After three steep climbs on a cold wet day, MTN-Qhubeka’s Gerald Ciolek had the most left in his legs, winning both Stage Two and the race leader’s gold jersey with a charge in the final 500 meters.
Stage Two ended with a steep half-kilometer climb up the ten-percent grade called Beast banks. An Post’s Sam Bennett had two team mates drag him to the head of the peloton at the start of the climb, where he set off after IAM Cycling’s Thomas Lövqvist, who had taken the stage lead eight kilometers from the finish.
Bennett and his An Post team mates had plainly been planning the move all stage long—Bennett was strong while Lövqvist was nearing exhaustion. Bennett caught the leader 300 meters from the finish line, but sneaking up unseen was Gerald Ciolek of MTN-Qhubeka.
Ciolek, a powerful sprinter, had also saved some energy for a last uphill blast, and he rode down Bennett with ease, passing the hapless An Post rider 150 meters from the line.
Ciolek told Universal Sports that he felt good at the end but it was tough. “We knew it was going to be an uphill finish but still a hard to the finish.
“I felt quite good. I had just a problem in the last right turn—I slipped a little bit and my chain fell off. So I already had a little gap to close, but these guys [Bennett’s team mates] did a perfect leadout, two or three strong, so he gave me a really hard time to chase him.”
MTN-Qhubeka, in its first year on the Pro Contienntal tour, wasn’t expecting these kinds of results in a race wirth Pro Tour teams. “We always want to perform at a race but we are a really young and unexperienced team here so our expectations weren’t so big,” said Ciolek. “Now we have the yellow jersey and a stage win, it’s really great.
Ciolek had no illusions about being able to defend the race lead through the Stage Three time trial. “It’s not s a day for me tomorrow. I think it’s nice to wear the yellow jersey today but tomorrow it’s for the specialists,” he said.
Many Attacked, One Was Chosen
Stage Two was going to be tough on the best of days, and with a miserably cold raining falling, the climb up the Cat One Honister Pass—six miles long, with ramps up to 25 percent—was agonizing. Honister Pass was bracketed by a pair of cat two climbs, Fangs Brow and Chestnut Hill, but it was the final 500 meters’ climb up Beast Banks that decided the race.
A group of seven—Mike Northey (Node4,) Nicola Boem (Bardiani,) Anthony Delaplace (Sojasun,) Angel Madrazo (Movistar,) Matt Cronshaw (IG Sigma,) Jon Dibben (British Cycling,) and Sean Downey (An Post)—attacked early, then became six as Boem dropped out after Fangs Brow, content to win some intermediate points.
The six soldiered on up Honister Pass, where Garmin-Sharp’s Dan Martin and Movistar’s Nairo Quintanta caught them.
Once the climbing was done, the peloton reeled in the break, cathching the last of them 35 km from the end. Movistar’s Enrique Sanz then attacked, to be caught 14 km later. Garmin’s Jacob Rathe was the next to go, followed by Bardiani’s Stefano Pirazzi at the 17-km mark. He lasted five km out front, and a kilometer later the fans were treated to the sight of Omega’s Mark Cavendish trying a solo attack.
Cavensdish might be one of the fastest sprinters in the sport but he is no time trailer; he got caught quickly, the Lövqvist made his bid.
It looked like Lövqvist might have the legs; he held a decent lead onto the start of the final climb. Once he hit the ten-percent slope, however, his speed dropped, and the fresher legs of Sam Bennett and ultimately Gerald Ciolek, carried them past the IAM rider. Lövqvist did hold on for third.
Stage Three will be a 16-kilometer flat time trial; the stage is all but guaranteed to go to Sky’s Bradley Wiggins.