The first day in Yorkshire proved to be the hectic affair predicted by Spokenforks yesterday; seeing star riders caught out and crash out during the ride to Scarborough. Team Sky acted quickly after the disappointing loss of Ben Swift and benefited from placing two men in the breakaway as Philip Deignan and Lars Petter Nordhaug worked over the likes of Voeckler, Sanchez and Rossetto to deliver Sky the win in the hands of the Norwegian. With major crashes and stressful crosswinds, the opening stage resembled that of an Ardennes Classic than a simple spin around Britain’s biggest county. Stage 2 should offer some relief for the peloton, but the riders will have already learnt that Yorkshire is not a region to underestimate in what it can throw at them.
As the crow flies, Selby to York is only 12 miles or so, but the organisers have managed to stretch this normally short jaunt across 174km and two moderate climbs. Only 34.5km will have passed by the time the peloton ride themselves on to the first ascent of the day; Cote de North Newbald. It is the longest of the day’s two climbs at 1.2km long and averages out at 5.3% during its entirety. An intermediate sprint at Wetwang is the next notable feature, once contested 4km separates them from the second and final climb of the day. Though 100m shorter than its predecessor, the Cote de Fimber is a steeper affair which sustains its skywards ambitions at a steady 6.2% gradient.
The riders will drop down the other side as they pass through the feed zone at Norton and make the first of two passes across the finish line at York after 133km of riding. Once again the pack will roll over the line with a little over 20km left; by now they will have had two good looks at the finish and know how to position themselves beneficially for the stage winning third crossing. A sprint finish seemed guaranteed here before the chaos of stage 1 was unleashed and with Ben Swift and Marcel Kittel now out of the race, the pressure to chase a breakaway has not fallen clearly upon any one team’s shoulders.
Domestic team NFTO will see Stage 2 as a golden opportunity to make their presence here felt as they build towards future WorldTour ambitions. Their sprinter is Steele Von Hoff who comes here on the back of winning the Melton CiCLE classic last Sunday and finished less than 4mins down on today’s winner Lars Petter Nordhaug. Stage 2 should be a much more simple affair for the teams and the Australian should have sufficient support from the likes of Ian Bibby, Rob Partridge and Dale Appleby.
Greg Van Avermaet is clearly still in great condition having ridden consistently during his spring campaign in the classics and Ardennes. No doubt he will feel somewhat frustrated after Stage 1 due to the presence of Samuel Sanchez in the lead group meaning any possible BMC chase was a no go; a lack of race radios leaving his 20km chase back into the second group a waste. He took the sprint for the minor places when finishing 6th and would certainly have been the fastest man present had he made it into the lead group. The finish in York could offer him the chance to address this; the lack of pure sprinters making his chances of a win much more plausible. However, this is only possible if his team decide not to ride for sprinter Rick Zabel instead; the 21 year old finishing almost 15mins behind stage winner Nordhaug. It seems illogical to bring such a fast rider to this race and not utilise him on the stage most likely to be decided by a bunch kick. He has taken several top 10 results in the Tour of Britain previously and this could come as the perfect opportunity to take his maiden professional win.
With local lad Ben Swift now out of the race, perhaps fellow Yorkshireman Russell Downing will be on hand to give the locals something to shout about. He won the sprint from his group which finished a little over 2mins behind the winner in Scarborough and will be all too aware of how rare an opportunity to win a WorldTour race in his home county is. CULT Energy will be happy to ride for Downing and there is little to suggest he cannot place well if the build up to a sprint finish goes off without a hitch.
Once again Owain Doull might be the best bet for Team Wiggins in a sprint finish and appeared to be coping well with the demanding day’s ride to Scarborough. Finishing comfortably within the pack, Doull looks to have judged his efforts well in order to remain fresh for Stage 2’s finish in York.
Chris Sutton is probably now Sky’s designated sprinter and could definitely fill the void left by Swift with relative success. However, he crossed the line in the final group during day one and could well have been snarled up in the crash which left Swift no option but to abandon. The team could be more interested in protecting race leader Nordhaug ahead of a difficult concluding day on Sunday, but if they offer Sutton some support, he should be able to return the favour with a solid effort.
Marcel Kittel soon packed his bags during Stage 1 and is likely to have passed over the sprinting reigns to Dutchman Ramon Sinkeldam. It is not often he is given this freedom to sprint in his own right and during Oman this year proved he can compete with the best when finishing 4th behind Guardini, Boonen and Pelucchi. Giant-Alpecin are well versed in coping with leadouts, but Sinkeldam will only have four men at his disposal all day as Caleb Fairly joined Kittel on the list of abandonments.
Team LottoNL-Jumbo are still lacking a win in their debut season and are likely to look upon Moreno Hofland in order to remedy that in York. He has form for winning from lower tier sprints, these include victories at Tour of Hainan (where he has four stages and one GC victory) and the Tour of Utah. However, his wins at Paris-Nice, Vuelta a Andalucia and Limburg Classic all help to build a noteworthy chance of winning Stage 2.
Matteo Pelucchi did not have a great time during the first day, but could bounce back in order to contest the finish in York on the second day. The course is more suiting to his abilities and with a circuit finish likely to make controlling the bunch easier, IAM Cycling will be confident of get the Italian near the podium.
Rounding out the likely top ten in York are the fast finishers from the British domestic teams: Graham Briggs & Ed Clancy (JLT Condor), Tom Scully & Tobyn Horton (Madison-Genesis), Chris Opie (ONE Pro Cycling) and Morgan Kneisky & Ian Wilkinson (Raleigh GAC).
1st Moreno Hofland 2nd Steele Von Hoff 3rd Ramon Sinkeldam