Great Britain’s Matt Gibson slipped from first to seventh place on general classification on the gruelling 101.8-kilometre queen stage of the UCI Nations’ Cup Juniors Course de la Paix in Czech Republic.
Surrounded by pure climbers, the 17-year-old track-focussed athlete put in a gutsy performance on the stage from Teplice to Zinnwald, limiting his losses and ending the day 35 seconds behind current leader Rayane Bouhanni of France.
Gibson began the day in yellow following a classy performance in the individual time-trial in the morning of the previous day, defending the jersey on the following 63-kilometre road stage in the afternoon.
However, misfortune struck on the first ascent of the 900-metre Komárí Vížka ski station climb on the German/Czech border. Gibson suffered a front wheel puncture five-kilometres from the foot of the hill and had to work hard to get back in touch, expending valuable energy that he would need on the second lap.
Gibson, polka-dot jersey holder James Shaw and Joe Evans were in the 50-strong group of riders that crested the mountain first time around and began the long descent.
Second time around and three kilometres from the foot of the climb, the stage-defining break went away containing Rayane Bouhanni, Tour of Istria winner Aurelie Paret Paintre (FRA), Magnus Klaris (DEN) and Trofeo Karlsberg mountain winner Lucas Eriksson (SWE).
The quartet stayed away until the finish, with Eriksson taking stage victory and Bouhanni taking yellow.
Gibson put in an heroic effort to try to bridge to a ten-strong group of riders pursuing the leading four but the day’s efforts had taken their toll on him and the team, Gibson finishing one minute and two seconds behind the leader, leaving him 35 seconds adrift on general classification.
James Shaw was also forced to relinquish the polka dot jersey that he’d won on Thursday’s stage one.
Despite the result, Great Britain Olympic Development Programme coach Matt Winston was proud of the effort that Gibson and the squad put in on a stage that he described as ‘the toughest junior bike race in the world.’
"If Matt hadn't been in the yellow jersey and done that ride today we would have been saying that was a really good ride,” said Winston. “From a rider with a track pedigree who's a good time trialler, to be in that position and finish there...
"The fact he had the yellow jersey on his back and lost it, the lads were gutted. But that's still a really good ride today. Matt did the yellow jersey proud. He should be proud of what he did and he tried really hard.
Course de la Paix Juniors concludes on Sunday 11 May with stage four, another hilly stage starting and finishing in Terezin, with three climbs punctuating its 99.8-kilometres. Winston is however confident that his six-man squad can round-off what has been an impressive team performance.
"Matt's in seventh, tied with a Norwegian rider but he's only one second behind the Italian and only six seconds off being in the top five on general classification,” said Winston, “So there's still stuff to play for there and we'll just see how tomorrow pans out.
"We lost the polka-dot jersey today as well but we'll try and get that back tomorrow and see what we can do there."