Chris Lawless (Team Ineos) says following Greg Van Avermaet’s attack with 5km to go on the final stage of the Tour de Yorkshire was the deepest he ever had to go to in a bike race.
Lawless was able to hold on to take the overall win by two seconds over Van Avermaet, who won the final stage into Leeds after attacking with 5km to the finish on the final uncategorised climb to bridge to Eddie Dunbar (Team Ineos) out front, with the three arriving at the finish together and Van Avermaet sprinting to the stage win.
Such was the devastation of the Belgian’s initial attack, no-one from the main group was able to follow aside from race leader Lawless, who says the overall win makes up for missing out on the stage win to Scarborough on stage three on Saturday, which left him “genuinely gutted.”
“When I got to the top of the climb with 5km to go [I knew I could win],” Lawless said.
“I got dropped on the Chevin climb and [Owain] Doull did a big shift to get me back to the main group. I knew that Greg was going to go. I was ready for it. On a climb like that I’ve got that length of effort and I had a chance of staying with him.
“It’s the deepest I’ve ever dug. If I had to pick out a point that was the race winning effort.
“I was genuinely gutted after losing in Scarborough. Dave Brailsford rang to give him a pep talk. He said I could do it, I just had to believe in myself.”
For Van Avermaet – who had a disappointing spring Classics campaign by his own high standards – taking second overall and the win on the queen stage from Halifax to the Leeds was some consolation heading into a mid-season break ahead of the Tour de France in July.
The Olympic champion crashed in his final Classic at Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday, but was able to gradually look stronger throughout the race, placing himself in contention to defend his overall title after finishing third in the sprint to Scarborough on stage three.
“It’s always good to have a win in the end and I think my spring campaign was not too bad, but also not super,” Van Avermaet said.
“I was fighting in every final until Liège-Bastogne-Liège for a good result; I had a few.
“I think I had quite good legs in Flanders and Roubaix but the result was not showing what I could do there. So it was a bit of a disappointment in those two races and I’m expecting much more from myself in these kind of races. [This win] makes it a little bit better, but for sure races like Flanders and Roubaix are more important for me.
“Tactically wise I don’t think there was more that we could do today,” he added.
“I’m quite happy with the stage win and second in the overall, it’s also something. I bridged to Dunbar and Lawless was the only guy that could follow me on the climb and for me there was nothing else to do but win the stage.
“He was a bit afraid if the group came back he couldn’t win the overall, so I think for me and him it was a good situation and I couldn’t take more out of it than a second place and winning on the streets of Leeds in the queen stage is also something really nice.”