Rick Zabel (Katusha-Alpecin) came from a long way back to win the sprint finish on stage two of the 2019 Tour de Yorkshire.
Boy van Poppel (Roompot-Charles) finished second and a trio of Brits closed out the top five, with Chris Lawless (Team Ineos), Andrew Tennant (Canyon dhb) and Daniel McLay (Great Britain).
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Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) was brought to the front on the finishing straight, sitting in sixth wheel, but appeared to not have the legs to compete the sprint finish.
The overall classification remains a tightly contested affair. Stage one winner Jesper Asselman retains the leader’s jersey but with only a one second lead over Rick Zabel. Boy van Poppel sits third, five seconds down and on the same time as Filippo Fortin (Cofidis) and Jacob Hennessy (Canyon dhb).
How it happened
The 132km course from Barnsley to Bedale featured one climb at Côte de Lindley (1.5km in length at an average gradient of 7.4 per cent) as well as two intermediate sprint points, the first coming after 20km at Pontefract and the second at Harrogate with around 50km of racing remaining.
The day’s break got away early, formed of four riders: Chris McGlinchey (Vitus Pro Cycling), Tom Stewart (Canyon dhb), Jake Scott (SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling) and Fabien Grellier (Total Direct Energie).
Tom Stewart took the first intermediate sprint of the day, edging out Jake Scott, with two more riders joining the breakaway 15km later, the Wiggins-Le Col pair of James Fouché and Robert Scott.
The breakaway were kept in check during the first half of the race, rarely being allowed a gap of more than two minutes after the heroics on stage one of Jesper Asselman (Roompot-Charles).
The men enjoyed drier roads on the way to the start of the climb to Lindley than the women had experienced earlier, with New Zealand road race champion James Fouché attacking the break with a couple of kilometres before they were due to start the climb.
With the breakaway briefly splintering behind, Fouché picked up the four points on offer at the top, drawing level with Jacob Hennessy (Canyon-dhb) in the king of the mountains classification.
By the second intermediate sprint in Harrogate, the breakaway had come back together as a group of six riders. Huge crowds lined the road, this time for a bike race and not just Betty’s Tea Rooms, as Jake Scott put in a powerful attack to claim maximum points. The Brit may have been slightly disappointed, however, that he wasn’t crossing over in first place six months in the future when the line is due to be resurrected for the finish of the world road race championships.
Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) came to the front as the peloton as they passed through Harrogate, paying respect to both the town where his mother lives and the scene of his crash on stage one of the 2014 Tour de France.
The peloton were happy to leave the breakaway hanging, holding them at a gap rarely over 40 seconds in the final 50km. Eventually, McGlinchey and Stewart could sense the break was about to be caught, going clear with just over 15km to go as the other four looked behind as the peloton swept them up.
As the catch was about to be made, a small group of riders launched out of the peloton, with Pierre Rolland (Vital Concept-B&B Hotels), Pete Williams (SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling), and Paul Ourselin (Total Direct Energie) joining the remaining breakaway pair with 9km left to race.
This new leading group of five riders stayed away for another 5km before the race finally all came back together with 4km of road remaining as the inclement weather returned and rain fell on the peloton.
Ian Stannard came to the fore on wet roads for Team Ineos at 2.5km to go, with Bernie Eisel (Dimension Data) trying to pilot Mark Cavendish as the Great Britain team also appeared at the front.
The big hitters were all there in the finishing straight, with Cavendish sitting in sixth wheel on the run-in. Daniel McLay contested bravely as Cavendish fell away, butRick Zabel came from far back and won the stage with a perfectly timed sprint amidst a chaotic finish.
Stage three is a 135km route from Bridlington to Scarborough, featuring five climbs of which two have an average gradient of 10 per cent and 15 per cent, where we may well see a shake-up in the overall classification.
Tour de Yorkshire 2019 stage two: Barnsley to Bedale (132km)
1. Rick Zabel (Ger) Katusha Alpecin, in 3-09-16
2. Boy van Poppel (Ned) Roompot-Charles
3. Chris Lawless (Gbr) Team Ineos
4. Andrew Tennant (Gbr) Canyon dhb
5. Daniel McLay (Gbr) Great Britain
6. Andreas Nielsen (Den) Riwal Readynez
7. Jonas Van Genechten (Bel) Vital Concept-B&B Hotels
8. Michael Rice (Aus) Hagens Berman Axeon
9. Cyril Barthe (Fra) Euskadi Basque Country – Murias
10. Connor Swift (Gbr) Madison Genesis, all at same time
General classification after stage two:
1. Jesper Asselman (Ned) Roompot-Charles, in 7-14-50
2. Rick Zabel (Ger) Katusha Alpecin, at 1 second
3. Boy van Poppel (Ned) Roompot-Charles, at 5s
4. Filippo Fortin (Ita) Cofidis
5. Jacob Hennessy (Gbr) Canyon dhb, all at same time