Owain Doull says defending champion Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team) has to be the favourite for the Tour de Yorkshire overall title on Sunday's final stage, despite Team Ineos having five riders close enough on general classification to win the race.
Chris Lawless leads the overall after finishing second on the crosswind affected stage three, which saw his team Ineos split the race to pieces with around 50km to go. They initially placed six riders in the lead group, with five making it to the finish and four, Chris Froome, Michał Golas, Eddie Dunbar and Doull, now all sitting 10 seconds behind Lawless in the overall.
Greg Van Avermaet, who finished third on the stage, sits just six seconds off the overall lead thanks to a four-second time bonus on the line with stage winner Alexander Kamp (Riwal Readynez) on the same time as Lawless in second place.
Doull however says Van Avermaet has to be favourite on the tough 175km stage four from Halifax to Leeds , which takes in five categorised climbs, adding that Ineos even held back on Saturday to prepare for the final test.
"Van Avermaet has got to be the favourite tomorrow, the Riwal guys are also pretty strong, but it’s going to be between those lot," Doull told Cycling Weekly at the finish in Scarborough.
"There’s a tinge of disappointment missing [the stage win] I think, to have five guys in a group of 21, you should probably win. But also in the backs of our minds we didn’t want to go burning guys off hitting it up, because tomorrow’s the big GC day. Now we’re in a super-strong position with five guys [close to] the leading time.
"The wind was up today and the weather was pretty grim, we knew it was going to be a hard day and we kind of took the initiative we decided to take it on in the crosswinds at about 60km to go I think, we had numbers in the front - we lost Yogi but he’d done a lot and then we just wanted to keep it together and get a win with Chris I think, but unfortunately he was second."
While Doull was disappointed his team-mate missing out on the stage, Lawless said he was "gutted" to narrowly finish second on the line, missing out on what could have been Ineos' maiden win since the team's sponsor change.
The 23-year-old took third in the sprint on stage two on Friday and came up short again after saying he slightly mistimed his final sprint, also playing down his chances of holding on to the overall lead on the final stage.
"I’m a bit gutted about not winning the stage, but with a new team sponsor it’s always nice to be leading the race," Lawless said. "The main focus today was keeping Doull, Froomey and Eddie in GC contention. Me taking the race lead is a bit of a bonus and second on the stage, but in my mind I was really looking for first.
"There are a couple of things that I could have done differently in the sprint. I should have maybe laid off Doull’s wheel a bit more so that I could rush the gap and carry my speed.
"We didn’t realise how much of a tail-cross (wind) it was and how quick the sprint was going to be. I thought it was going to be more of a direct crosswind. Kamp took advantage of that and pretty much timed his sprint perfectly.
"My climbing has improved this year but I think tomorrow might be a bit far of a stretch. We’ll see as I seem to be going alright."
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