondale tackling the testing climb from Halton Gill before dropping down into Settle only to be faced with a lung-busting climb past the imposing Attermire Craggs.

The short route, at 50 miles, is still a real test of fitness with a long pull up to Greenhow before returning home via Grassington. Weary legs will be tested to the absolute limit with a final sting in the tail as all routes head up and over Langbar before descending to the finish in Ilkley. The top riders complete the long course in a little over six hours, but for many simply taking part and completing the event is a huge achievement in itself.

Feeding stations along the way provide riders with a welcome opportunity to take a break and refuel.

Cyclists from around the country travel from far and wide to take part and this year many are expected to stay in town to enjoy a week of cycling culminating in the Grand Depart, making the most of all that Ilkley has on offer.