Rory Townsend dug deep to take on the longest stage of the 2017 OVO Energy Tour of Britain from the very front.
The 22-year-old, from Addlestone in Surrey, spent almost 190km at the head of affairs as he starred in a seven-man breakaway.
The 211.7km race from Kielder Water & Forest Park to Blyth came back together in the end, with Edvald Boasson Hagen sprinting across the line first for Dimension Data.
However, the two-time champion was later relegated for impeding his rivals as he veered left in the bunch kick, with Team Sky’s Elia Viviani handed the win and the leader’s jersey.
Dylan Groenewegen, of Lotto NL Jumbo, was second and Quick-Step Floors star Fernando Gaviria third as the World Tour outfits once again flexed their muscles.
Jacob Scott, in the break again for An Post Chain Reaction, took the Skoda king of the mountains jersey, while ONE Pro Cycling’s Karol Domagalski retained his lead in the Eisberg sprints competition.
But like Rob Partridge‘s effort on stage one, Townsend’s aggressive ride up the road once again underlined BIKE Channel Canyon‘s determination to light up their debut Tour of Britain.
In front of huge crowds on the roadside and millions watching the footage live on ITV, the team are refusing to be overawed by their World Tour rivals.
James Lowsley-Williams (33), Harry Tanfield (46), Dexter Gardias (75) and Partridge (99) all finished in the main bunch on stage two, with Townsend and Chris Opie home 1min 17sec later. Gardias is at 14sec in the overall.
Just 5km into the action, Townsend had joined another six riders in driving clear of the peloton to establish the day’s breakaway.
Scott, Graham Briggs, of JLT Condor, and king of the mountains leader Lukasz Owsian, from CCC, were all involved for the second successive stage.
And the group was completed by Matt Holmes, from Madison Genesis, ONE Pro Cycling’s Kamil Gradek and Swiss national champion Silvan Dillier, who rides for World Tour outfit BMC.
Gradek and Dillier began the stage just 10 seconds adrift of leader Caleb Ewan and, with only three category two climbs ahead, it was unlikely the group would stay clear.
However, they quickly got down to business and had opened up an advantage of more than four minutes after just 18km of racing.
The first of six intermediate scraps on the day was the climb of Winter’s Gibbet, where Scott just pipped a gutsy Townsend to the summit. Owsian was third.
Briggs sprinted to the crest of the next two king of the mountains tests, timing his effort perfectly to beat Scott at both Cragside and Corby’s Crags.
But the An Post rider had done enough to join Owsian at the head of the standings and wrest the jersey from the Pole on countback.
After the peloton rolled over the top of Corby’s Crags, the World Tour powerhouses of Orica-Scott, Dimension Data and Team Sky began to assert their authority.
They quickly pulled the break back within three minutes only for a train crossing to halt their progress and see the advantage swell to 4.50 again.
The riders had turned on to the coast now and began heading south towards the first Eisberg intermediate sprint of the day at Seahorses after 118.8km.
With bonus seconds on offer, the kick was well contested. Gradek won it as he attempted to keep the jersey in the ONE Pro ranks after Domagalski took it on stage one.
Townsend got stuck in again but as the riders weaved from right to left, Dillier and Briggs came round to take second and third respectively.
The same trio contested the sprint in Warkworth but this time the BMC rider, who won stage six of this season’s Giro d’Italia, took it ahead of Gradek.
By now, though, the writing was on the wall for the escapees, with the peloton rapidly closing to within two minutes of their bait.
The day’s final Eisberg sprint came at Seaton Sluice just inside the final 15km but by then all but Holmes had been swept up by the marauding pack.
The Madison man remained clear to take the points, ahead of former Tour of Britain champion Lars Boom, of Lotto NL Jumbo, and the gallant Briggs.
Then it was eyes down for the bunch kick in Blyth, with Boasson Hagen going one better than stage one and clinching victory only to be relegated for impeding his rivals, in particular Viviani.
Cannondale-Drapac’s Taylor Phinney was later disqualified from the remainder of the race after riding through the train crossing when it was not permitted to do so under race rules.
Click here to see the full result of stage two, the general classification standings and the latest rankings in the sprints and king of the mountains competitions.
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