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For the second time in three years, Vermote finished off a long breakaway in successful fashion by beating Cummings in a 2-rider sprint on stage 2 of the Tour of Britain; Martin won the sprint for third and Vermote is the new leader

Photo: Etixx-QuickStep / Tim De Waele

DANIEL MARTIN

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DECEUNINCK - QUICK-STEP

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JULIEN VERMOTE

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STEPHEN CUMMINGS

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TOUR OF BRITAIN

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05.09.2016 @ 18:20 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Two years after taking an impressive solo victory after a long-distance breakaway at the Tour of Britain, Julien Vermote (Etixx-QuickStep) continued his love affair with the British race by claiming another victory in similar fashion on stage 2 of the 2016 edition of the race. Having joined an initial breakaway, he was the only rider who could follow Steve Cummings (Dimension Data) when the favourites arrived from behind and he easily beat the Brit in the uphill sprint to take both the stage win and the leader’s jersey. Daniel Martin won the sprint for third to make it two Etixx-QuickStep riders on the podium.

 

Julien Vermote is known as one of the most loyal domestiques in the peloton and as he riders for Etixx-QuickStep which is competitive in both sprints and mountains, he always has to work for his captains. Hence, he rarely gets the chance to play his own card and so he has only won two races during the first years of his career.

 

One of those wins came at the 2014 Tour of Britain where he successfully finished off an early breakaway with a great solo ride. With small 6-rider teams, the British race is known to be hard to control and so Etixx-QuickStep have often had a different approach to the event.

 

Vermote used that approach to take the victory two years ago and today he did the same when he again turned an early break into triumph on the very hard stage 2 of the 2016 edition of the race. After joining an early 15-rider group, he waited for the GC riders to arrive from behind and then was attentive when Steve Cummings went on the attack. Being the only rider able to follow the Brit, he helped increase the advantage and as Cummings was going full gas for the GC, he easily beat his companion in the uphill sprint.

 

After yesterday’s sprint stage, the first GC battle was expected on stage 2 which brought the riders over 188.2km from Carlisle to Kendall. The first half was lumpy but didn’t have any categorized climbs. However, in the second half, the riders first tackled two category 2 climbs in quick succession before they got to the key challenge, the category 1 climb of the Struggle. The top came with 27.7km to go and was followed by a descent and rolling roads to the finish. It was a flat run to the line until the riders got to the final 300m which were uphill.

 

Like yesterday, the riders had nice conditions when they gathered for the start. Wouter Wippert (Cannondale) who crashed yesterday, stayed at the hotel while the rest of the peloton rolled through the neutral zone.

 

As soon as the flag was dropped, Madison Genesis and An Post went on the attack but like the many other early attackers, they had no luck. After 6km of fast racing, the peloton was still together.

 

At the 12km mark, a 15-rider break with Johann van Zyl (Dimension Data), Nicolas Roche (Sky), Vermote (Etixx-QuickStep), Loic Vliegen (BMC), Ryan Mullen (Cannondale), Miguel Benito (Caja Rural), race leader André Greipel (Lotto Soudal), Connor Dunne (JLT), Xandro Meurisse (Wanty), Jochem Hoekstra, Martijn Tusveld (both Giant-Alpecin), Tom Leezer and Bert-Jan Lindeman (both LottoNL-Jumbo), Marco Coledan and Jacopo Mosca (both Trek) managed to escape and as the peloton slowed down, they quickly got an advantage of 1.10. After 19km of racing, the gap had even gone out to 2.55 and it even reached 5.20.

 

Movistar had missed the break and so tried to send Jorge Arcas and Giovanni Visconti across to the leaders. However, they were stuck 3.45 behind the front group and when Visconti suffered a puncture, both were brought back by the peloton.

 

Having missed the break, Movistar and ONE joined forces on the front of the peloton, with Javier Moreno, Kristian House and Hayden McCormick all contributing to the pace-setting. After 35km of racing, they had brought the gap down to 4.30 and at the 50km mark, it was already down to 3 minutes.

 

The gap stabilized at around 3 minutes and it was still 3.05 when Greipel beat Dunne and Roche in the first intermediate sprint after 80km of racing. Here Bardiani also came to the fore to share the work with ONE and Movistar and as they picked up the pace, they had brought the gap down to 1.45 with 86km to go. Moments later, Greipel beat Dunne and Mullen in the second intermediate sprint.

 

As they hit the final 75km, the three chasing teams had brought the gap down to 1.30 and so the escapees upped the pace as they headed up the first climb. Lindeman did a lot of work and he gradually split the front group, with Coledan and Vliegen being among five riders to lose contact. Greipel was digging very deep to stay with the leaders, getting dropped just metres from the top with the best where Roche beat Hoekstra and Mosca in the KOM sprint. In the peloton, Bardiani and Movistar set a fast pace and a first selection was created, with Elia Viviani (Sky), Mark Cavendish and Bernhard Eisel (Dimension Data) among the riders to get distanced.

 

After the climb, the front group slowed down a bit which allowed the five dropped riders to rejoin the leaders. The peloton also took a short moment to recover and during the relaxed moment, disaster struck for the hugely talented Adrien Costa (Etixx-QuickStep). The young American hit the deck hard and was sitting on the ground for a long time.

 

The front group hit the next climb with an advantage of 1.45 and they had to dig deep to keep the peloton at bay. Jorge Arcas (Movistar) and one of the Bardiani riders were going fast in the bunch and so Coledan decided to sacrifice himself for Mosca. He led almost all the way to the top where Meurisse beat Mosca, Roche and Hoekstra in the KOM sprint. The peloton crossed the line 1.30 later.

 

The Movistar riders stopped their chase to discuss things, clearly frustrated with the lack of help, and this spurred a few riders on. There were a few attacks but Bardiani went back to work. Madison Genesis decided to lend them a hand and the two teams had reduced the gap to 1.10 when they hit the final 50km.

 

Bardiani and Madison Genesis kept the gap stable but things were made more complicated when rain started to fall. At the same time, the Bardiani rider swung off and as it was just a single Madison rider working on the front, the escapees slowly managed to push their advantage out to more than 1.30.

 

When the Madison rider swung off, the peloton slowed down and this opened the door for new attacks. Karol Domagalski (ONE) and Adam Blythe (Great Britain) took off and they quickly got a solid advantage.

 

While the two chasers dug deep to try to bridge across, Greipel easily beat Dunne and Lindeman in the final intermediate sprint and then Coledan who was the big motor in the break, again started to ride hard. His hard work paid off as the front group hit the Struggle with an advantage of 2.00. However, as the fight for position in the peloton started, the gap again came down and the chasers were brought back. Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) took control and led the bunch onto the ascent.

 

As soon as they hit the climb, Coledan and Greipel were dropped and Dunne was the next to surrender. Van Zyl, as did Leezer, Saez, Tusveld and Hoesktra. It was Lindemand doing the damage and with 30km to go, the Dutchman only had Roche, Vermote, Mosca and Meurisse for company.

 

In the peloton, Caleb Ewan hit the front and set his Orica-BikeExchange teammate Carlos Verona up for an attack. Rohan Dennis (BMC) and Steve Cummings (Dimension Data) followed the move and the BMC rider went straight to the front to keep the move going.

 

Dennis and Cummings dropped Verona and then sprinted past Greipel. The Brit then also had to surrender, dropping back to a small chase group while Dennis pressed on in a solo move, constantly passing riders from the early break. As he approached the top, he had almost caught the leaders but he missed a few metres to make the junction.

 

Near the top, the front group split to pieces as Meurisse went hard. Vermote was the first to get dropped and Mosca and Lindeman were also left behind. Meurisse led Roche over the top, with Mosca and Lindeman arriving a little later.

 

Meurisse, Roche, Lindeman and Mosca were back together as they headed down the descent where Dennis finally made the junction. Vermote also made it back and so six riders had gathered in front with 23km to go. Futher back, a chase group with the Cummings, Tony Gallopin, Amael Moinard, Tom Dumoulin, Ben Swift, Dan Martin, Mark Christian, Guillaume Martin and Dylan Van Baarle had formed 30 seconds behind the leaders.

 

The chasers worked well together to keep the gap stable around 30 seconds before Cummings split the group, with just Swift, Daan Martin and Dumoulin able to follow. The Dimension Data rider first dropped Swift, then Dumoulin and finally Martin and then made it across to the leaders with 13km to go. Further back, Gallopin made a big attack, sprinting past Swift and then joining forces with Dumoulin, Martin and Martin.

 

Cummings didn’t need any time to recover before he attacked again. Dennis had to dig very deep to bring the Brit back but the septet was back together as they hit a climb with 12km to go. Here the four chasers made the junction and so 11 riders had gathered.

 

Disaster struck for Lindeman who punctured out of the group while Swift and Van Baarle used a moment of hesitation to join the leaders. However, they hadn’t caught their breath before Cummings went again and this time only Vermote could follow.

 

With 8km to go, the front duo had built an advantage of 20 seconds and as there was no great cooperation in the chase group, the gap grew quickly. Three kilometres later, it was already 40 seconds.

 

While Swift attacked from the chase group, Cummings went full gas, leading Vermote under the flamme rouge and then starting to climb to the finish. Riding for GC, he didn’t think about the stage win and so had no response when Vermote made his move. The Belgian quickly gained a few metres and had plenty of time to celebrate his win.

 

Further back, Swift was brought back and then Roche tried to make a move. However, the Irishman faded on the steep slopes and instead it was Dan Martin who accelerated to win the sprint for third, 58 seconds behind Vermote.

 

With the win, Vermote moves into the race lead with a 6-second advantage over Cummings while Martin is 1.04 behind in third. He faces a very similar stage tomorrow when the riders will cover 179.4km between Gongleton and Tatton Park in Knutsford and they are far from easy. The first 100km are as flat as they can be in Britain but then the terrain gets hard. In less than 40km, the riders will tackle a category 2 and a category 1 climb in quick succession. The top of the final challenge which is the highest point in the race, comes with 65.9km to go and from there it is mainly a long downhill run to the finish. The final three kilometres are flat without any real turns.

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