Edvald Boasson Hagen extended his lead in the Aviva Tour of Britain, finishing second on Nottingham’s Forest Recreation Ground behind Etixx Quick-Step rider Matteo Trentin, who took his team’s third stage win of the week.
The Italian outsprinted Boasson Hagen in a two-up sprint at the end of the 192-kilometre stage after the Aviva Yellow Jersey had bridged across to him in the final kilometres through Nottingham, going on to describe the stage as the hardest he had ever ridden.
The two riders were just ahead of a chasing bunch of 28 riders, all that remained of the main field at the end of a hard day’s racing, which saw aggressive riding from the start in Stoke-on-Trent.
The sight of a 75 strong grupetto coming home 45-minutes and 47-seconds behind the stage winner – on a 192km stage of less than five hours and featuring no long climbs – would appear to back up Trentin’s claim.
That the Etixx Quick-Step rider had contributed massively to the main break of the day while still having enough energy to outsprint Boasson Hagen was testament to his good form.
“For me and probably 99% of the field that is the hardest race I have ever done,” said Trentin. “It was full gas right from the beginning we never really stopped. You just have to look at the numbers, I was averaging 365 watts for four hours and 45 minutes. That’s tough. In the break we were never more than one minute or so ahead, the race was always on and never slowed. Even when it was flat at the start we had cross winds and then think about riding the climbs in the cross winds
“When Edvald attacked off the front of the group and came up to join me I thought that would be it because somebody was sure to chase the yellow jersey. But when he joined me we looked back and everybody was on the limit. Edvald was riding for the bonifaction and GC so I took a rest in his wheel and went for the stage win. And then I just sprinted as hard as I could.
“That is the mentality of this Etixx team whether even when we have injuries or crashes. We have a winning mentality, we always race for the victory, we are never here to be just part of the race. Sometime it works sometime it doesn’t but we always try.”
The Etixx Quick-Step team have now won three stages of the race, although both previous stage victors – Petr Vakoc and Fernando Gaviria – have dropped out through injury, and were today joined by Mark Cavendish who crashed, causing his abandonment.
With two stages to go, Boasson Hagen now leads by 13-seconds from Wout Poels, with Rasmus Guldhammer third at 43-seconds and Britain’s Owain Doull fourth, one second back and keeping hold of both the Chain Reaction Cycles Points Jersey and Premier Inn Best British Rider Award.
In both the YodelDirect Sprints and SKODA King of the Mountains classifications there was no change with ONE Pro Cycling’s Peter Williams keeping hold of both jerseys, with neither Williams or his nearest challengers collecting any points towards either competition on Stage Six.
Boasson Hagen and Trentin had both been among a leading group of 30-riders that over the course of the stage from Stoke-on-Trent to Nottingham, through Derbyshire and the Peak District, that chased a lead group of varying different combinations.
Initially a strong eight man group of Trentin, Ian Stannard, Zdenek Stybar, Stefan Kueng, Steven Kruijswijk, Sebastian Langeveld, Tao Geoghegan Hart and last year’s winner Dylan Van Baarle forged ahead, but on heavy rolling roads the race was a constantly changing picture, until a six rider group built a small group.
Kueng and Trentin remained clear coming off the hills and into Nottingham, with the latter taking a slender lead into the final three-kilometres before being joined by Boasson Hagen. The MTN Qhubeka rider jumped across the gap that had been reduced by Sky duo Stannard and Ben Swift, but couldn’t defeat Trentin in the sprint.
“It was a really hard day but I am happy with that result,” said Boasson Hagen afterwards. “I would have happily settled for that before the start of the stage. Sky applied the pressure and eventually the break went and when Stannard came back I had to try and cover the moves and hope for the best.
“Stannard asked me to ride at one stage and that is natural of course but I didn’t want to do that before the final intermediate sprint because I could have lost time there or they could have attacked me there. I wanted to wait as long as possible before I stated to work but it was always my plan to try something about five kiloetres out. I looked over and Wouter seemed to be on his own so I went.
“I didn’t feel my form was that good at the start of the race but it feels like it is getting better every day now. We will see tomorrow for sure. A lot of people are very tired although perhaps the riders in the grupetto are not quite so tired. I need to stay focussed for two more days now and hope that the team have been saving a lot of energy for the long day tomorrow.”
Coming home in third place on Stage Six four seconds back was the in-form Owain Doull of Team WIGGINS who now moves into fourth place overall with power to add in the final two stage.
“I’ve been taking it day by day, it was very hard from the off but I made the selection and was very happy with third place. I’m a bit surprised at my form although I have always targeted this race and the Under-23 Worlds later this month.
“We will be trying to get onto the podium, there are three intermediate sprints tomorrow with a total of nine seconds available so if I could grab a few of those it would be pretty good but I need to keep contesting the finishes as well and try and get it that way as well. We will give it a good go in the next two days.”
For full results and standings please click here.
Stage Seven sees the race return to East Anglia for the first time since 2012, with Norfolk hosting its first stage start, at Fakenham, since 2010. At 227-kilometres riders will face the longest stage of the race to Ipswich, including a YodelDirect Sprint on the runway of Wattisham Airfield, home to the British Army’s Apache helicopters.