As the Tour of Britain entered the last two stages the pace ramped up and the pressure mounted as the likely destination of the coveted tour jerseys was in the process of being decided.
The fight to establish a breakaway on the penultimate 189km Stage 7 from Warwick to Burton Dassett lasted more than an hour.
Rory Townsend went into immediate action to defend his Eisberg Sprints jersey but was unable a forge a lasting breakaway. Ryan Christensen also made an attempt to get away, but it soon became clear that the riders in GC contention were after the bonus seconds available at the first Eisberg Sprint at Berkswell after 19km, so nobody was going to get away before that point. Mathieu van de Poel (Corendon-Circus) took the sprint and increased his GC lead to 8 seconds over Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott) who took third place.
After 40km Alex Colman got himself into a four man break that looked as though it might become the break of the day. However with Team Ineos’ best placed rider 24 seconds down in third place on GC, they were desperate to put the pressure on, and after 55km Dylan van Baarle (Ineos) went into the lead in the same way he did over the moors on Stage 4, this time with Cameron Meyer (Mitchelton Scott) who was looking after the interests of Trentin.
Van Baarle won the second Eisberg Sprint at Brinklow after 81km and added a second place at the third Eisberg Sprint at Pillerton Priors after 142km where Townsend was narrowly outsprinted by Trentin for third place.
This meant that van Baarle had closed the gap in the Eisberg Sprints competition to just three points behind Townsend.
The stage came to a climax with three loops around Burton Dassett Country Park finishing at the top of the short but steep climb on the final loop. Van Baarle was caught on the final loop where van der Poel went on to outsprint Trentin to take his second stage win of the tour, and establish a 12 second advantage over Trentin going into the last stage from Altrincham to Manchester on Saturday.
Christensen had another impressive ride finishing just 17 seconds adrift in 29th place. The other Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes finishers were Colman 54th (at 2 min 39 sec), Townsend 94th and Bostock 95th (both 11 min 0 sec), Stewart 101st and Tennant 105th (both 11 min 54 sec). Christensen continues to climb up the GC ranking to 37th place at 6 min 36 sec.
The destination of the Eisberg Sprints jersey will come down to the final stage with Townsend holding a three point advantage over van Baarle who may again be sent up the road by Ineos, and four points over Dries de Bondt (Corendon-Circus) and Gediminas Bagdonas (AG2R).
Expect to see Townsend in the mix for the Eisberg Sprints on Stage 8 with the first coming at Hazel Grove after 23km.
Written by Paul and Marina Stedman.
1,6 – SWpix.com
2,3,4,5 – Paul Stedman