Stage two of the Tour of Britain took riders through Cumbria, including across the "brutal" climb The Struggle
While there were three categorised climbs inside its 188 kilometres, the stage was up and down from the start in Carlisle as the riders made their way to Kendal, with many of the short, sharp ascents uncategorised on the day’s profile.
The Struggle category one climb, which came with 30km to go, is 4.5km long, averaging eight per cent gradient but maxing at 20 per cent.
Before the stage, British national champion Adam Blythe, riding for the Great Britain team, declared he thought the day was going to be “awful” – “I’ll be struggling up it for sure,” he said with a smile of the day’s final climb.
“[It was] very hard – it was steeper than anything we ride,” he said while warming down on the rollers at his team bus after the finish.
“The last two days just feels like the race is 10 hours long. It’s the race most like Amstel Gold in the calendar – the roads are left right, left right. Mentally it’s really hard.”
BMC’s Rohan Dennis was one of the few riders to use The Struggle to his advantage, as he attacked and managed to bridge across to the five leaders – what was remaining of the day’s 15-man breakaway.
“It was a hard pace all day, and that last categorised climb was where we all battled it out,” Dennis said. “It’s [The Struggle] just as stressful as the long climbs and whatnot, the roads are really skinny and everyone was fighting from word go. It’s more mentally taxing than anything I think.”
Stage winner and new race leader Vermote admitted he had asked his Etixx team to come to the Tour of Britain, as the race was not initially on their programme. As he did in 2014 when he won from a breakaway in Brighton on stage seven of the race, the Belgian spent almost the whole day in front of the race in the break.
The 26-year-old was the only rider to follow the attack from Cummings in the closing stages, but outsmarted him with 150 metres to go on the uphill finish in Kendal.
“It’s a really tough race, small roads all day and up and down,” he said after the stage. “I’m happy I took my chance.
“It was a hard one [The Struggle climb], at the beginning it was really steep and a lot of riders were dropped there,” he continued. “In Flanders we have steep ones like this but not so long. After the Tour [de France] I stayed on a good weight and for me I was OK.”