Mark Cavendish’s hopes of victory in his mother’s home county evaporated but there was joy for German Max Walscheid as he won stage three of the Tour de Yorkshire in Scarborough.
The 181-kilometre stage from Richmond came down to a sprint on the North Bay seafront but Manxman Cavendish was not around to contest it, having been dropped on the second of two categorised climbs of the day outside Silpho.
The Team Dimension Data rider eventually finished more than eight minutes after Walscheid pipped overall leader Magnus Cort Nielsen of Astana to the line, giving the 24-year-old his biggest win since he was involved in a head-on collision with a car while training in 2016.
The Team Sunweb rider said he could not have picked a better spot to do it in as huge crowds basked in glorious weather along Royal Albert Drive.
“The scenery is incredible and the Yorkshire fans, I think they are the best, there were massive crowds all over the road,” he said.
“It was a really nice parcours and to win a more difficult stage is good for me because normally I am more for the really flat bunch sprints.
“Now I am growing into a sprinter who can win more difficult stages.”
Veteran French rider Sylvain Chavanel of Direct-Energie had attacked with five kilometres to go and distanced the pack, looking to replicate his now retired ex-team-mate Thomas Voeckler’s victory here in 2016, but he was reeled in with the finish line almost in sight.
Cort Nielsen showed little after-effects from his efforts in winning on the summit finish on the Cow and Calf on Friday as he crossed the line in second to retain his overall lead – which stands at 10 seconds from Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet of BMC Racing going into Sunday’s tough finale from Halifax to Leeds.
“Yesterday was yesterday and it didn’t have too much effect,” Cort Nielsen said. “It was a hard day for everybody.”
The 25-year-old said he began the weekend eyeing this stage as much as Friday’s, but was happy to emerge safe and sound and in the blue jersey after being caught in the huge crash which marred last year’s finish into Scarborough.
“I knew today would be a good day and I thought it was maybe the day where I had the biggest chance,” he said.
“I’m really happy with second, especially because last year I crashed in the sprint on this stage and broke a collarbone and a couple of ribs. It’s really nice to get back in one piece and to have a result on this finish.”
With clear skies and bright sunshine over North Yorkshire huge crowds were out in force, and the peloton even passed a wedding early in the stage as Joanne Ridley and Richard Fawcett celebrated their union by cheering on the race outside Ainderby Steeple Church, having shifted the time of the service especially.
“The crowds were amazing,” Cort Nielsen said.
“There are so many people and they seem extremely excited. You see not only kids jumping up and down but also sometimes adults seem very excited. It’s a lot of fun and we had a lot of time to look at it when we are riding on the front (defending the blue jersey).
“I’m sure my team-mates enjoyed it sitting there pulling the peloton along.”