A breathtaking finish on Whinlatter Pass saw Team Sky’s Wout Poels take stage six of the Tour of Britain. Part of a final group of three, the Dutchman played his opponents perfectly, out sprinting Julian Alaphilippe, whose second place was sufficient to take the race lead.
After animating much of the final 1500 metres, Briton Hugh Carthy (EF Education First-Drapac) faded in the final metres but placed third.
Having started the day in the race lead, Primož Roglič was unable to maintain the pace, despite being well protected by his LottoNL-Jumbo team throughout the day.
Alaphilippe had looked set to take the stage win after Quick Step team mate Bob Jungels led him onto the climb. However, when the Luxembourg champion moved over, Roglič moved onto the French rider’s wheel and seemed to be a threat, despite the presence of Carthy.
However, as the pace increased, with 1300 metres left Roglič was unable to hold the wheel and dropped off, just as Poels emerged from a chasing group, closing in steadily and joining the Alaphilippe and Carthy at the front.
Despite being called through, Poels refused to come to make the pace until he made his race winning move just inside the final 500 metres.
How it happened
The 168.3km, queen stage began in hectic fashion, a number of attacks instantly following the drop of the race director’s flag.
Nothing was allowed to go clear in theses early kilometres, and it was only when Team Sky and the LottoNL-Jumbo team of race leader Primož Roglič took to the front on the Morecambe Bay coast, that a combination of pace and wind caused splits in the bunch.
Former race leader Cameron Meyer (Mitchelton-Scott) and leader of the mountains classification Nic Dlamini (Dimension Data) were among a group of around 30 riders left struggling to reclaim contact.
On the approach to the first intermediate sprint in Ulverston, Quick Step Floors came to the front, successfully leading out their highest placed rider, Julian Alaphilippe, who started the day second, six seconds behind the leader.
The Frenchman bagged the maximum three bonus seconds, with team mate and third placed Bob Jungels taking two, with Roglič failing to clam any time.
Moments later both Alaphilippe and Roglič came down in a small crash, causing a hiatus which allowed the second group to get back on and a break of four to escape up the road.
Excellent cooperation between British road champion Connor Swift (Madison-Genesis), James Shaw (Lotto-Soudal), Vasil Kiryenka (Sky) and multiple world time trial champion Tony Martin (Katusha-Alpecin) left a group of seven chasers struggling to close the gap.
Indeed, by the time the Swift took maximum points after 47km at the top of the first of five classified climbs, Hawkshead Hill, the bunch had caught those seven and the leaders’ advantage was 1.45.
On the approach to the first of two ascents of Whinlatter Pass that lead had risen to over three minutes, handing Shaw the virtual race lead.
It was after the fourth climb, the dramatically named Fangs Brow, that the bunch began to close the gap, and when the bunch reached Seaton, with 43km left the leaders’ advantage was just 1.35 with both Quick Step and LottoNL-Jumbo at the front of the peloton.
With the breakaway now in touching distance, Quick-Step took responsibility, slowly eroding the lead, while Roglič’s LottoNL-Jumbo sat just behind. As the race entered the final 10km, other teams showed their colours, positioning themselves for the narrow, final climb and reducing the gap to just 10 seconds as the road began to rise towards the finish.
A brave, final dig ensured James Shaw was the last of the breakaway to be caught, but was overtaken by Bob Jungels with three kilometres to go.
After a long transfer tomorrow sees the riders tackle a relatively flat 215.6km stage between West Bridgford and Mansfield.
Tour of Britain, stage six: Barrow-in-Furness – Whinlatter Pass (168.3km)
1. Wout Poels (Ned) Team Sky in 4-01-51
2. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Floors at 2 seconds
3. Hugh Carthy (Gbr) EF Education First-Drapac at 12 seconds
4. Jonathan Hivert (Fra) Direct Energie at 21 seconds
5. Patrick Bevin (Aus) BMC Racing
6. Tom Piddock (Gbr) Team GB
7. Sandro Meurisse (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
8. Dion Smith (NZ) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
9. Max Stedman (Gbr) Canyon-Eisberg
10. Jascha Sütterlin (Ger) Movistar all at same time
General classification after stage six
1. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Floors in 19-46-54
2. Wout Poels (Ned) Team Sky at 17 seconds
3. Primož Roglič (Slo) LottoNL-Jumbo at 32 seconds
4. Patrick Bevin (Aus) BMC at 46 seconds
5. Bob Jungels (Lux) Quick Step Floors at 51 seconds
6. Jascha Sütterlin (Ger) Movistar at 58 seconds
7.Nielson Powless (USA) LottoNL-Jumbo at 1-09
8. Dmitri Strakhov (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin at 1-24
9. Chris Hamilton (Aus) Sunweb at 1-28
10. Pascal Eenkhoorn (Ned) at 1-35