As the overall Tour of Britain contenders began to show their hands in the Scottish Border hills, the stage one winner, Dylan Groenewegen of the Netherlands, was caught on the wrong side of a split in the peloton and was left behind, with the stage victory in Kelso going to the former European champion Matteo Trentin, who also snaffled the race leader’s green jersey.
The action came on a brace of ascents before and after the town of Melrose, with around 30 kilometres remaining. On the draggy climb of Scott’s View, an attack from the big Dutch favourite Mathieu van der Poel strung out the bunch, which had been led steadily until that point by Groenewegen’s Jumbo-Visma team as they kept an early three-rider escape in check.
Trentin’s Mitchelton-Scott team snuffed out the Van der Poel offensive and almost immediately, on the way out of Melrose on the second ascent, the shorter and steeper Dingleton, the Russian Pavel Sivakov made his move. As he did so, Groenewegen lost contact and pressure was firmly applied by Mitchelton and the Israel Cycling Academy team of Saturday’s runner-up, Davide Cimolai of Italy.
By the summit Groenewegen was in a back marker group 30sec adrift, along with Mark Cavendish, with some 60 riders left at the front. After Sivakov – a promising 22-year-old who finished ninth in this year’s Giro d’Italia – had been swept up, a momentary lull prompted an attack from the Essex time-trial specialist Alex Dowsett, who sprang clear with three kilometres remaining after the 2016 winner, Steve Cummings, had briefly shown his hand at the front.
The former hour record holder opened a gap of just under 100 metres, and kept enough in hand in the final kilometre to hope for the stage win, but after he crossed the River Tweed to enter the town centre the sprinters had him in their sights. He was overhauled an agonising 100 metres from the line.
Trentin’s lead-out men had almost lost control on the final left-hander, but the Italian came sweeping past Dowsett first, opening a gap of over a bike length on the Belgian Jasper De Buyst and the Dutch Tour de France stage winner Mike Teunissen, with Dowsett a frustrated seventh. “We worked so hard for that,” said Trentin, “first to get rid of Groenewegen and then to prevent him coming back.”
That gave the Mitchelton leader the race lead by 11sec from Cimolai going into Monday’s stage through the Borders between Berwick and Newcastle, where the uphill finish on Grey Street should favour a sprinter who can climb. Teunissen fits that bill, as does Trentin, and so too the British champion Ben Swift, whose consistency must one day find its reward.