Olympic medallists Alistair and Jonny Brownlee were among hundreds of cyclists who took on part of the testing 2014 Tour de France route on Sunday.
The first weekend sunshine for weeks and cycling’s huge popularity led to a sell-out Otley Reliability Ride, with around 400 riders in total setting out from the Buttercross in Otley for the long non-competitive ride, taking in some of Wharfedale’s finest scenery.
The route, with both 50km and 100km options, ventured up the valley to Kettlewell, taking in a large section of the 2014 Grand Depart route, which is expected to attract all the top riders next year, plus a boost in tourism from spectators coming to see the prestigious race.
Top local professional cyclists, as well as Olympic gold and bronze medallist triathletes the Brownlee brothers from Bramhope, were among those tackling the route, and the event attracted many cyclists from outside the area.
Horsforth rider David Stone, the Paralympic gold medallist, and Burley-in-Wharfedale professional Scott Thwaites, who has won the Otley race for the past two years, also took part.
Keighley-based Team Raleigh professional Tom Moses, commented via Twitter: “Olympic champ, World champ, Yorkshire champ... not a bad group of lads left at finish.”
The main bunch of around 200 riders stayed intact until after Bolton Abbey where the combination of lumpy Yorkshire Dales roads, and top riders lifting the pace at every opportunity, gradually reduced its numbers.
A very select group of seven riders led the way across the finish line at Chevin Cycles, in Gay Lane, Otley.
Ride organiser Giles Pidcock said: “What a fabulous day. The atmosphere was incredible in the market square.”
And he believes the success of the event bodes well for 2014. “I think we proved what a fantastic place Otley and the Wharfe Valley is for cycling,” said Mr Pidcock.
“We had people from York, Wakefield, Sheffield, Teeside and even Manchester who’d come to Otley to ride this event. It was a magnificent sight to see such a large group ride out and along the A65 – exactly the same way Le Tour will be going next year.”