A fortnight ahead of the inaugural Tour de Yorkshire, an all-star cast has assembled for what promises to be much more than a ceremonial send-off for Bradley Wiggins.
Fifteen years ago, when a callow 20-year-old named Bradley Wiggins prepared to embark on a career as a professional road cyclist, the idea that he would end that journey with a race in Yorkshire would have surprised no one. Until that point, only a handful of British cyclists had possessed the talent and endeavour to outgrow the domestic goldfish bowl and make a splash in Europe’s biggest races, so why would Wiggins be any different?
If Yorkshire in 2015 was going to be his end of the line - and he would have done well to stick around that long - his final competitive outing would no doubt be in some local time trial, for years the bread and butter of the British racing scene.
How times have changed - and changed because of Wiggins.
If the inaugural Tour de Yorkshire is to welcome some of the world’s top riders over three days this May, it is in large part thanks to Sir Brad’s Tour de France victory in 2012 - the big bang in a wider explosion for cycling in Great Britain.
The scale of that boom will be evident in Yorkshire, as Wiggins makes his debut for his very own, eponymous team, Team Wiggins.
Seven other British squads will take their place on the starting grid, including, of course, Wiggins’s alma mater, Team Sky.
In Ben Swift, Sky also possess a Yorkshire native and one of the favourites for both stage victories and overall honours on an undulating, unpredictable route borrowing many of the roads and climbs showcased in last year’s Tour de France Grand Départ.
Wiggins, Swift and Sky’s other headline acts apart, the star attraction is a rider who revelled in the Tour’s visit to Yorkshire last year, German sprinter Marcel Kittel.
The Giant-Alpecin powerhouse will be hotly tipped to win stages 1 and 2, but faces a stern test on the hillier terrain heading into Leeds on the final afternoon.
The course that day may be more suited to Beijing 2008 Olympic champion Samuel Sanchez (BMC Racing Team), to Steven Kruijswijk of Team Lotto NL-Jumbo, or to British rider Steve Cummings of MTN-Qhubeka and his team-mate Gerald Ciolek.
A pair of Frenchmen with king of the mountains titles in major tours to their name, Nicolas Edet of Cofidis and Thomas Voeckler of Europcar, can also be expected to come alive as the race climbs up into the Moors.
What Wiggins, the returning, departing prodigal son definitely won’t get is an easy ride. Which, after an odyssey as long and testing as his, is no doubt just the way he would have wanted it.
The main attractions:
• Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise: Capiot (Bel)
• Cult Energy Pro Cycling: Downing (Gbr), Gerdemann (Ger)
• Cofidis, Solutions Crédits: Edet, Simon, Hardy (Fra)
• Team Europcar: Gautier, Voeckler (Fra), Craven (Nab)
• Team Giant-Alpecin: Kittel (Ger), Sinkeldam (Ned)
• Great Britain: Gibson (Gbr)
• JLT Condor: House, Clancy (Gbr)
• Madison Genesis: Rowsell (Gbr), Scully (Nz)
• ONE Pro Cycling: Barker, Williams (Gbr)
• NFTO: Von Hoff, Bibby (Gbr)
• Team Raleigh GAC: Domagalski (Pol), Wilkinson (Gbr)
• Team Sky: Swift, Fenn (Gbr), Sebastian Henao (Col)
• Team Wiggins: Wiggins, Doull, Dibben (Gbr)
• Roompot Oranje Peloton: Kreder, Duijn (Ned)
• Team Lotto NL-Jumbo: Hofland, Kruijswijk, Tjallingii (Ned)
• MTN-Qhubeka: Cummings (Gbr), Ciolek (Ger), Kudus (Eri), Brammeier (Irl)
• IAM Cycling: Pelucchi (Ita)
• BMC Racing Team: Sanchez (Spa), Burghardt (Ger), Van Avermaet (Bel)