On another beautifully sunny autumn day, the 166km Scottish Borders stage of the OVO Energy Tour of Britain started and finished in the centre of Kelso, with the riders tackling a scenic anti-clockwise loop passing through towns including Coldstream, Duns and Dingleton.
This Stage 2 included three Category 2 Skoda UK KOM climbs at Hardens Hill (70km), Scott’s View (130km) and Dingleton (143km) contributing to a total elevation of a not too challenging 1,380 metres, so a breakaway followed by a bunch sprint was the anticipated outcome as had occurred when the race last finished in Kelso in 2017.
The stage also included three Eisberg Sprints coming at Coldstream (13km), Duns (75km) and Melrose (140km).
The Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes team were keen to protect the Eisberg Sprints jersey won by Rory Townsend on Stage 1 and also to position Matt Bostock for another crack at a top ten stage finish.
The stage commenced with immediate attacks to try and establish the usual breakaway with Townsend charging away at the first attempt. However it was World Tour rider Gediminas Bagdonas (AG2R) who again forced the successful break dragging along Peter Williams (SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling) and Sam Jenner (Team Wiggins Le Col) with only 3km ridden.
Ryan Christensen made an attempt to get across but was soon brought back and Townsend made another attempt to break free but had a member of the GC race leader Dylan Groenewegen’s Jumbo Visma team on his wheel.
They made it clear that Townsend would not be allowed to join the break as he was a contender for GC lying just three seconds behind Groenewegen. Unfortunately for Townsend, Bagdonas who was only a second further behind and just one point behind Townsend in the Eisberg Sprints competition had already ‘flown the coop’.
Bagdonas took the first and second Eisberg Sprints to take a 12 points to 7 lead over Townsend and it looked like Bagdonas could further increase his tally to 15 points if he could just hold on until the third intermediate sprint point.
However, the breakaway’s lead had been reduced from a maximum of 2 minutes 50 seconds to under a minute by the time the riders had reached the bottom of the second KOM point at Scott’s View.
It was here that the pattern of the race was broken as Frederik Frison (Lotto Soudal) and overall race favourite Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon Circus) broke away from the peloton on the climb.
Van der Poel was too dangerous a rider to let escape so the peloton led by Mitchelton Scott turned up the wick and the overall pace of the race increased significantly from there onwards.
The peloton quickly came back together which gave Townsend an unexpected opportunity to compete for the third Eisberg Sprint which he took with open arms taking second place behind eventual stage winner Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton Scott), and another two valuable points to close the gap to just three points behind Bagdonas.
On the final 2.4km climb at an average of 6.8%, which was the most challenging climb in the race to date, it was Pavel Sivakov (Team Ineos) who leapt away leaving the peloton scrambling in his wake. The damage was done and the peloton of 120 riders broke into two even halves.
Christensen, who had nabbed a couple of KOM points on the second climb, was the only rider to make it into the first half finishing in 41st place in the same time as the stage winner Trentin.
Townsend led in the second half of the peloton in 64th place, 3 minutes and 31 seconds down, with Bostock 78th and Alex Colman 90th.
Tom Stewart was over six minutes down in 105th having suffered a mechanical just as the race began to crank up in pace, with Andy Tennant another minute behind in 109th.
With Monday’s Stage 3 from Berwick-upon-Tweed to Newcastle-upon-Tyne being one of the flattest of the week, it looks like another breakaway and bunch gallop with Townsend no doubt aiming to be in the breakaway to add to his tally of Eisberg Sprint points.
Christensen is the team’s best placed overall GC rider in 37th place, just 17 seconds behind new GC leader, Trentin.
Written by Paul and Marina Stedman.
1,2,4,6 – SWpix.com
3,5 – @breakawaydigital