The OVO Energy Tour of Britain lead has changed hands again on the summit finish of Whinlatter Pass; as Wout Poels of Team Sky took the stage honours. Julian Alaphilippe finished second to take the overall lead with Patrick Bevin 5th on the stage to remain 4th overall.
Whinlatter Pass featured for the second time in two days as the finish line of stage 6 of the OVO Energy Tour of Britain. In fact the would feature twice, with the climb also coming at the 90km point in the stage before the drag to the finish. The day saw a strong group of four riders go up the road with Tony Martin of Katusha-Alpecin, Vasil Kiryienka of Team Sky, Connor Swift of Madison Genesis and James Shaw of Lotto Soudal getting in the breakaway.
Their move went over the 3 minute mark and at 75km to go at the summit of the first climb of Whinlatter Pass the gap was still at 3 minutes, while Matthew Holmes of Madison Genesis was in limbo between them; looking to contest the points for the KOM classification. LottoNL-Jumbo and Quick-Step Floors had traded the lead at the front of the peloton well, with BMC Racing also close to the front of the race.
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For Matthew Holmes his day in between the break and bunch was a lonely exercise as he never made serious inroads on the bunch. However, Holmes did succeed in notching up a few points at the next climb of Fangs Brow before being reeled in by the peloton. At 54km there was just an intermediate sprint and then the climb to the line to come. The time gap had dropped a little to 2.40mins and it remained Quick-Step Floors and LottoNL-Jumbo setting the pace.
As the race reached 40km the gap came down further to 1.27mins and the blue points leader’s jersey of Patrick Bevin could be seen sitting in the first 20 riders in the peloton. As the riders neared the intermediate sprint with just under 30km to go the weather started to make a turn for the worst. Swift took maximum points at the sprint with the breakaway still working very effectively together.
20km from the finish the time gap was approaching 115mins, and with 15km to go the lead for the quartet was just 1.05mins. The climb of Whinlatter Pass itself was 3.2km in length and averaged 7% gradient. In the run in to the climb BMC Racing marshalled their troops on the front of the race, so too EF Education First-Drapac and the Great Britain National Team in what was proving a very intense prelude to the final climb.
The power from the peloton meant that the break’s advantage dropped to just 13 seconds at the bottom of the climb. Finally Connor Swift attacked one last time and was countered by James Shaw who was the last man standing as Bob Jungels and Julian Alaphilippe led the catch to him. Bevin began the climb about 8th-9th wheel, but the power of the Quick-Step Floors duo began to open up a gap with Jasha Sutterlin of Movistar making it across to the group and so too Primoz Roglic in the race leader’s jersey.
Dion Smith was riding strongly in the leading group, but Patrick Bevin was just stuck in the second group on the road a couple of seconds back. But then Julian Alaphilippe attacked with 2.1km to go and only Roglic and Hugh Carthy of EF Education First-Drapac could match him. The three riders looked like they might have the stage wrapped up between them as the gap was opening to the rest of the contenders; including Dion Smith and Patrick Bevin.
But suddenly Wout Poels attacked to bridge the gap as Julian Alaphilippe attacked and saw Primoz Roglic crack completely. Carthy dug deep to remain with the Frenchman as Poels steadily bridged the gap and made the catch to the front with 1km remaining. Alaphilippe was prepared to work hard as he knew the race lead was a possibility; and Poels duly capitalised, sitting on the back of the trio right up to the final steep climb to the line.
Poels’ attack dropped Carthy and finally saw Alaphilippe crack too, as the Dutchman came through to take the stage 2 seconds clear of Alaphilippe with Carthy third. Jonathan Hivert of Direct Energie and Patrick Bevin of BMC Racing led the next group home which contained Dion Smith.
The result means that overall Alaphilippe is now the race leader by 17 seconds from Wout Poels, with Primoz Roglic third at 33 seconds after losing significant time in the end. Bevin remains 4th at 46 seconds and in the lead of the points classification by 10 points from Alaphilippe.