After team-mate Wout Poels won atop Whinlatter on Friday, Team Sky’s Ian Stannard produced a brilliant individual performance to solo to victory in Mansfield during the 2018 OVO Energy Tour of Britain’s penultimate stage in Nottinghamshire on Saturday.
Stannard instigated the day’s five-man breakaway, which went clear after the first SKODA King of the Mountains climb at Keyworth – located 20 kilometres after the race’s longest stage departed from West Bridgford – before eventually going solo with 16 kilometres remaining.
The 31-year-old Briton last won a stage of the race in 2016, when he also soloed to glory in Tatton Park, Knutsford. This time he was time chased hard by Team Katusha Alpecin’s Nils Politt, who kept him at arm’s length until the final run in to the line.
Quick-Step Floors rider Julian Alaphilippe finished safely within the peloton to all-but claim the overall title with a largely ceremonial stage in London awaiting the peloton on Sunday.
“It was always pretty close with Pollit, seven or eight seconds or so, and it was getting tough,” said Stannard, who eventually won by 59 seconds. “Luckily there were a few little kicks towards the end so I managed to put a bit more into the gap.
“When I got into the break today I was pretty confident – I looked at the other guys, how they were riding all day and I knew that I had the edge. ”
Undeterred by the 215.6km that comprised this year’s Nottinghamshire stage, on a route that took in all seven districts and boroughs in the county, the attacks went from the gun once again – including four from Politt in the opening 10 kilometres.
The day’s winning break proved to be fruitful for more than just Stannard, as Canyon Eisberg’s Alex Paton was able to claim maximum points at all three Eisberg Sprints – located in Retford, Worksop and Bilsthorpe – to take over the lead in that classification from Madison Genesis rider Matt Holmes. Paton has a four-point gap over Holmes with a maximum of nine up for grabs in London on Sunday.
Furthermore, with Stannard, Politt, Holmes, fellow Briton Mark McNally (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and Bardiani-CSF’s Giovanni Carboni not figuring in the SKODA King of the Mountains competition, all Team Dimension Data’s Nic Dlamini needs to do now to win that jersey in complete the race in the capital on Sunday.
The break gained a maximum advantage of nearly nine minutes, a gap that reduced to around four as the race passed through Newstead Abbey with 40 kilometres remaining. Yet the decision of Alaphilippe’s Quick-Step Floors team to end the chase effectively decided the outcome of the stage.
Paton dropped back after the final Eisberg Sprint to conserve energy, and McNally began to struggle as Stannard launched his first big attack approaching Ashfield. Politt managed to follow this acceleration, and several others, before the Briton broke the German rider’s resistance in Kirkby in Ashfield. The Team Sky rider then stayed clear until the finish, notably increasing his gap in the final kilometres from 10 seconds to nearly a minute, to claim a memorable victory.
Behind, ONE Pro Cycling’s Emils Liepins won the bunch sprint for fifth, just over four minutes after Stannard crossed the line on Chesterfield Road South. Kiwi Patrick Bevin (BMC Racing) placed sixth to mean he’s now uncatchable in the Wahoo Points Jersey.
Sunday’s eighth and final stage is a 77-kilometre leg around an iconic circuit in Central London. Beginning at 15:30, the peloton will pass Regent Street St James, Piccadilly, Haymarket, Strand and Whitehall 14 times before a likely bunch sprint finish.