Norwegian Lars Petter Nordhaug claimed what he said felt like a “home victory” for Team Sky in front of massive crowds on day one of the inaugural Tour de Yorkshire.
Rain and a peril-strewn route through the North York Moors had wreaked havoc earlier in the stage, with star attractions Ben Swift and Marcel Kittel both forced to abandon.
Nordhaug will start tomorrow’s theoretically more straightforward stage to York in the race leader’s blue jersey and with a four-second advantage over Thomas Voeckler on general classification thanks to time bonuses.
Cold and breezy weather greeted the 140 riders representing 18 teams and 22 countries at the start-line in Bridlington.
The first meaningful break of the day formed after 21 kilometres and comprised Mark Christian (WGN), Loïc Chetout (FRA), Eddie Dunbar (IRL), Mark Stewart (MGT) and Rasmus Quaade (CLT).
The five riders stayed together for 75 kilometres and built a maximum lead of just under five minutes before a peloton led by Team Sky gradually clawed back the deficit and the five were caught at the foot of the Côte de Rosedale Abbey after 91 kilometres.
There was an attack from Pierrick Quéméneur (EUC) in Danby with 68 kilometres to go and the Europcar rider was soon joined by Tim Declercq of Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise (TSV), and that pair quickly built a lead of 40 seconds.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the race, Kittel (TGA) was enduring a miserable time as rain started falling on the North York Moors. Dropped earlier on the Côte de Rosedale Abbey, Kittel had battled on for 20 kilometres but decided to end his Tour de Yorkshire with just under 70 kilometres to go.
There were more withdrawals after crashes on a slippery descent in Egton, 53 kilometres from home. One of the two leaders, Declercq, overshot a right-hand bend and went straight on into a hedge. In the peloton, Swift, tumbled on the same, treacherous downhill section and followed Kittel out of the race.
Declercq’s slip left Quéméneur alone at the head of the race, with an advantage of around 45 seconds over the Côte de Grosmont, with 50 kilometres to go.
Anthony Turgis (COF) and George Harper (ONE) countered, but Quéméneur still took full points on the penultimate classified climb of the day, the Côte de Briggswath, ensuring he will wear the King of the Mountains jersey from Selby to York on Saturday.
On the uphill drag out of Whitby, with just under 40 kilometres still to ride, the peloton finally swept up Quéméneur and a 15-man lead group starring, among others, Samuel Sanchez (BMC), Philip Deignan (SKY), Nordhaug (SKY), David Lopez (SKY) and Thomas Voeckler (EUC) came together.
On the Côte de Robin Hood’s Bay, after 145 kilometres, the lead group shattered under pressure from Deignan, with the Irishman dragging four other riders clear over the summit - team-mate Nordhaug, Voeckler, Stéphane Rossetto (COF) and Sanchez.
At the 300-metre mark, Sanchez launched his sprint into the headwind gusting down the promenade, but was comfortably overhauled by Rossetto, who in turn failed to hold off Nordhaug.