Tour of Britain Stage 7: Vermote Seizes Opportunity, Wins Solo in Brighton
OPQS rider Julien Vermote saw his chance for the first victory of his 2014 season on Saturday. The Belgian rider was in a 5-rider escape group with enough of an advantage to potentially decide the longest stage of Tour of Britain: 225.1km Stage 7.
Vermote launched at the bottom of Cat. 1 Ditchling Beacon, immediately taking a few seconds on his former break mates after the group had a 2'43" advantage with about 17km to go. He kept a good rhthym and still had a 2'08" advantage with 8.1km to go, heading onto Cat. 1 Bear Road. Vermote held off the field for the victory, which is the 63rd overall victory (61st road) for OPQS in 2014. OPQS has won three out of seven stages at Tour of Britain so far.
Ignatas Konovalovas (MTN - Qhubeka) was 2nd and Dylan Van Baarle (Garmin-Sharp) was 3rd.
Michal Kwiatkowski, meanwhile, forced the split with the help of Michal Golas in the peloton behind Vermote. As a result of the high pace on the front, yellow jersey wearer Alex Dowsett (Movistar) lost contact with the group. The gap was enough for Dowsett to lose the jersey. Kwiatkowski finished 4th and now trails Van Baarle by 19" in the GC heading into the final day of the stage race in London. There is a short time trial, as well as a road stage.
"Today I was really surprised with how good I felt, because except for one day here I've ridden on the front," Vermote said. "We won with Mark Renshaw and then Michal Kwiatkowski won and took the leader's jersey, so there was a lot of work to be done by us and I was happy to do it. Five days out of six I pulled for the team, one of those stages I was on the front the whole stage. But every day I recovered well. Even then, it's not easy for me to win a stage because I am not a sprinter. Today the team said I should go, and if the move would not win the stage, maybe Kwiato and I could work together in the final kilometers. I went into the breakaway at the right moment and we knew we had a good chance right away, especially after seeing what happened yesterday. We worked well together. On the second-to-last climb I decided to go, because I knew it was possible for a victory. I knew it was a risk and I made sure I went full gas. I really wanted to win a stage because so many riders on this team have at least one victory. Now I have joined them and I am super happy. I know my place on the team and I love to help my teammates, but it's also nice when you can go for your own result when the opportunity is there. My teammates were so happy for me after the finish and it shows that the work I do for all of them, and the team, includes big rewards for myself too."
"As you see, it's hard racing here at Tour of Britain," Kwiatkowski said. "The peloton couldn't control this breakaway. Luckily we had a strong Julien Vermote there. He really deserves this win. He pulled so much for us, for me every single day and today he took a beautiful victory. Congratulations to him. We're really happy about it. Of course, I wanted to also take back the yellow jersey but Van Baarle was still in front. It's hard to control everything in a race. We accelerated on the second-to-last climb and dropped Dowsett, but it was hard to close the gap on the group between Vermote and us. But OK, I'm only 19" down. There is the time trial tomorrow which I said earlier in this race that it would be important, even if it's short. Anything can happen. I have done well on short time trials like the one of tomorrow. So we will see. But today we are going to celebrate the big victory of Julien."