Mathieu van der Poel moved into the OVO Energy Tour of Britain lead on Wednesday after winning stage four from Gateshead atop Kendal’s Beast Banks climb.
The 24-year-old Dutchman attacked from a reduced peloton 200m up the gruelling Cumbrian finishing climb, crossing the line three seconds ahead of his nearest challengers Jasper de Buyst (Lotto Soudal) and Simon Clarke (EF Education First).
While overnight race leader Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-SCOTT) placed ninth on the stage, van der Poel’s 10-second time bonus for his stage victory moved the Corendon – Circus Cycling Team rider into the OVO Energy green jersey at the race’s halfway point.
Trentin retains his lead in the Cetaphil points jersey, however, while Jake Scott (Swift Carbon Pro Cycling) and Rory Townsend (Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes) kept hold of the SKODA King of the Mountains and Eisberg Sprints jerseys respectively.
“I knew that the finish suited me really well if I had good legs,” said van der Poel afterwards. “I was confident to do a good finish here I think the team did a great job. This climb is perfect for me. I really like those finish straights and it’s something I’m good at especially after a hard stage like today.
“Attacking early was a bit of a gamble because I didn’t really know where the finish line was. I got a bit bumped in yesterday at the finish and I didn’t want it to happen again today, so I just went full gas with 300 metres to go.
“It was actually a bit far but I immediately had a gap. With 100 metres to go the road got a bit easier so it was big enough to keep that gap until the finish line.”
Van der Poel sits one second ahead of Trentin on the general classification, with de Buyst a further six seconds in arrears, while a further 12 riders sit within 20 seconds of the race lead. The Corendon Circus rider believes that Worcestershire’s time trial stage on Thursday will be key to the overall victory.
“It’s going to be a battle for sure but I think the time trial[on stage six] will be decisive and it’s been a long, long time since I’ve done one. I don’t know where I stand in that discipline right now so it’s going to be really hard to be in touch with the best time trial guys here.”
An exciting stage that had begun from the south bank of the River Tyne in Gateshead was lit up early on by aggressive riding by Team INEOS duo Eddie Dunbar and Dylan van Baarle, with the latter clinching the Wahooligan Combativity Award for his ride.
However it was a different three man breakaway that had really enlivened proceedings, going clear on the final SKODA King of the Mountains climb at Gawthrop above Dentdale after a diminished peloton had come back together.
The attack of Lotto Soudal rider Tiesj Benoot triggered the move, but it was home rider James Shaw (Swift Carbon Pro Cycling) who went away along with Ben Hermans (Israel Cycling Academy) and Tony Gallopin (AG2R La Mondiale) building a small lead that never looked enough.
That ultimately proved to be so at the foot of Beast Banks climb, as the moment that many cycling fans watching were waiting for as van der Poel unleashed his sprint in dominant fashion.