Mathieu van der Poel moved closer to being crowned the 2019 OVO Energy Tour of Britain champion on Friday as he beat nearest challenger Matteo Trentin to win stage seven atop Burton Dassett, Warwickshire.
The Dutch rider got the better of Trentin (Mitchelton-SCOTT) in a thrilling sprint up the short but steep climb to extend his overall advantage to 12 seconds with just Saturday’s Greater Manchester finale to come.
Victory atop Burton Dassett – tackled three times in the closing 28 kilometres of Friday’s stage – was van der Poel’s second of the week on British roads following Tuesday’s win in Kendal.
“I’m feeling pretty good. I’m feeling better day by day,” said van der Poel following the stage. “Yesterday I was saying I surprised myself in the TT because that’s something I didn’t do for a long time and I think it’s an indication of the shape, if you can ride that fast for 14km on your own.
“I knew that finishes like this, they suit me very well. The first 70-80km’s was pretty hard actually, there were a lot of attacks and my team handled it perfectly and they did an amazing job. The second to last time we went up the climb I knew it was up to me to be at the front and follow the groups of favourites and then I was alone in the big group, so I had to gamble a little bit again. Coming into the last ascent to the finish line I knew I had a pretty good chance to take the win again today.
“It was really cool to get up the climb and put in a final effort before all the crowds. I like to race here. Again the sun was out so I’m happy.”
Beyond nearest rival Trentin, Jasper De Buyst (Lotto Soudal) sits 40 seconds in arrears, having slipped ahead of Team INEOS rider Pavel Sivakov thanks to time bonuses collected at an intermediate Eisberg Sprint during the Warwickshire.
“I have to believe” said van der Poel. “I think I did a really good job today, also with the first bonus sprint I didn’t lose any seconds. It’s going to be a hard day again tomorrow and it’s won’t be over until I cross the finish line but I’m confident we’re going to make it.”
Trentin retains the Cetaphil Points jersey with an 11 point advantage before Manchester, but recognises the challenge he faces in displacing van der Poel from the race lead.
“If you race with the best and you want to compete with them you need to raise your level, especially on this kind of finish line,” said Trentin. “At the moment he is the best in the world, I don’t see anyone who can get close to him at the moment.
“It was a good day out. Really fast race. I was with Mathieu until the last corner and then he just kicked off again and I had no response. But I have to say, compared to the last finish line he won, I stepped up a little bit. I was at least on his wheel!”
Trentin’s Mitchelton-SCOTT teammate Cameron Meyer had been in the thick of the action in a stage which started off by covering almost50 kilometres in the first hour of racing, but it was his breakaway companion Dylan van Baarle (Team INEOS) who had collected the majority of the SKODA King of the Mountains and Eisberg Sprint points in Warwickshire.
Jacob Scott (Swift Carbon Pro Cycling) keeps the SKODA King of the Mountains jersey and just needs to finish the final stage to claim the jersey, which he previously went close to winning in the 2017 Tour.
Van Baarle’s breakaway did move him into second place in the Eisberg Sprints classification, just three points behind Rory Townsend (Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes) with nine points available on the roads of Greater Manchester.
One rider enjoying the clear blue skies and sunshine of Warwickshire was Coventry rider Jake Stewart (Great Britain), saying afterwards, “It was really nice, I knew where I was for most of the day, but it was just full gas for the first hour and a half until a break went, and it wasn’t pleasant.
“There’s been plenty of support along the route, a lot of friends and family out so it gives you a bit of extra motivation but if the legs aren’t there it’s useless isn’t it!”
Stage Eight will see the OVO Energy Tour of Britain visit all ten boroughs of Greater Manchester, starting in Altrincham and finishing on Deansgate in Manchester city centre. The 166 kilometre stage includes over 2,000 metres of climbing, headlined by the fearsome SKODA King of the Mountains climb of the Rake above Ramsbottom, near Bury, which has hosted the National Hill Climb Championships on numerous occasions.