Edvald Boasson Hagen has won the eighth and final stage of the OVO Energy Tour of Britain. The Norwegian won the stage ahead of Ariel Richeze and Alexander Kristoff and leapt to second overall as Lars Boom of LottoNL-Jumbo wrapped up the overall title.
The final stage of this year’s OVO Energy Tour of Britain took the riders into Wales as the 180.2km started in Worcester and finished in Cardiff. After the stage rolled its way through the first 130km or so with two category 2 climbs the road proceeded to flatten right out; with the final kilometres being slightly lumpy.
Interestingly, despite the largely flat stage there was plenty of aggression shown by the riders, with a number of attacks. Bonus seconds were highly coveted over the course of the day, with Edvald Boasson Hagen, Michal Kwiatkowski, Stefan Kung and Lars Boom all on the hunt for time. A breakaway didn’t really succeed in gaining serious momentum, but that was because the peloton was so dynamic. In fact if a breakaway did go clear it was a breakaway of 38 riders as the peloton split, with the likes of Caleb Ewan of Orica-SCOTT missing out on the split. Also missing out on the front of the race were Taylor Gunman of Madison Genesis, Hayden McCormick of ONE Pro Cycling and Regan Gough of An Post-Chain Reaction, who were part of a massive group of some 40 riders who would trail behind a rampant leading group.
In the leading group, however, were both James Oram of ONE Pro Cycling and Dion Smith of Wanty-Groupe Gobert. They proceeded to hang on in the group which were being dragged along by Tiago Machado of Katusha-Alpecin, with the group a full 7.34mins ahead of the second group with 90km remaining and showing no signs of letting up.
At the first and second intermediate sprints it was Edvald Boasson Hagen who took the points; but crucially Lars Boom scored in the first of the sprints; keeping his overall lead safe with just the finish and final intermediate sprint to come. For much of the stage it was the combined efforts of Katusha-Alpecin, Quick-Step Floors and Team Sky that dragged the field along a very wet stage towards Cardiff.
After the final climb of the Tour Gorka Izagirre of Movistar escaped and began to establish a lead on the front of the race. He was eventually joined with 44km to go by An Post-Chain Reaction’s Mark Stewart, with the pair enjoying a 10 second advantage which gradually stretched out to 30 seconds with 35km to go. But that would be the upper end of the freedom the peloton would allow and with Tao Geoghegan Hart of Team Sky and Tiago Machado taking lead roles on the front of the peloton the break’s days were numbered. The break’s lead would peak at 32 seconds and from there decline steadily.
To their credit though both Izagirre and Stewart were resilient on the front, making the peloton work to catch them. With 12km to go their advantage had dropped to single digits with Team Sky and Katusha-Alpecin still leading the pack. The green leader’s jersey of Lars Boom could be seen though sitting about 7 riders back, poised and ready to challenge anything that might go up against him in the final kilometres.
Finally with just under 8km to go Izagirre and Stewart were caught, but the intensity didn’t stop; with Stewart putting in another surge of pace and stringing the remnants of the peloton right out. Eventually though things began to look like they were settling down again until the third and final intermediate sprint. Michal Kwiatkowski took first place with Lars Boom again scoring points, but after the sprint Edvald Boasson Hagen began to show signs of his intent to challenge for the stage. The Norwegian launched a series of skirmishes which were initially kept in check by Lars Boom.
Eventually the peloton caught back up with the group that had contested the sprint and Team Sky tried to bring a bit more order to the peloton. Boasson Hagen at this point found himself without a great deal of support but that didn’t seem to faze him as he remained in a good position towards the front of the race. Conor Swift launched an attack with 3.6km to go but was immediately pegged back by Philippe Gilbert o Quick-Step Floors, but then with 3.2km to go Boasson Hagen made his big move and this time found daylight between himself and the peloton.
The Norwegian’s gap was slight but it was there through the technical turns. It was a strong move from Boasson Hagen who’d timed his effort perfectly and had about a 4 second lead with 2km remaining. Behind him the chase effort was struggling to really gain momentum and this played into the hands of the Dimension Data rider who had several metres in hand with 1.5km to go.
Through the final kilometre the Norwegian gritted his teeth as the peloton finally started to close the gap but it looked too little too late as Quick-Step Floors tried to organise something along with Team Sky. But through the final turns Boasson Hagen had about 3 seconds in hand. Ariel Richeze was closing fast, but Boasson Hagen was just about able to hang on and claim the stage. Richeze took second and Alexander Kristoff took yet another top five finish, his seventh of the race, to finish 3rd on the stage.
Dion Smith placed 20th on the stage and James Oram 33rd, with both arriving home with the same time as Boasson Hagen. In the end it meant that Oram would just squeeze inside the top 20, with Dion Smith 27th, as Lars Boom claimed the race overall ahead of Boasson Hagen and BMC Racing’s Stefan Kung.