Tour of Britain leader Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus) said he “surprised himself” in the stage six time trial where he took the lead.
The Dutch sensation placed sixth, 12 seconds behind stage winner Eduardo Affini (Mitchelton-Scott) but crucially he was nine seconds ahead of Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott) taking the jersey in the process.
“I kind of surprised myself, I think the last real TT I did was when I was a junior a long time ago,” he said reflecting on his performance.
The Corendon-Circus rider said he would now need to mindful of Trentin at the finishes as there are bonus seconds on offer and he only has six seconds in hand. Trentin retook the overall lead on stage five from Van der Poel after finishing third in a bunch sprint and gaining bonus second.
“I’ve not really looked at the stages but I’m told tomorrow is an uphill finish so that should suit me,” Van der Poel said. “We have shown we have some strong riders here who can help me defend the jersey.”
But he added that it wasn’t just the Italian that he had to watch out for.
“There are riders from Ineos who are also not far behind and they have a really strong team,” he said referring to Pavel Sivakov and Gianni Moscon who are 24 and 33 seconds behind respectively.
Stage seven from Warwick to Burton Dassett tomorrow features four categorised climbs in the final 50 kilometres and ends on a short but steep ramp to the finish.
The same road was sued for the finish of a stage of the Women’s Tour in June and was won by Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) in a narrow victory over Sunweb rider Liane Lippert.
Van der Poel’s team will be crucial for him as the road is quite narrow making positioning into that final climb key to getting a good result at the top.