Rory Townsend started off the 2019 edition of the Tour of Britain by picking up where Alex Paton left off in 2018, namely in the red jersey of the Eisberg Sprints leader.
The peloton departed from Glasgow in bright sunshine on the 201km route to Kirkcudbright on the south-west coast of Scotland. The stage contained three categorised climbs and three intermediate sprints where the Skoda UK KOM (King of the Mountain) and Eisberg Sprints jerseys would be contested.
Townsend could be seen chomping at the bit in the neutralised section before the flag dropped to start the race proper, so it was no surprise when he took an immediate lead to encourage others to help establish a breakaway. This strung out the peloton into a long line, but each time a small group began to assemble off the front, it was quickly reabsorbed despite Townsend making repeated attempts during the first 5km.
Eventually it was a move by Gediminas Bagdonas, World Tour rider for AG2R, after 11km that forced a breakaway that would last for almost 180km.
This breakaway was joined by James Fouche, the New Zealand national road champion riding for Team Wiggins Le Col, Connor Dunne (Israel Cycling Academy) and Dries de Bondt (Corenden Circus).
Not to be omitted, Townsend quickly made his move across to this group and just as the Jumbo Visma team fanned out across the road to shut down the opportunity for any other riders to join the breakaway, Jacob Scott (SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling) made a courageous effort to successfully bridge across to the rapidly disappearing group of five.
It was just before the first Eisberg Sprint after 44km that Townsend could be seen conferring with Scott who then led out the sprint with De Bondt first across the line, Bagdonas in second and Townsend in third.
As the breakaway was being held at just over one minute at this point by the Jumbo Visma team policing the front of the following peloton, and looking unlikely to gain a commending gap, Dunne was summoned back to the peloton to resume team duties.
With Townsend helping keep the pace high up to the first Skoda UK KOM point at the top of Lambdoughty Hill after 102km, Scott took a convincing win followed by Bagdonas and Fouche. The pattern repeated itself in the following two sprints and KOMs with Scott keeping the pace high in the Eisberg Sprint lead-outs (where Townsend secured both wins and the red Eisberg Sprint leaders jersey that he will be wearing on Stage 2), and Townsend helping keep the pace high up the KOMs which Scott duly won, claiming the black Skoda UK KOM jersey. With 12km now remaining, the peloton started reeling in the breakaway riders one by one.
During the last 10km the sprint lead-out teams could be seen assembling towards the front of the peloton with Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes in a prominent position.
Matt Bostock worked largely alone to surf the wheels during the last 5km and though at times looking as though he might be swamped by the manoeuvring of other teams, he skilfully kept his place and crossed the line in a commendable ninth position.
The stage was won by Dylan Groenewegen whose Jumbo Visma team had controlled the race throughout the day, with David Cimolai (Isreal Cycling Academy) in second after being led out by Dunne, and Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton Scott) in third.
The seven bonus seconds gained by Townsend in the Eisberg Sprints put him into second place on GC (General Classification) behind Groenewegen and as a bonus, he was also voted winner of the Wahooligan Combativity Award. Townsend was even able to wish his father a ‘happy birthday’ live on TV during the race – what a great selection of birthday presents he was delivering!
Townsend commented in an interview with the organisers after the race…
“It was an absolutely epic stage.
The stage itself started really hard as it seemed like a lot more people were interested in trying to get away this year, so it took a while to go.
Once it was the right formation of riders we were away but it seemed like quite a nervous day. We never got more than 1 minute 40 seconds ahead and for 200km you are always sort of looking over your shoulder which is not always too much fun but all-in-all really happy with the day.
The Wahooligan combativity is a nice extra bonus, that for me is the icing on the cake because to be voted by the people watching at home is so flattering, really, really nice.”
A great start for Townsend, Bostock and the whole Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes team. With another breakaway and bunch sprint a likely outcome on Stage 2, which riders will be in the mix then?
Written by Paul and Marina Stedman.
1, 2 & 5 – SWpix.com
3 – Dreww248
4 – VeloNews.com