The 166km Stage 8 of the OVO Energy Tour of Britain from Altrincham to central Manchester would see the showdown for the overall GC battle and from Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes’ perspective, whether Rory Townsend could bring home the Eisberg Sprints red jersey on the behalf of the team.
Winning one of the four tour jerseys is highly valued as it means the rider receives the award on the podium after every stage, providing additional visibility for the team’s sponsors.
It was expected that Stage 8 could well follow the pattern of Stage 7 with the GC protagonists active early on to try and gain valuable bonus seconds awarded at the Eisberg Sprints points after 23km, 58km and 123km.
However it seemed almost bizarre when Matt Holmes (Madison Genesis) and Gabriel Cullaigh (Teams Wiggins Le Col) representing two teams that will fold at the end of the season, rode off the front as soon as the start flag dropped, but with nobody in pursuit.
After 12km Emil Vinjebo (Riwal Readynez) dashed across a two minute gap to make a three-man breakaway. With Townsend’s lead over Dylan van Baarle (Team Ineos) just three points, he would no doubt have been relieved to see these riders disappear into the distance and claim all the points at the Eisberg Sprint contests at Hazel Grove and Uppermill.
The inevitable attack by a World Tour team took place on the uncategorised climb at Norden after 87km where the whole Ineos team got on the front and ‘put the hammer down’.
The cross-winds on the exposed false flat at the top broke the field into at least three large echelons with no Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes riders present in the leading group of 45 riders.
Ineos drove onwards up Ramsbottom Rake ensuring key sprinters such already three-times stage winner in this tour, Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) would not see the front of the race again. The threat to Townsend was that van Baarle would take advantage of this situation and take the final Eisberg Sprint at Horwich.
However, the GC battle was in full flow and Andrey Amador (Movistar) broke away and took the final sprint meaning that Townsend could no longer be caught in the Eisberg Sprints competition and would take the red jersey for the overall race.
In the reduced bunch finishing sprint Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus) took his third stage win of the tour and the GC leaders green jersey along with it. Cees Bol (Team Subweb) was second and Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott) third.
All the Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes riders finished in the second large finishing group 6 minutes and 17 seconds down with Matt Bostock in 48th place, Alex Colman 49th, Townsend 54th, Ryan Christensen 62nd, Tom Stewart 77th and Andy Tennant 102nd. Christensen was the best placed team rider on GC in 40th place (at 13 min 3 sec).
In a post-race interview with the organisers, a delighted Townsend reflected…
“To take the jersey in what is effectively the biggest race of the season for our team is fantastic.
It’s something we’ve prepared for all year and the fact that it’s supported by Eisberg, as our team have been for the last couple of years, is a nice touch as well.”
On clinching the jersey win…
“Pure relief. It was really nice. We still had other things on our mind to some extent today as the gap [to nearest challenger Team INEOS’ Dylan van Baarle] wasn’t huge. I was very happy with how the stage started today – three guys up the road who weren’t in contention.
Obviously hindsight is a great thing but looking back I would have tried to lock the jersey down a bit earlier!”
On the importance of the race…
“It’s really important for all the domestic teams. Obviously this is a race with huge talent, with massive world attractions in terms of people watching, and the big teams are here as well.
They take it very seriously so for us as domestic teams it can be really difficult for us to get stuff out of the race.
But coming here with a distinct target – going for a jersey and getting up there in breakaways – gave us a realistic goal.”
Full results can be found here.
Written by Paul and Marina Stedman.
Photo credits – SWpix.com