Magnus Cort Nielsen (Astana) took the victory at the top of the Cow and Calf climb in Ilkley at the end of stage two of the 2018 Tour de Yorkshire on Friday.
The Danish rider managed to sprint around Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) within the final 100 metres of the punishing climb to claim the victory, and with it the overall race lead. Spaniard Eduard Prades (Euskadi Basque Country-Murias) came in for third place.
Stage one winner and overnight leader Harry Tanfield (Canyon Eisberg) was dropped by the peloton earlier in the stage and did not defend his lead.
How it happened
The stage started off from Barnsley at a very quick pace, and an escape group struggled to form up. An early escape group comprising Ian Stannard (Team Sky), Ben Swift (Great Britain), Patrick Bevin (BMC), Laurens De Vreese (Astana), Hayden McCormick (One Pro Cycling) and Johannes Fröhlinger (Team Sunweb) formed just before the day’s opening climb of Blacker Hill at 29km.
Despite the firepower in the break – and even with Stannard and Swift doing big turns on the front – the peloton must have been mindful of being caught out by a strong break the previous day, and did not allow them much freedom.
The pace of the chase by the peloton also stretched the bunch, with stage one winner and overnight leader Harry Tanfield (Canyon Eisberg) among the riders put out of the back. The six escapees were caught with 100km to go.
Stephane Rossetto (Cofidis) was the next rider to attack from the bunch, and was subsequently joined by Tobyn Horton (Madison Genesis), Tom Baylis (One Pro Cycling) and Garikoitz Bravo (Euskadi Basque Country-Murias).
The new quartet worked well together, and stretched out a gap of two minutes over the bunch.
However, into the final 40km there was a mishap, as the official race car appeared to lead the riders onto the wrong road after a junction. Once they had got themselves back on the right track, the peloton was within a minute of them.
Shortly afterwards, the break then took another wrong turn on a tight right-hand bend, and lost a few more seconds over the peloton, which was now being pulled along by Stannard after his unsuccessful escape attempt at the start of the day.
Horton dropped out of the break with 33km to go, leaving just Baylis, Bravo and Rossetto out front, but with a slightly increased gap over the peloton of 1-10.
Rossetto put in a big effort on an unclassified climb with 23km to go, dropping both Baylis and Bravo to go solo with a 55-second lead.
The move was short-lived, though. It was all over for the Frenchman on the penultimate climb of Old Pool Bank, and he quickly went backwards through the peloton with 17.5km remaining.
After the climb, BMC massed to the front of the bunch with Team Sky in close attendance, keeping the pace high to try and prevent any riders from trying to attack. However, British rider Jacob Scott (One Pro Cycling) did manage to break free with a huge effort with 6.5km to go.
Scott led the race into the final Cow and Calf climb, getting caught just as the road started to rise with just over 2km to go.
One Pro Cycling and Cofidis riders led the front of the dwindling bunch up the steepest part of the climb, but were ultimately not involved in the final, almost agonising sprint to the line.
Van Avermaet had marked an attack by defending champion Serge Pauwels (Dimension Data), and looked to be biding his time to make a move – and make a move he did, opening up his sprint into the final 200 metres. However, he was no match for Cort Nielsen, who finished with a comfortable gap over Van Avermaet.
Cort Nielsen leads Van Avermaet overall by four seconds, with Prades in third at six seconds.
Earlier in the day, American rider Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans) won stage two of the Women’s Tour de Yorkshire from a well-timed attack to claim the overall victory in the two-day race.
The 2018 Tour de Yorkshire continues on Saturday with stage three, a 184km trip from Richmond to Scarborough. The race then concludes on Sunday with a gruelling stage – possibly the toughest stage ever included in the race – from Halifax to Leeds comprising 189.5km.
Tour de Yorkshire 2018, stage two: Barnsley to Ilkley, 149km
1. Magnus Cort Nielsen (Den) Astana, in 3-25-34
2. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing
3. Eduard Prades (Esp) Euskadi-Murias
4. Serge Pauwels (Bel) Dimension Data, at same time
5. Jonathan Hivert (Fra) Direct Energie, at 5 secs
6. Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Katusha-Alpecin
7. Michael Storer (Aus) Team Sunweb
8. Colin Joyce (USA) Rally Cycling, at same time
9. Steff Cras (Bel) Katusha-Alpecin, at 11 secs
10. Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing, at same time
General classification after stage two
1. Magnus Cort Nielsen (Den) Astana, in 7-33-41
2. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing, at 4 secs
3. Eduard Prades (Esp) Euskadi-Murias, at 6 secs
4. Serge Pauwels (Bel) Dimension Data, at 10 secs
5. Colin Joyce (USA) Rally Cycling, at 15 secs
6. Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Katusha-Alpecin, at 15 secs
7. Jonathan Hivert (Fra) Direct Energie, at 15 secs
8. Michael Storer (Aus) Team Sunweb, at 15 secs
9. Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing, at 21 secs
10. Steff Cras (Bel) Katusha-Alpecin, at 21 secs