The riders’ faces as they finished said everything about the difficulty of the final stage of the Tour de Yorkshire. Even coated in Yorkshire muck and grit, the fatigue of every rider was obvious. The stage’s stats backed up this impression. Almost a third of the field, 42 riders, abandoned, while more than 60 rolled in 10 minutes and more behind stage and race winner Thomas Voeckler.
Team Sky’s Luke Rowe said before the stage that the British team’s plan was to make the racing as tough as possible in order to shake out their rivals. In the end, they achieved exactly that, but were ultimately undone by Voeckler, the last man standing in the face of constant Sky harrying over the final 70 kilometres.
“Our plan was to do more or less what we did,” said Nicolas Roche, moments after being outsprinted by Voeckler in Scarborough. “The guys were really, really good. This morning everyone had a proper role for the stage and we all committed fully to what we had to do. My plan was to attack on the last climb, which I did, but when it comes to the cat and mouse game Voeckler is number one.”
As Roche dashed away to get a flight back to mainland Europe, a grime-encrusted Rowe described exactly how tough it had been. “Everyone knew the GC was all about today and also that there were only 15 guys who could realistically win, or perhaps only 10. It was always going to be pretty select,” said the Welshman.
“The previous days were just about keeping Lars and Nico on the same time [as the other contenders] and getting Danny [van Poppel] up for some sprints, he explained. “Today it was just a case of race hard, race aggressive.
“It’s hard to plan for what’s going to happen on a day like that. You just have to race your bike on roads like that and sniff out the right moves. You can’t stick to a specific plan. You just race hard and see what you can do.”
Rowe said the stage had gone the way pretty much everyone had expected, and was just as tough as most of the riders had imagined as well. “I think the UK is pretty much the hardest place in the world to race. You look at a day like that and it was brutal all day. I think we all expected there to be a small group at the finish and bodies absolutely everywhere, and that’s exactly what happened,” said Sky’s Classics specialists, who knows all about the most extreme racing conditions.
“If you race in France in the Alps, you’ve got the climbs. If you race in Holland, you’ve got the cross-winds. But here you’ve got everything. You’ve seen it split in the cross-winds, you’ve seen it split on the climbs. It’s just relentless. There’s no easy kilometres over here. Add all that together and you have a tough 200k day. There were bodies everywhere,” he added.
Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).
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