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After his captain Swift had crashed out of the race, Nordhaug made it into a five-rider group on the final climb before winning the sprint to claim both the stage victory and the leader’s jersey on the first day of the Tour de Yorkshire

Photo: Sirotti

LARS PETTER NORDHAUG

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STEPHANE ROSSETTO

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TEAM SKY

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THOMAS VOECKLER

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TOUR DE YORKSHIRE

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01.05.2015 @ 19:18 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Lars Petter Nordhaug (Sky) saved what could have been a disastrous day for home favourites Sky when he won a 5-rider sprint on the opening day of the inaugural Tour de Yorkshire. After his captain Ben Swift had crashed out of the race, the Norwegian made it into the right group on the final climb before emerging as the fastest to take both the stage win and the first ever leader’s jersey in the race.

 

Originally Lars Petter Nordhaug planned to have a small break after the Ardennes classics where he had been unable to benefit fully from his great condition. However, he and the Sky team made a late decision to send him to the inaugural Tour de Yorkshire where he was set to be a key support rider for home rider and big favourite Ben Swift.

 

After the opening day, however, Nordhaug suddenly finds himself in an unexpected position as he came out of the first stage with the leader’s jersey on his shoulders. The Norwegian got a surprise opportunity when Swift crashed out of the race with 50km to go, forcing Sky to change tactics and go onto the attack.

 

The crash had split the field and so it was a small front group that hit the bottom of the final climb with 28km to go. Nordhaug found himself in the small group with teammates Philip Deignan and David Lopez and as they were up against faster riders, they knew they had to ride offensively.

 

Deignan launched a big attack that only his Norwegian teammates, Samuel Sanchez (BMC) and Stephane Rossetto (Cofidis) could match. Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) managed to join them before Sanchez led Nordhaug, the Europcar leader, Deignan and Rossetto over the top.

 

The five riders immediately started to work together and quickly extended their advantage over a strong chase group that included Anthony Turgis (Cofidis), Erick Rowsell (Madison), Richard Handley (JLT), Huub Duyn (Roompot), Ben Hermans (BMC), Lopez, Merhawi Kudus and Stephen Cummings (MTN-Qhubeka) and Scott Davies (Great Britain). One of the big favourites Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) had been caught behind the crash but with a big acceleration on the climb, he managed to join the chasers with 20km to go.

 

At this point, the front quintet were already 40 seconds ahead while the peloton had been distanced by 1.55. As they continued to work well together, they extended their advantage to 55 seconds with 7km to go, and it was now clear that they would stay away.

 

The harmony was broken with 5km to go when Nordhaug launched the first attack. Sanchez was the first to join him and later Voeckler also made it back. As they again slowed down, the quintet came back together with 2.5km to go and after Deignan had had a free ride, he launched an immediate counterattack.

 

Voeckler joined the Irishman and with 1.6km to go, the group was again back together. Nordhaug countered immediately but Voeckler was quick to shut it down.

 

The pace went down as they passed the flamme rouge and everybody were now prepared to decide the race in a sprint. Sanchez rode on the front until he launched a long sprint but he was passed by Rossetto who seemed to take the win. However, Nordhaug came very fast in the end to pass the Frenchman who had to settle for third behind Voeckler.

 

With the bonus seconds, Nordhaug now leads the race with a four-second advantage over Voeckler. He faces an easier stage tomorrow as there will only be two small climbs in the first half before the riders reach the completely flat second half where they end the stage by doing two laps of a 20.5km finishing circuit.

 

A hilly opener

The inaugural Tour de Yorkshire kicked off with a hilly 174km ride from Bridlington to Scarborough. In the mostly flat first half, the riders tackled two smaller climbs before they got to the difficult section. With around 50km to go, the riders hit the first of four successive short, steep ascents and from there it was a flat run to the finish in Scarborough.

 

The riders had relatively pleasant weather conditions when they gathered in Bridlington for the start. 139 riders headed out under a sunny sky and they got the race off to a very fast start with lots of attacks.

 

The break takes off

After 18km of racing, no one had managed to get clear and they had to ride a bit further before 5 riders finally managed to get a gap. When the elastic snapped, Mark Christian (Wiggins), Loic Chetout (Cofidis), Rasmus Quaade (Cut), Tom Stewart (Madison) and Edward Dunbar (NFTO) opened an advantage that quickly reached 4.50.

 

At this point, Sky took control and Nathan Earle and Ian Boswell rode on the front. They rode surprisingly fast and at the 66km mark, they had already reduced the deficit to 2.20.

 

Kittel abandons

Chetout won the first intermediate sprint ahead of Quaade and Stewart while Dunbar beat Stewart, Christian and Chetout in the first KOM sprint. The Irishman was again fastest on the second climb where thr order was the same.

 

The break is caught

Sky slowed down and when they reached the feed zone, they had allowed the gap to go back up to 3 minutes. Moments later, Marcel Kittel (Giant-Alpecin) found the going too tough in his comeback race and he decided to abandon.

 

Sky again upped the pace and their acceleration brought the escapees back already after 99km of racing. This opened the door for new attacks and it was Perrig Quemeneur (Europcar) and Tim Declercq (Topsport Vlaanderen) who managed to get an advantage.

 

A dramatic crash

The pair managed to get an advantage of around 30 seconds as the peloton entered the final 60km of the race. Meanwhile, Earle and Boswell continued to work hard on the narrow roads and never allowed the gap to grow to more than a minute.

 

The riders had now hit the hills and on a small descent, disaster struck for Sky. While lined out in the front positions, a couple of their riders went down, including home favourite Ben Swift who was forced to abandon.

 

Lots of atacks

As the crash happened near the front, only a small group was left and while Sky slowed down to find out what had happened to their leader, lots of attacks were launched. The aggression continued as they hit the first of the four late climbs where Quemeneur dropped Declercq who was caught.

 

Thomas Sprengers (Topsport Vlaanderen), David Lopez (Sky) and Sanchez were first at the top from the peloton which was now 50 seconds behind the lone leader. The attacking continued until Turgis and George Harper (One Pro) got clear as Sky were still hesitating to find out what to do.

 

Quemeneur the lone leader

Quemeneur was first at the top of the next climb while Turgis led Harper over the top a little later. Stewart who had been in the early break was riding strongly and managed to take fourth.

 

The attacking continued and it was Stephane Rossetto (Cofidis) who took off to nearly bridge the gap to the two chasers. Moments later, however, those three riders were caught.

 

Sky on the attack

Sky had now realized that Swift was out of the race and so it as time to go on the attack. With 35km to go, Deignan put in a big attack from the small front group and in the process he and several more riders passed Quemeneur.

 

Deignan didn’t get clear but it was still a rather small group that led the race. They were 40 seconds ahead of the peloton as they entered the final 30km of the stage. Meanwhile, Stephen Cummings, Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (MTN-Qhubeka) and Ben Hermans (BMC) tried to bridge the gap and after the South African had sacrificed himself, Hermans Cummings made it across on the final climb. At this point, however, Deignan had already launched the race-winning move.

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