Rob Partridge kicked off his record-equalling 11th Tour of Britain with a brilliant day up the road in front of the television cameras.
Orica-Scott’s Caleb Ewan clinched stage glory – and the first leader’s jersey – from two-time champion Edvald Boasson Hagen in a stunning sprint finish on the Kelso cobbles.
Meanwhile, Partridge’s fellow escapees Karol Domagalski, of ONE Pro Cycling, and Lukasz Owsian, of CCC, did enough to bag the Eisberg Alcohol Free Wine sprints and Skoda king of the mountains jerseys respectively.
But that did little to take the shine off a stunning ride from Partridge in the face of opposition from the world’s best riders as the 2017 edition of Britain’s biggest stage race roared into action.
All six of the BIKE Channel Canyon team finished safely, with Dexter Gardias inside the front group in 54th. Rory Townsend was next home, 1min 50sec adrift in 74th.
James Lowsley-Williams and Harry Tanfield crossed the line at 6.26, while Chris Opie, who was caught up in an early crash, and Partridge rolled over the line together at 12.43.
The crash, which happened towards the front of the bunch just 16km after the roll out in Edinburgh, helped a group of eight men jump clear and establish the day’s breakaway.
The British UCI Continental teams were well represented, with Partridge flying the flag for BIKE Channel Canyon and earning the team some fantastic exposure on ITV, who are broadcasting every kilometre of this year’s race live.
He was joined by Domagalski, Graham Briggs, of JLT Condor, and Madison Genesis talent Connor Swift.
Fellow Brits Mark McNally, who rides for Wanty Groupe Gobert, and Jacob Scott, of An Post Chain Reaction, were also involved in the move.
And the break, which quickly opened a gap of three minutes, was completed by Gorka Izagirre, from World Tour outfit Movistar, and Owsian.
Unfortunately, Opie had hit the deck and was hampered by a sore right side for the remainder of the opening stage.
That left sports director Elverson to change tack and direct his troops to begin working for Opie’s fellow sprinter Townsend.
Meanwhile, back at the front of the race, McNally clinched the first Eisberg sprint in Gifford, with a brave Partridge pipped to second position on the line.
Swift then soared to the opening Skoda king of the mountains points at Redstone Rigg, ahead of Scott, with Partridge chasing the duo to once again place third.
At this point the break’s advantage was holding steady around 2min 30sec.
Domagalski was earlier sent to the Tarmac, having been clipped by the Madison team car which was in discussion with Swift at the time.
But despite a bloodied elbow, the Pole shrugged off the knock before taking third place in the second intermediate sprint at Coldstream.
Briggs won that one, ahead of McNally, as the race for the opening jerseys of the 2017 Tour of Britain hotted up.
The break’s advantage over the peloton had been trimmed to 1.40 by the time they passed through the finish in Kelso for the first time, with around 80km remaining.
BMC soon took over from Dimension Data at the head of the chase and as the wind got up, they put the hammer down in a bid to split the bunch.
And it worked, with a large number of riders, including members of Team Sky, distanced as echelons formed.
BMC’s efforts saw the breakaway’s advantage eroded within a matter of moments and, with little more than 50km remaining, Partridge and five of his fellow escapees were swept up.
Owsian pressed on, though, and was soon joined by Domagalski in a bid to keep the break going. They remained clear to crest the category two Scott’s View climb together.
And the latter then clinched the final sprint points of the day at Melrose, beating Owsian to ensure he would wear the Eisberg jersey on stage two.
Back down the road and following a regrouping of the main field, Boasson Hagen signalled his intent by pinching the final bonus on offer.
With Domagalski and Owsian swallowed up with 25km remaining, Quick-Step Floors, BMC, Team Sky and Dimension Data took control of the race.
Laurens de Plus led Ben Hermans and Boasson Hagen over the day’s final climb at Dingleton before the attacks started on the descent.
Nothing stuck, though, and while the likes of Mark Cavendish had already been distanced, a large bunch raced into the final 10km under the drive of Sky’s Vasil Kiryenka.
Orica-Scott took control in the last couple of kilometres for Ewan and the move paid off as he held on under pressure from Boasson Hagen, Elia Viviani and Katusha’s Alexander Kristoff.
Fernando Gaviria was sixth, with Brit Chris Lawless, who has just signed for Sky, in seventh ahead of JLT’s Aussie Brenton Jones. Click here to see the full result.
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