British riders had an impressive showing on home roads on an opening stage of the Tour de Yorkshire that surprised the peloton with its difficulty and blew the race to pieces.
Five Brits sit in the top 15 of the race after stage one despite pre-race hopeful Ben Swift abandoning after a heavy fall on greasy roads approaching Whitby.
Erick Rowsell (Madison-Genesis) sits eighth overall after finishing in the lead chase group that crossed the line in Scarborough one minute 10 seconds after the winner Lars Petter Nordhaug (Team Sky).
“It was an unusual race but that sort of race suits me well, I enjoyed it and it was nice to get stuck in,” Rowsell told Cycling Weekly. “The team rode really well for me, the goal was to get someone in the break and then put me in a good place to ride for the GC, and the team did that perfectly.”
One place behind Rowsell in ninth is Rich Handley (JLT-Condor) while Scott Davies, riding for Great Britain, also made the second group into Scarborough despite hitting the deck when a rider piled into the back of him during that mass crash on wet roads approaching Whitby.
Swift, who had until that point ridden a confident race at the front of the peloton, was the highest profile casualty from that crash and withdrew from the race due to injury. Davies however now sits 14th overall.
“[After the crash there was a] move of 15 or so that went off the front, I just tagged on the back,” he said. “Going up that last KoM I just didn’t have the legs to follow the front guys, and that’s where [Thomas] Voeckler, [Samuel] Sanchez and Nordhaug went.
“I didn’t really expect to be in that position, I’ve been ill in the last week so it was a nice confidence booster coming into this, not knowing where I stand in terms of form. It was nice, a good day out.”
Eddie Dunbar (NFTO), who at 18 years old was the youngest rider to start the race, was voted most aggressive rider on social media after making it into the day’s breakaway. However he was ruled out of the race with a collarbone injury sustained in the day’s big crash and the award was passed to Pierrig Quemener (Europcar).
Steve Cummings (MTN-Qhubeka) finished behind Davies in 15th while Russell Downing (Cult Energy) led the third group over the line in 16th, 2-21 down on the winner. Gabriel Cullaigh (Great Britain) rode well to end the day 33rd overall, 3-39 down in the GC.
Behind him there were large time gaps as the tough Yorkshire roads tore the race to pieces. Sir Bradley Wiggins, who had floated around the back of the peloton for parts of the day, rolled over the line in 96th pace, over 14 minutes behind the winner.
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Richard Abraham is an award-winning writer, based in New Zealand. He has reported from major sporting events including the Tour de France and Olympic Games, and is also a part-time travel guide who has delivered luxury cycle tours and events across Europe. In 2019 he was awarded Writer of the Year at the PPA Awards.
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