Chris Lawless of Team Ineos has won the Tour de Yorkshire. The 23 year old finished second in the final stage to Greg Van Avermaet of CCC Team but did enough to secure the win with teammate Eddie Dunbar in third place overall.
The final stage of the Tour de Yorkshire was a 175km trek from Halifax to Leeds that promised a challenge from start to finish. Five climbs featured en route to the finish and although the race went uphill from virtually the drop of the flag, it wasn’t until 21.5km into the race that the first climb featured. A number of attacks came and went over the roads that were packed full of spectators, with James Fouche of Wiggins Le Col looking like he was playing more of a policing role on the front of the race to try and defend the king of the mountains lead of teammate Robert Scott. Fouche himself began the day 4th in the KOM standings, but there were plenty of points on offer that could see the KOM classification change hands again.
A breakaway group of nine riders broke clear with Madison Genesis represented by Connor Swift and Jonathan McEvoy, Cofidis’ Victor Lafay and Vital Concept-B&B Hotels’ Pierre Rolland and Arnaud Courteille in the move. Team Ineos took control of the front of the bunch and allowed the break to quickly establish a lead of over 2 minutes as the field took on the notoriously steep climbs that have been known to be used in national hill climb events in the UK.
As the day unfolded the break’s lead touched the 3 minute margin but never really grew beyond that as Team Ineos asserted control over the race behind them. With 110km to go the gap was at 2.10mins as the peloton tackled sections of climbs that hit 30% gradient. That gap grew out to 3 minutes with 100km to go but from there the peloton kept a quite watchful eye on the deficit, bringing the gap back to 1.15mins at one point before letting it out again.
It was never all going to be a Team Ineos show, with the time gaps at the top of the GC standings meaning that the likes of Van Avermaet and CCC Team, Alexander Kamp and Riwal Readynez were always likely to attack the race to put them under pressure. True to form it was the latter who put the hammer down with 50km to go, breaking the peloton up and putting Ineos under pressure. Up the road just three riders remained at the front of the race by the top of Greenhow Hill, with just one climb remaining; with Courteille taking the points necessary to take over the lead in the KOM classification. Courteille and co reached 47km to go with an advantage of 1 minute but the peloton were reluctant to catch them, allowing their lead to grow back to 1.20mins.
Cofidis joined the chase effort at the front of the peloton and finally it began to look like the break’s time out in front was finally at an end. With 21km to go and the break’s lead down to 40 seconds Chris Froome of Team Ineos made a big move that drew out a small group of riders including teammate Eddie Dunbar who then countered the move, joining the remainders of the breakaway out in front while the CCC Team launched a big chase effort to hold on to Greg Van Avermaet’s position on the podium.
Dunbar picked up the bonus seconds at the final intermediate sprint and with 13km to go had a 25 second advantage over the peloton. While Dunbar dropped the rest of his breakaway companions, with about 5.5km remaining Greg Van Avermaet attacked, taking with him Chris Lawless the race leader. The duo caught Dunbar with 5.2km to go, meanwhile a group behind them – consisting of Tom-Jelte Slagter of Dimension Data, Alexander Kamp of Riwal Readynez, James Shaw of SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling and Matthew Holmes of Madison Genesis – found themselves engaged in a furious pursuit that went all the way to the line.
Ultimately though, the race would be all about the three leaders, who managed to withstand the chase group and contest the stage in a sprint. Van Avermaet made light work of the sprint, launching from 200m out to take the stage ahead of Lawless and Dunbar while Slagter took 4th place 9 seconds back.
James Fouche crossed the line 37th on the stage and 35th overall as Chris Lawless secured the overall crown ahead of Van Avermaet and Ineos teammate Dunbar with Kamp fourth and Shaw fifth.