Jesper Asselman of Roompot-Charles has won stage 1 of the Tour de Yorkshire. The Dutch rider took the win ahead of Cofidis’ Filippo Fortin and Vital Concept-B&B Hotels’ Jonas Van Genechten.
The four-day Tour de Yorkshire – now in its fifth edition – got underway in bleak conditions from Doncaster heading 182.5km to Selby. The roads were flat aside from a short categorised climb up Baggaby Hill and the day was primed for the sprinters. National road race champion James Fouche was the solo Kiwi in attendance for Team Wiggins Le Col.
Racing got underway in very hasty fashion with a number of riders wanting to make the first break of the race. Eventually seven riders went clear with Sean Flynn and Joseph Nally of Team GB, Daniel Bigham of Ribble Pro Cycling, Jacob Hennessy of Canyon DHB p/b Bloor Homes, Kevin Vermaeke of Hagens Berman Axeon, Jesper Asselman of Roompot-Charles and James Fouche. The New Zealander made the move and with his six companions succeeded in building a lead of just shy of 2 minutes.
Fouche’s involvement in the breakaway would last until around Baggaby Hill with 48km to go. As the breakaway made good their advantage in the meantime, Dimension Data and Team Ineos were the principle leaders on the front of the field as they battled the roads and the conditions which had already claimed its first crash victims. With 116km to go the break’s lead just tipped over the 2 minute mark as Team Ineos continued to lead the bunch with support from Dimension Data.
The climb of Baggaby Hill saw Bigham dig deep but go a little too early for the points. He was countered by Hennessy who took the points as the breakaway fragmented, with the new KOM leader drifting back to the bunch with Flynn and Fouche. Four riders were left out in front then and with 40km to go their lead was at 2.21mins.
Impressively the break’s lead continued to hold at a sizeable advantage, with 2.39mins in hand at 30km to go. At 20km to go the lead was down to just over 1.30mins but the quartet were working splendidly together and despite their lead dropping to a minute with 14km to go they continued to soldier onward. Behind them Ineos, Dimension Data and CCC Team were all in amongst the chasers trying to bring the race back.
With 7.5km to go the break’s lead was down to just 30 seconds and it was clear that the race was going to be very close. Ineos, who’d been constant at the front all along, continued to set the tempo, but the break smelled an opportunity as they kept their 30 second lead through 5km and 3km to go. With 2km to go the gap was down to 20 seconds as Katusha-Alpecin took over on the front.
It was beginning to look like it might be too late though for the bunch as the break continued to work. Bigham led through 1km to go and they began to look around at one another although they couldn’t afford to mess around with the peloton beginning to gallop. Asselman led the sprint from a long way out as behind him the rest of the breakaway were swept up, but the Dutchman was able to hold on and win ahead of Fortin and van Genechten; in spite of picking up a spectator’s flag on the run in.
On a day dominated Continental and ProContinental riders Mark Cavendish was the first World Tour rider across the line in 8th. James Fouche crossed the line in 71st place at the same time as the bunch.