Cameron Meyer (Mitchelton-Scott) won stage two of the 2018 Tour of Britain in an explosive finale that saw the breakaway narrowly hang on to the line in Barnstaple.
Meyer had been part of the day’s main five-man breakaway, which fell to pieces on the final climb of Challacombe Hill with around 20km to the finish.
After catching Scott Davies (Dimension Data), who had broken clear on the climb from the original breakaway, Meyer and his remaining companion Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani-CSF) dropped the Brit with 6km to go but were forced to work hard to hold off an elite chasing group that were just 10 seconds behind them heading into the final kilometre.
With no time to cat-and-mouse between the leading pair, Tonelli led Meyer right into the final 100m, and had nothing left to respond to the Australian’s sprint as he sped to victory.
Patrick Bevin (BMC Racing) won the sprint for third from the chasing bunch with Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors) taking fourth.
Thanks to bonus seconds and just a small gap to Meyer, Tonelli takes over the general classification lead in the race from sprinter André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal), but remains on the same time as Meyer in the overall standings and takes green thanks to count back on positions from stage one.
How it happened
Unlike stage one of the 2018 Tour of Britain, it took a while for a break to get away with the day’s first climb coming quickly from the start. However after 16km a five-man group finally slipped away, with Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani-CSF), Erick Rowsell (Madison-Genesis), Scott Davies (Dimension Data), Matthew Teggart (Team Wiggins) and Cameron Meyer (Mitchelton-Scott) going up the road.
They established a maximum gap of around five minutes, with race leader André Greipel’s Lotto-Soudal team doing the bulk of the work to keep the gap stable.
Things remained more or less the same as the kilometres ticked down, with the gap gradually falling between the two groups.
Entering into the final 30km, the gap was under two minutes and that quickly inspired some counter attacks with 26km to go and one climb of Challacombe Hill to come.
Hugh Carthy (EF Education First-Drapac) and Matthew Holmes (Madison-Genesis) instigated a move, with Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) taking off from the peloton shortly after, before getting caught.
As they took on Challacombe Hill, it was Carthy who broke clear in chase by himself, aiming to catch the breakaway up the road which now had Davies out front alone after he dropped his companions on the climb, still with well over a minute on the peloton.
Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors) was then able to bridge to Carthy to chase with just under 19km to go, with Meyer and Tonelli able to regroup and get back to Davies out front as they reached 14km remaining.
Carthy and Alaphilippe were still at 54 seconds with 12km to go, but were then caught by a group of Bob Jungels (Quick-Step), Wout Poels (Team Sky), Primož Roglič (LottoNL-Jumbo), Patrick Bevin (BMC Racing), Chris Hamilton (Sunweb) and Jasha Sütterlin (Movistar) who had clipped off the front of the peloton which was now splintered along the road.
The front three still rode with 47 seconds advantage with 9km to go, but their chances were becoming slimmer of making it to the finish after Davies dropped off with 6km to go and the gap down to 25 seconds.
Into the final 2km Meyer and Tonelli still had 16 seconds, but continued to shed time to the chasers into the final kilometre with just 10 seconds advantage.
Tonelli led into the final kilometre and remained there with no time for games between the pair, and it was Meyer who used that to his advantage to launch his sprint with around 200m and take the win easily ahead of his Italian rival, with the chasers just two seconds behind them as he crossed the line.
Meyer misses out on taking general classification from André Greipel however despite having the same time as Tonelli, who is in the green jersey thanks to count back on finishing positions in stage one.
The Tour of Britain continues on Tuesday with a 125km stage starting and finishing in Bristol.
Tour of Britain 2018, stage two: Cranbrook – Barnstaple (174k)
1. Cameron Meyer (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott, in 4-14-46
2. Alessandro Tonelli (Ita) Bardiani-CSF, at 1s
3. Patrick Bevin (NZl) BMC Racing, at 2s
4. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Floors
5. Jasha Sütterlin (Ger) Movistar
6. Primož Roglič (Slo) LottoNL-Jumbo
7. Wout Poels (Ned) Team Sky
8. Chris Hamilton (Aus) Team Sunweb
9. Bob Jungels (Lux) Quick-Step Floors, all same time
10. Hugh Carthy (GBr) EF Education First-Drapac, at 9s
Overall classification after stage two
1. Alessandro Tonelli (Ita) Bardiani-CSF, in 8-15-30
2. Cameron Meyer (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott, at same time
3. Patrick Bevin (NZl) BMC, at 8s
4. Wout Poels (Ned) Team Sky, at 12s
5. Jasha Sütterlin (Ger) Movistar
6. Chris Hamilton (Aus) Team Sunweb
7. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Floors
8. Bob Jungels (Lux) Quick-Step Floors
9. Primož Roglič (Slo) LottoNL-Jumbo
10. Hugh Carthy (GBr) EF Education First-Drapac, at 19s