After the hardest-fought stage of the 2017 Tour of Britain, it was LottoNL-Jumbo who came out on top, and in more ways than one. With Lars Boom coming into the day with a slender eight-second GC lead, it was all hands on deck to keep the green leader’s jersey intact ahead of the race’s final day to Cardiff on Sunday.
The Dutch squad managed that task handily, if not with-out some help from the sprinters’ teams, and also man-aged to grab a stage win in the process. But with the at-tacks starting from 80km out, and featuring the likes of Michal Kwiatkowski and a determined Katusha, the team were fully stretched.
“All the credit is to the guys who worked today and who pulled back that small breakaway [featuring Kwiatkowski among others] with 30km to go,” said Boom after the stage. “Without those guys I’m not in the lead. It’s a great team.”
Primož Roglič and Victor Campanaerts, who lay second in the general classification before the stage, were among those putting in the hard miles on the front of the peloton. However, come the final climb of the day, 9km from the finish, it was Boom who took to chasing down the moves.
“I had to do my job too and I was happy that I could con-trol it on the climb,” he said. “With the small breakaway with Boasson Hagen, it was a little bit critical, but I think I went full on the downhill to keep the gap as close as possible.”
“Then some sprinter’s teams took over and still we won the sprint, so it was a great day.”
And so the team who had tormented Boom and his squad for much of the stage in the end turned saviour, at least in part. Katusha, who had been sending riders on the attack for the previous two hours, came to the front in the final kilometres to work for sprinter Alexander Kristoff.
Happily for LottoNL-Jumbo, the benefits extended their way as the dangerous Boasson Hagen group out front was reeled in well before the finish. In the final metres it was Groenewegen who completed a perfect day for the team, sprinting to his second Tour of Britain stage victory in as many years.
“It was a hard day but the team survived it and could sprint,” Groenewegen said. “Ewan is in great form so it’s really good to beat him.”
Sunday’s main aim is to protect Boom once again. On a largely flat day with few obvious points of attack, this shouldn’t pose too many problems, and the odds are fa-vourable for Boom to win his second Tour of Britain title.
“First we will enjoy today,” said Boom. “But for sure the plan has to be that we will take the overall tomorrow. That is the most important goal for the moment.”
Meanwhile Groenewegen, fresh from his seventh victory of the year, sounded hungry for more. The 24-year-old was already thinking about tomorrow and another poten-tial victory, while there could be more to come as soon as next weekend.
“After the Tour I was a little bit tired but I think the form is good so I think it’s good for tomorrow,” he said. “Then my next race will be Saturday [the Primus Classic], then Paris-Tours and China [Tour of Guangxi] at the end of the year.”
So it was a golden day for the men in gold. They haven’t won the Tour of Britain yet, but after having come through its toughest day unscathed, as well as adding the stage win, they just took a big step closer to taking home the gold-embedded overall trophy.