Jesper Asselman came to the rescue for his Roompot-Charles team with a win on stage 1 of the Tour de Yorkshire. The Dutch rider was part of the early breakaway and held off the chasing bunch by just a few metres to take his team's first win of the 2019 season.
In wet condition, Asselman and his remaining breakaway companions; Kevin Vermaerke (Hagens Berman Axeon), Daniel Bigham (Ribble Pro Cycling), and Joseph Nally (Great Britain National Team) never managed to build a secure lead but on the road from Doncaster to Selby they held firm and in scenes reminiscent of last year's opening stage of the Tour de Yorkshire Asselman narrowly survived after jumping clear of the break just as the bunch had them in reach.
Filippo Fortin (Cofidis) led the bunch home in second place but it's Asselman who will lead the Tour de Yorkshire on stage 2. For Asselman the win ended a difficult chapter in his career after a serious injury sustained last spring.
"Last year a really tough year, I broke my ankle and I was almost the whole year off the bike. In the spring, with the classics I already felt I was really strong but I didn't feel like it was going my way, and I was a little frustrated. That this happened now - I still can't believe it. It's really awesome to start the second part of the season like this," the 29-year-old said at the finish.
The relief was clear to see at the finish with Roompot riders celebrating after a difficult start the season. This result was only their second trip the podium this season after a third place in the Circuit Cycliste Sarthe earlier in the year. The team's off-season was marred in controversy and doubt after a merger between Veranda's Willems-Crelan and Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij, and the subsequent loss of start rider Wout van Aert to Jumbo Visma.
"I thought we were going to get caught [earlier] because the advantage went down really fast in the last 15 to 20km," Asselman said. "When we went underneath the flamme rouge I knew we had a little chance, but I knew I had to stay calm and wait for the right moment. It was a little bit of a gamble, but I went through a small gap on the inside and just went full gas. I looked under my elbow and saw it was going to happen.
"I think it's always an advantage to ride in front in these type of conditions," Asselman said. "It was so cold. I tried to put on an extra jacket and I couldn't do it, I couldn't close the zipper. I'm still shivering like crazy."
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