Team Sky’s Lars-Petter Nordhaug won the inaugural Tour de Yorkshire on Sunday, finishing in the chasing group as BMC Racing Team’s Ben Hermans took the stage win after an attack with 11 kilometres to go.
Nordhaug took the race lead on stage one, winning the sprint into Scarborough in a tactical masterclass with teammate Philip Deignan and responding superbly after pre-race favourite and team leader Ben Swift fell and abandoned. The Norwegian stayed out of trouble on the second sprint stage before his team controlled the race superbly on the brutal final stage from Wakefield to Leeds.
The 167-kilometre stage took in six categorised climbs amid the innumerable ups and downs that characterise Yorkshire riding.
A seven man breakaway of Lawson Craddock (Giant-Alpecin), Sondre Holst Enger (IAM Cycling), Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (MTN-Qhubeka), Nicholas Edet (Cofidis), Rasmus Quaade (Cult Energy Pro Cycling), James McLaughlin (Madison Genesis) and Britain’s Ian Bibby (NTFO) was allowed to get away early on but with Team Sky riding for the overall behind, the outcome was seldom in doubt.
Bibby took the opening three king of the mountains points at Holmfirth, Scapegoat and Hebden Bridge, threatening to win the jersey overall before rival Edet proved stronger as the race progressed. Bibby however won the combativity jersey for his efforts early in the stage.
As the race wore on the group began to disintegrate with Craddock and Edet going clear, Craddock eventually proving the strongest as the race headed over the curious uphill sprint at Arthington.
Behind, Nordhaug’s general classification challengers Thomas Voeckler and Samuel Sanchez were unable to unfurl Team Sky’s grasp on the race, Sanchez testing the Norwegian over the Arthington sprint to no avail.
With 11 kilometres to go, it was clear that BMC’s best chance of glory was a stage win and time-trial specialist Hermans attacked, quickly catching and passing Craddock and going on to cross the line alone in Leeds’ Roundhay Park.
Behind, Hermans’ teammate Greg Van Avermaet took the bunch sprint with Nordhaug back in sixth, his overall classification win assured.
Madison Genesis' Erick Rowsell was the highest placed Brit overall in eighth. JLT Condor’s Richard Handley was 10th, one minute and 27 seconds down on Nordhaug, with Steve Cummings 11th, three seconds further back.
Great Britain Cycling Team had a superb final day, with Scott Davies hanging on to the elite group throughout to finish in 17th place on the stage and 12th overall.
"I'm over the moon with that result considering how I felt last week with illness,” said the 19-year-old Welshman.
"I didn't want to get my hopes up - I wasn't sure I'd ride and even if I did I didn't really expect much of a result.
"To come away with that I'm really pleased."
Davies’ result came despite pre-race illness, a crash on stage one and a puncture on stage two and today’s final stage.
"This is what you put the work in for,” said Davies. “To let a puncture or a crash ruin it all, it just seems too easy to give up after that.
"All those hard, grim winter rides and track sessions - it all becomes worth it."
Davies went on to praise the dedication of his teammates, particularly Jake Kelly, who paced him back on to the group after Saturday’s puncture.
"It was really selfless for Jake to stop for me yesterday - he put himself in a bad spot after that effort so really grateful for him for that."
Teammate Josh Edmondson was combative in the final throes as the race reached his hometown, the Leeds-born rider attacking on the iconic Cow and Calf and again as the race approached home.
"It was a new race and we had a young team and we came in with a really positive attitude," said Edmondson, who is signed to An Post Chain Reaction but rode as a guest for Great Britain and finished 22nd overall.
"We all got what we wanted out of it and it was a big experience for me and the other guys.
"I'm quite happy with how I went - I'd like to have done a little bit better because it's my home race. I did a bit of an attack today and gave it a little bit but I didn't have the legs in the end."
It was a local treat too for Great Britain’s Oliver Wood, who began the day in his hometown and Gabriel Cullaigh, who passed through his family home of New Mill near Holmfirth early in the stage.
"It's been everything and more," said Cullaigh after finishing 43rd on general classification. "The crowds have just been amazing. The racing's been great and I've just been enjoying every single minute of it.
"I hope to come back next year and the year after, be stronger and hopefully challenge for some stage wins or up there on GC.
"This is my first year senior so I've got a few more years to get up there."