For the second day in succession, history was made in the Tour de Yorkshire.
Yesterday, Harry Tanfield became the first Yorkshireman to win a stage and today Magnus Cort Nielsen of Astana Pro Team powered his way to victory at the first ever summit finish of the Tour de Yorkshire and once again the Yorkshire crowds came out in their thousands to cheer on the riders.
600,000 spectators lined the route of a tough, yet stunning, stage today that saw the both the mens’ and womens’ teams ride from Barnsley to Ilkley and conclude with an iconic climb finishing on the famous Cow and Calf summit.
It looked to be a battle of the Belgians late on in the race as stage, and General Classification favourites, Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) and Serge Pauwels (Dimension Data) gave their all to take the victory. However, it was the Danish sprinter, Magnus Cort Nielsen (Astana Pro Team) who showed a swift turn of speed to take the win; and the overall General Classification lead.
Still raw from the shock of yesterday’s surprise result, the peloton seemed cagey early on and the pace was quick coming out of Barnsley with a break struggling to form. Six riders did get away from the pack just before the opening categorised climb in the form of Ben Swift (Great Britain National Team), Ian Stannard (Team Sky), Patrick Bevin (BMC), Hayden McCromick (One Pro Cycling), Laurens De Vreese (Astana) and Johannes Fröhlinger (Team Sunweb).
This group had talent, and Swift and Stannard worked very hard at the front but the peloton kept them on a tight leash, not allowing too much of a gap to build. This pace also managed to split the peloton itself and left a few riders off the pace at the back early on.
The Cote de Blacker Hill climb was won by De Vreese with Stannard and Bevin taking the minor honours. The sprint gave Yorkshire another victory as Ben Swift, riding in national colours rather than the team of UAE rode his way to maximum points ahead of Bevin and Irizar Laskurain.
Another break managed to form and this time, it was the team of Tom Baylis (One Pro Cycling), Garikoitz Bravo (Euskadi Basque Country-Murias), Tobyn Horton (Madison Genesis) and Stephane Rossetto (Cofidis).
This break stayed away into the second and final sprint of the day in Scholes where Baylis, who was wearing the Dimension Data Digital Jersey (in place of then GC leader Harry Tanfield) took maximum points with Horton close behind and Oiarbide in third. The jersey would be his on merit today as he impressed the masses once again with a great day of riding.
Rossetto did manage to drop the other riders and take a solo, 55-second lead but this was short lived as the riders started to ascend the Cote de Old Pool Bank. BMC made their move next to keep Olympic Champion Van Avermaet in position to strike late on but it was British rider Jacob Scott (One Pro Cycling) who made the first move in this highly strung game of chess and led the race around 2km on the final climb, the Cote de Cow and Calf.
Defending Champion Serge Pauwels tried to surge past his compatriot Van Avermaet but it was the speed of Cort Nielsen that ultimately won the stage after a somewhat agonising final climb. Van Avermaet took second, Eduard Reverter Prades in third and Pauwels in fourth and that is how the GC picture looks going into stage three tomorrow.
Cort Nielsen said: “The team rode for me all day, they supported me with everything and I’m so happy for the boys and the win and I have to thank the team for being there for me. I was looking at him [Van Avermaet] and at around 500m I started to believe in it and I knew I would be quick when I could see the finish line, so I was just hoping for no big attacks so I could just get myself inside.”
Does the Danish rider think he can take the 2018 Tour de Yorkshire title now?
“Yeah, for sure. We will try everything and I believe I can win here, it’s possible. But there is still a long way to go.”
Stage three takes place tomorrow starting in Richmond and finishing in Scarborough.
Yorkshire Bank Bike Libraries General Classification Jersey: Magnus Cort Nielsen
Asda Points Jersey: Harry Tanfield
Virgin Trains King of the Mountains Jersey: Michael Cuming
Dimension Data Digital Jersey (Most Active Rider): Thomas Baylis