The first Belgian in 11 years to lead the Tour of Britain, Julien finished in the peloton stage 3, which was won out of a break.
A smiling Julien Vermote lined out in Congleton for the start of Tour of Britain's third day, another difficult one on paper, with three testing climbs jammed in the second half of the course. Etixx – Quick-Step rolled out from the start area without trainee Adrien Costa, who was forced to abandon the race as a result of the injuries he sustained on Monday, but even in five, the team made its way to the front of the peloton once a breakaway went clear, making sure it won't turn into a threat for Julien's yellow jersey.
Graham Briggs (JLT Condor), Kristian House (ONE Pro Cycling), Ian Stannard (Team Sky) and Matt Cronshaw (Madison Genesis) were the four escapees who animated the day, and Stannard proved to be strongest, attacking in the final part of the stage and taking a solo win. Tony Martin was the one to set the tempo in the pack for the vast majority of time, as Etixx – Quick-Step dutifully protected Julien Vermote throughout the day. The only hitch of the stage was a puncture he had in the last 50 kilometers, but Dan Martin and the rest of his teammates paced the 27-year-old back in the bunch.
In the GC, Julien continues to have a 6-second cushion over Steven Cummings (Dimension Data), with Dan Martin rounding out the podium. The first Belgian in 11 years to top the Tour of Britain overall standings, Vermote shared his thoughts on the day spent in yellow and the upcoming stage 4, the longest one of this edition (Denbigh – Builth Wells, 218 kilometers).
I'm still leading the general classification and I owe this to our strong team. The guys did a fantastic job and I have to thank them for bringing me safe home.
"It was a hard parcours, but we took it easy, because the riders in the escape were a long way down in the standings", said a happy Julien in Tatton Park. "I enjoyed this day. Not only wearing yellow was great, but also having all these incredible fans cheering us from start to finish. Concerning tomorrow, it's difficult to say what will happen in that long and challenging stage, but what's certain is that we will try to defend the jersey."
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele