Stage one of the race had looked on paper to be a nailed-on bunch sprint finish. But the breakaway comprising four riders from British Continental level teams survived with Harry Tanfield (Canyon-Eisberg) winning the sprint for the line.
It was the first time in the race’s four-year history a British domestic team had won a stage.
JLT-Condor rider Alistair Slater, who was second, said: “I think, especially in this race, there are a lot of WorldTour teams and they probably don’t know who the British guys are. Harry and Tom Baylis (One Pro Cycling) are strong guys and they’re both really good time triallists. Definitely they underestimated us.”
His sentiments were reflected by Madison-Genesis manager Colin Sturgess, who’s rider in the break Michael Cuming, took the king of the mountains jersey. “They left it too late to be honest. I think maybe a little underestimation of the strength of that little group, you had some talented boys in there,” he said.
Sturgess also pointed to some windy roads in he final 30-40km of the race that were not conducive to a fast chase as a factor.
As if demonstrating this underestimation, Tanfield’s team was listed by its previous name of Bike Channel Canyon on the TV graphics throughout much of the stage.
Tim Elverson, manager of Canyon-Eisberg, said: “Where the teams have got smaller to seven riders, some of the calculations we all fall back on, like you need one minute for 10km, don’t necessarily apply any more. If you look at a lot of the races this season the break has been able to stay away more than it usually would and that’s part of the reason why.”
He added: “They [the break] all worked really well. They all worked the turns and the group were honest with each other.”
During the final kilometres of the race the TV motorbike could be seen quite close to the front of the breakaway, well within slipstreaming range, and though no-one was willing to speak on the record there were some among the WorldTour teams that gripped that had been a factor in their victory.
Even Slater admitted he felt it was a bit close. “I was trying to stay off the front as much as possible but the camera was relatively close to us at times and you’re always going to get a slipstream off that if its there. You go for the fastest line.”
Though Elverson was among those pointing out that the motorbikes also tend to get close to the front of the peloton, though he said he didn’t see them in front of either the break or the peloton. “I think it’s six of one half a dozen of another. Generally in these things it tends to fan out and become fundamentally fair.”
Certainly Mark Cavendish, who had started the day as the favourite, was sanguine about the result. “We didn’t catch them. Sometimes you do, sometimes you don’t. One thing that group did is they didn’t even look at each other until the last few hundred meters, when they all commit like that fair play to them,” he told ITV.