The Belgian, one of the 15 riders to make it into the original breakaway of the day, is the new leader of the race
The Tour of Britain is very much to Julien Vermote's liking, and quite frankly, what isn't to like at a race which reminds him of Belgium, with its steep climbs, twisty and narrow roads and wet conditions. Same Tour of Britain – in which Etixx – Quick-Step holds the record for the most stage victories – was the race in which Julien took his first win outside of Belgium, two years ago, following a superb action in the stage to Brighton, and he repeated that feat this season, after a day made challenging not only by the rolling terrain, but also by the grim weather which was keen to play a major part in the outcome.
On Monday, Julien Vermote jumped from the peloton once the neutral zone was left behind after the start of stage 2 and was joined by 14 other men, together with whom he gradually extended the lead to four minutes. While some of those riders showed an interest in the bonus seconds at the intermediate sprints or in the KOM points, Julien kept an eye on the gap and the kilometers left to the finish, as he felt that the move may have a chance of making it to the line, especially as the heavy rain slowed down the peloton which was already chewing into their advantage by that point.
As expected, on the last climbs the bunch got fragmented and a chase group was formed, Dan Martin being among those who got infiltrated there, before eventually joining the break inside the final 20 kilometers. Several attacks soon followed, but the group sticked together until a strong acceleration of Cummings split it. Vermote was the only one to react and the duo soon built a 40-second gap which allowed them to fight for victory in Kendal. The uphill drag to the finish didn't pose any problem to Julien, who powered away and won with a two-second margin, thus bagging his first victory of the season.
The chasing group arrived a minute later and Dan Martin proved to be the strongest, as he launched a short attack which netted him third on the stage, as well as in the general classification, which is led by his teammate following the remarkable performance of Monday afternoon, when he brought the squad's fourth success in the space of just three days.
"It's always nice to get a victory, particularly here, where I've already won a beautiful stage a few years ago. I have a special feeling every time I come to this race, as I like the course and the fans who are cheering for us. Also, Britain is a little bit similar to Flanders, and I find this very appealing", said 27-year-old Julien, who left it all on the road as he spent the entire day at the front, in the process helping our squad top the team rankings at the end of the stage.
After returning from the podium, where he received the yellow jersey and the points one, Julien – Etixx – Quick-Step's 18th different rider to win a race this season – took us through the grueling 188-km long stage between Carlisle and Kendal: "Nowadays in cycling it isn't easy anymore to get a victory, so I knew I had to give it my all. The parcours was tough, up and down all the time, kind of like two years ago, in Brighton. When the break got caught by the chasing group and Steven attacked, I was pretty empty, but I knew that I don't want to miss this chance. He was very strong, but I overcame the pain and the climbs and now I'm super happy. Despite being leader in the overall standings, I'm not thinking of the GC; all I want is to do my best this week and to enjoy this great moment."
Unfortunately, not everything was all roses for Etixx – Quick-Step on Monday, as stagiaire Adrien Costa crashed in the final 70 kilometers. However, the 19-year-old put in a brave ride to complete the stage, at the end of which he went to the hospital for further medical examinations. The team will assess his condition tomorrow morning before deciding if Adrien can start stage 3 (Congleton – Tatton Park, 179.4 kilometers).
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele