You could consider yesterday’s breakaway attacks a dress rehearsal for today’s 159km stage from Clitheroe to Colne, a stage dominated not by the peloton but the by brave young individuals vying for points and, eventually, the stage win.
After 30km Peter Williams (ONE), fresh from his stirling work in the breakaway during stage one and current wearer of the combativity jersey, went out on the attack again. Out on his own for some time, he was eventually joined by a marauding Alex Dowsett (MOV) who used his superlative time trialling skills to get out in front of the peloton and bridge over to Williams. A similar move put Dowsett in the yellow jersey in last year’s Tour and so the peloton began to pick up the pace, led as ever by Team Sky. Dowsett and Williams were powerless to increase the gap and were slowly reeled in.
With 52km remaining the racing intensified. Attacking on the category 2 climb of Bleara Moor, Ian Bibby (NTFO) took the KOM points but in doing so dragged up a large number of riders, all keen to put time in to the yellow jersey wearing sprinter Elia Viviani (SKY) in the hope that he wouldn’t be able to cope with the inclines. The plan worked and the race split apart on the descent, with 40 riders forming a strong breakaway. In just 8kms of riding, the break had 40 seconds on the yellow jersey with plenty of climbs ahead to impede a chasing peloton.
Inevitably, given the large scale of the lead group, a smaller group broke off the front, feeling like the pace wasn’t strong enough. This was an elite bunch formed of Wyss (BMC), Peters (GBR), Stybar and Vakoc (EQS), Poels (SKY), Fernandez (MOV), Powels (MTM) ,Ligthart (LTS). By the final climb this group had around 45 seconds on the chasing group, the peloton by this point was around 5 to 6 minutes back — it was clear the winner of today’s stage was going to come from one of these lead groups. With 19km to go the 23 year old Czech National Champion, Petr Vakoč, decided that the 8 man group was too slow for his tastes and shot off the front.
Vakoč made the right move, as the 8 (now 7) man group were swallowed up by the larger chasing group, but with strong finishers like Boasson Hagen (MTN), Trentin (EQS) and Lobato (MOV) in its mix, he had his work cut out to stay ahead till the finish – and what a finish it was! Soloing his way away to take the stage by a mere 7 seconds from Lobato (who was visibly frustrated as he crossed the line) it was a fine performance from the young rider to have made such a feisty opportunist attack stick, and one that resulted in him taking the lead in the general classification, as the peloton (containing Viviani) finished over 11 minutes down.