With only 821 metres of climbing over the 174km of Stage 5 of the OVO Energy Tour of Britain, it was always likely to finish in a mass bunch sprint. The stage started and finished in Birkenhead Park with loops around the Wirral and the country lanes of west Cheshire.
After the hard stage over the hills and moors of northern England the previous day, there seemed to be a reduced appetite to get into the inevitable breakaway. Surprisingly GC race leader Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon Circus) made the initial effort after 2km but was soon brought back as he was clearly too much of a threat to let off the leash so early on.
After 5km a break of four riders including Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes’ Matt Bostock, Skoda UK KOM leader Jacob Scott (SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling), Rob Scott (Team Wiggins Le Col) and Emil Vinjebo (Riwal Readynez) got away largely unchallenged.
During a mid-race interview between ITV4 commentator Marty MacDonald and Tim Elverson (Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes DS & team owner), Elverson explained that Bostock had been asked to join the breakaway to protect Rory Townsend’s Eisberg Sprints red jersey and compete for the win in the unlikely event that the breakaway stayed away on such a flat stage, whilst Townsend would be held in reserve for the stage finishing sprint.
The breakaway held a gap of around two minutes for much of the stage, though never out of reach from the peloton if they decided to ramp up the pace.
Jacob Scott took the first Skoda UK KOM at Kelsall Hill after 74km and Bostock took the first Eisberg Sprint at Heswall after 117km, both relatively uncontested.
Drama struck after 127km as Townsend lost his rear wheel on a sharp corner outside the Moby Dick pub (an old haunt!) as the peloton entered West Kirby. After some brief medical attention, Andy Tennant and Ryan Christensen were on hand to help pace Townsend back to the peloton although not without incident as Townsend almost over-cooked another corner on the way out of West Kirby and narrowly avoided a traffic island.
Meanwhile Bostock led the breakaway through the second Eisberg Sprint at Hoylake after 130km.
Rob Scott was dropped on the relatively short Flaybrick Hill and Jacob Scott returned to the peloton having secured another first place at this Skoda UK KOM point after 140km.
On the first pass through the finishing line in Birkenhead Park, Bostock took his third Eisberg Sprint win of the day picking up 9 points in that competition and 9 bonus seconds along with it.
A successful job accomplished on behalf of Townsend.
With 10km remaining Bostock and then Vinjebo were caught by the largely intact peloton. With just 4km to go the peloton exploded up the second climb of Flaybrick Hill.
Although Townsend had rejoined the peloton, the after effects of the crash and the effort of the chase meant that he was unable to progress through the peloton and he did not contest the finishing sprint.
Despite stopping to assist Townsend’s chase back to the peloton, Christensen admirably fought his way through to finish in 19th place and was given the same time as the stage winner, Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma).
Young GB Team rider Matt Walls took second and Matteo Trentin (Michelton-Scott) was third and regained the GC leaders green jersey from van der Poel.
The other Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes finishers were Colman 74th (at 1 min 29 sec), Stewart 80th (1 min 50 sec), Tennant 100th (3 min 37 sec), Townsend 105th (5 min 56 sec) and Bostock 107th (6 min 5 sec).
Christensen is the leading team rider on GC and moves up to 39th place at 4 min 13 sec.
The plan for the day to protect the Eisberg Sprints leaders jersey was executed perfectly by Bostock, though it was unfortunate that Townsend crashed and was unable to contest the finishing sprint.
Stage 6 brings some relief, though pain of a more intense nature, as it is a 14.4km individual time trial based around Pershore in Worcestershire.
Written by Paul and Marina Stedman.
Photo credits – SWpix.com