Weather conditions and tough climbs combined to radically shape the general classification in the Tour de Yorkshire.  James Fouche of Team Wiggins Le Col was once again in the breakaway action in stage 2, before teammate Robert Scott took over the KOM lead in stage 3 as Chris Lawless took over the overall lead in Scarborough.

Stage 2 of the Tour de Yorkshire took in 132km of racing from Barnsley to Bedale.  The stage, like the opener, contained just the one categorised climb almost exactly halfway into the stage.  The break of the day to go clear featured four riders in the shape of Canyon DHB p/b Bloor Homes’ Tom Stewart, Chris McGlinchey of Vitus Pro Cycling, Fabien Grellier of Total Direct Energie and Jake Scott of Swiftcarbon Pro Cycling.  

They had a lead of 1.19mins with 12km covered, but then 7km later James Fouche and Rob Scott of Team Wiggins Le Col attacked from the peloton to try and get across.  It was a big ask, but the two were committed to bridging the minute lead and with 104km to go the catch from the two chasers had been made.  Team Ineos and Dimension Data led the peloton but they’d really taken their foot off the gas to allow the break to build a lead of just shy of 3 minutes by the 100km to go mark.

That would be the maximum advantage the peloton would allow the break, as the pack brought their lead back to a very manageable 1.20-1.30mins in spite of the break’s good work together.  With the Cote de Lindley approaching James Fouche attacked the breakaway to try and guarantee himself maximum points having not scored the previous day despite being in the break.  The climb itself was just 1.5km in length but averaged 7.4% gradient.  

The New Zealand national champion, resplendent in his white kit with black fern, hit the climb alone and had a lead of 18 seconds over the rest of the break.  With the roads hitting gradients of 16% in places the climb was certainly putting the hurt on but Fouche continued alone as behind him the break fragmented.  Fouche took maximum points and immediately sat up, reaching the summit and now finding himself level on points with Jacob Hennessy who won yesterday’s climb.

Having reunited, the breakaway continued working together as Team Ineos and Dimension Data, with support from Cofidis and Vital Concept-B&B Hotels reeled them back in to within just 50 seconds with 47km to go.  Mark Cavendish was among the riders on the front of the peloton interestingly enough, hinting that maybe he wouldn’t be the team’s sprinter at the end of the day.  The gap remained at around the minute mark until finally group were hauled back in.  At 20km to go the gap was 25 seconds but the peloton had the break within their sights, and with 16km to go Tom Stewart and Chris McGlinchey attacked the rest of the move to be the last men standing.

Rick Zabel celebrates victory in stage 2 of the Tour de Yorkshire, photo SWPix.com

Their move would find a little more support from within the peloton.  As the race went under 9km to go and the two leaders were within 10 seconds of the peloton, two more riders made their way across the gap; although this time with Katusha-Alpecin on the front of the race – and so too Roompot-Charles – it looked as though there was a little more control of matters.  

Everything was back together with 4km to go and as the rain came down the sprinters wound up for the finish.  Hagens-Berman had the lead of the peloton but then with 3km to go Team Ineos surged forward, with Dimension Data lining up a train to support Mark Cavendish with Bernard Eisel and Mark Renshaw leading him out.  2km from the finish CCC Team surged forward with Greg Van Avermaet, but with 1.3km it was Dimension Data in control and looking good for the stage win but then suddenly in the closing metres Cav found himself out of position as Katusha-Alpecin’s Rick Zabel launched from about 10 wheels back to go clear of the peloton and take the stage two bike lengths clear of Roompot-Charles’ Boy van Poppel and Team Ineos’ Chris Lawless.

Crosswinds bite as GC takes shape in stage 3

Stage 3 from Bridlington to Scarborough was a looping race that took in 132km despite the two towns being just 27.5km apart.  The stage featured the most climbs of the race so far, with five climbs to contend with before the finish.  It was also considered a day that could radically shape the general classification.

The day got underway in appalling conditions but that quickly turned to sun as the first attacks went up the road.  There was no shortage of riders prepared to go for the breakaway but it would take almost 20km for the break to finally be given the all clear.  It was a decent sized move, with Jenthe Biermans of Katusha-Alpecin, Michael Cuming of Madison Genesis, Romain Sicard of Total Direct Energie, Robin Carpenter of Rally UHC Cycling, Kevin Reza of Vital Concept-B&B Hotels, Robert Scott of Team Wiggins Le Col, Maikel Zijlaard of Hagens Berman Axeon, John Archibald of Ribble Pro Cycling and William Tidball of Great Britain in the move.

The break were allowed a lead that crept up to just shy of 2 minutes inside the first 30km before stabilising at 1.30mins as the first of the climbs approached.  While in stage 2 it had been James Fouche taking maximum points, this time it was his teammate Robert Scott notching up the points and taking first place over the first of the day’s climbs, the Cote de Silpho.  Over the course of the day he would tally up a total of 12 points to take the lead in the KOM classification.

Behind him CCC Team and Katusha-Alpecin were the big players in the front of the peloton, keeping the gap at a maintainable distance.  The break’s lead went below 1 minute for the first time with 65km to go, but the conditions threatened to bring the race back together very early with the coastal roads battering the riders with a strong crosswind.

Having brought the break back to within 30 seconds the gap was allowed to increase again to a minute before a big selection in the peloton took place as the bunch split and caught the break with 51km remaining.  The conditions and climbs combined to make for a very broken up final 50km.  The front group were a little more than 20 riders strong and contained the likes of Greg Van Avermaet of CCC Team, Chris Froome and Chris Lawless of Team Ineos, Tom Jelte-Slagter of Dimension Data and more.  Their group quickly built a 30 second lead over the second group on the road containing James Fouche as the crosswinds really hit hard.

The narrow roads, combined with the slick conditions made for very tricky racing and Jesper Asselman of Roompot-Charles – the overnight race leader – did really well to stay upright as he was very nearly upended on one of the narrow bends.  At the front of the group, though, Team Ineos looked in control with Lawless, Froome, Eddie Dunbar, Owain Doull and Michal Golas all in the move.  CCC Team were also well represented with Van Avermaet, Nathan Van Hooydonck and Michael Schär all represented, and together with Riwal Readynez Cycling Team the three teams were primarily in control of the move that was gaining ground at a rate of knots.

The peloton – led by Team Ineos – make their way through the Tour de Yorkshire’s beautiful countryside, photo SWPix.com

With 10km to go the leading group was well clear of the next selection of chasers, and no one was able to gap the move either, with the group looking content to wait for the finishing sprint.  With 2km to go it was CCC Team in control at the front of the race with Team Ineos perfectly positioned to strike.  With 1km to go it looked like the group slowed significantly as CCC Team and Riwal Readynez Cycling Team held their ground at the front of the race as they raced along the coast in the run in to the finale.

Ineos led the sprint out with a powerful finishing kick to lead out Lawless but Greg Van Avermaet came around him and looked to have the beating of him until Alexander Kamp passed Lawless and claimed the win for Riwal Readynez.  The result changed the general classification significantly with Chris Lawless now leading Alexander Kamp with Van Avermaet third overall and Andreas Stokbro of Riwal Readynez in fourth place ahead of Vitus Pro Cycling’s Scott Thwaites.

James Fouche of Wiggins Le Col crossed the line in the big group containing the blue jersey of former race leader Jesper Asselman who surrendered his lead in the brutal conditions.

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