Mark Cavendish’s Etixx – Quick Step teammate Petr Vakoc took a thrilling solo victory in Colne on stage two of the 2015 Aviva Tour of Britain on Monday.
The 23-year-old Czech national champion sprang from a late break and held off a charging chase group to make up for Cavendish’s near miss into Wrexham a day earlier.
The 159.3-kilometre stage two took riders on a hilly loop from Clitheroe to Colne in Lancashire with the three categorised climbs of Nick O’Pendle, Bleara Moor and Pendle Big End on the menu.
Team Sky’s Elia Viviani held the yellow jersey overnight by four seconds from Britain’s Mark Cavendish thanks to the time bonus earned from the Italian’s stage win into Wrexham.
Early in the stage action was animated by Cannondale Garmin's Zepuntke and One Pro Cycling’s Pete Williams, who broke away and gained over four minutes on the peloton. Zupuntke eventually sat up and dropped back, leaving Williams, who had also figured in a break on day one, alone up front.
But the One Pro Cycling man was soon joined by Movistar’s Alex Dowsett who looked set to repeat his Hemel Hempstead heroics from 2014, bridging a four-minute gap solo only to falter and once again leave Williams alone up front.
Williams hung on alone but a concerted effort from the peloton saw his lead drop to around a minute-and-a-half with 65 kilometres left to race.
With his lead continuing to erode Williams found another partner, this time Koen Bouwman of Lotto NL Jumbo as the race approached the day’s second king of the mountains point at Bleara Moor.
But Williams was swallowed up by the peloton, followed by Bouwman before they could reach the King of the Mountains point, Ian Bibby springing from the group to take his second mountains win of the day, the Lancastrian, riding for NFTO having topped Nick O’Pendle at the head of affairs.
With 50 kilometres to go the peloton had split into three distinct groups, with around 40 riders in the leading group on the descent of Bleara Moor.
From this group eight riders made an early bid for home; Danielo Wyss (BMC), Alberto Bettiol (Team Cannondale Garmin) and Great Britain’s Alex Peters Petr Vakoc (Etixx - Quick Step), Wouter Poels (Team Sky), Ruben Fernandez (Movistar), Serge Pauwels (MTN-Qhubeka) and Pim Ligthart (Lotto Soudal).
The eight dangled ahead of the chasing group as they topped the final KoM at Pendle Big End. Over five minutes behind was the yellow jersey group, meaning Viviani’s stint in the leader’s jersey was over.
With less than 20-kilometres to go to group began to split, Vakoc forging ahead while Ligthart and Peters dropped away.
Eight kilometres later the remnants of the break were caught, leaving Vakoc as a lone leader, the 23-year-old Czech champion holding a thirty-second lead with the five-kilometre-to-go mark approaching.
But Vakoc had done enough and powered up the final incline into Colne to take a well-deserved victory.
The result gave the Etixx - Quick Step man the yellow jersey, 11 seconds ahead of Juan Jose Lobato del Valle (Movistar), with a strong ride from Team Wiggins' Owain Doull leaving him in seventh place on general classification ahead of fellow Briton Graham Briggs (JLT Condor).
Tao Geoghegan-Hart was Great Britain Cycling Team's highest placed finisher, crossing the line in the same group as Doull and Briggs, in 25th place, nine seconds down on Vakoc.
Tuesday sees the race continue with stage three from Cockermouth to Kelso.