The wet weather didn’t dampen the spirits on the opening stage of the Tour de Yorkshire as Jesper Asselman (Roompot – Charles) sprinted to a dramatic breakaway victory in Selby.
The riders received a warm welcome in Doncaster’s Market Place at the start of the day and continued to be cheered along by the sizeable crowds who braved the elements to see the world’s best riders in action. The towns and villages along the 182.5km route turned out in force with 160,000 people in attendance according to police figures.
Six riders forged ahead in the breakaway and Jacob Bingham (Canyon DHB p/b Bloor Homes) was the first rider to crest the Cote de Baggaby Hill, earning him a spell in the best climber’s jersey sponsored by LNER. Once that prize had been decided, the escapes continued to work well together and Daniel Bigham was voted the most active rider via live poll at @letouryorkshire. That means the Ribble Pro Cycling rider will wear the grey jersey sponsored by Dimension Data in Friday’s stage from Barnsley to Bedale.
Fearing a repeat of Harry Tanfield’s breakaway win on the opening stage last year, the peloton kept the break on a relatively tight leash but history was to repeat itself as the frontrunners once again evaded their pursuers.
Asselman picked the right line in the last 100m and unleashed an unstoppable sprint to take the stage win in front of the magnificent Selby Abbey, which is celebrating its 950th anniversary this year. Flippo Fortin (Cofidis) took second place with Jonas Van Genechten (Vital Concept – B&B Hotels) in third.
That victory meant that Asselman took control of the blue leader’s jersey sponsored by Yorkshire Bank and bonus seconds accrued at the line saw him open a four-second lead at the top of the general classification. The Roompot – Charles rider tops the points classification but Fortini will wear the green jersey sponsored by Asda on Friday as he sits second in that competition.
Stage winner and race leader Jesper Asselman said: “This is definitely the biggest victory of my career and I still can’t believe it. It’s really awesome and I will never forget today.
“The plan was to get in the break and go for the best climber’s jersey. On the climb I had no explosivity in my legs though so was angry. I kept pushing out of frustration but I thought we’d get caught because the gap was going down really fast in the last 50km. We kept riding really hard and everyone worked well together. In the last few kilometres I realised it might be possible and gambled to start my sprint at the right moment. I went full gas and looked under my elbow near the line and saw there was a big gap behind and I couldn’t believe I was going to win.
“We are really happy with this result and it was a beautiful victory. Now let’s see what happens about defending the leader’s jersey. The last day looks really tough but maybe this jersey will give me an extra boost.
“Yorkshire is an awesome place to ride your bike and the fans are always incredible. It’s fantastic that they came out in this weather and it gives you goosebumps to ride through crowds like that. It’s really cool to be here – like being in one of the Classics or the Grand Tours – the public are so enthusiastic. I will never forget today.”