Alex Dowsett almost pulled off a dramatic victory on stage two of the OVO Energy Tour of Britain, escaping solo with a few kilometres remaining only to suffer “heartbreak” as the sprinters came around him with 100 metres to go.
In the end, Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott) won from Jasper De Buyst (Lotto-Soudal). But it was Dowsett who lit up the 165.9km stage in the Scottish Borders, which started and ended in Kelso.
Dowsett went for it after an attack by Pavel Sivakov (Ineos) up the third and final climb of the day, which distanced some of the pure sprinters, such as race leader Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) and Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data). Seeing compatriot Steve Cummings (Dimension Data) go clear with 4km to go, Dowsett decided to try to go with him, immediately putting daylight between himself and the front of the peloton.
“The first plan was just to make it over the climb, then once I was there, I knew it was a reduced group,” explained the Katusha-Alpecin rider.
“Groenewegen was gone. We’d unfortunately lost Jens Debusschere, who’d normally be our priority for a stage result. That kind of opened the doors. I was looking for an opportunity at about 15km to go, but the pace was a bit too high and nothing really presented itself.
“Then with 3km to go, Mitchelton and Israel [Cycling Academy] couldn’t really decide who was going to do the pulling and there was some hesitations.
“I saw Cummings went and if he’s going then you know it’s a sign that it’s a good opportunity to go and I jumped onto him. I just went straight over the top.”
With 1.2km to go, the British time-trial champion still had a six-second gap as Israel Cycling Academy chased for Davide Cimolai. But he could not hold them off.
“It was always a maybe,” Dowsett said. “Like holy s---, this could be happening! [My sports director] was on the radio saying there was no one behind. I glanced once or twice and didn’t see anyone. Then I went over the bridge and caught a glimpse of them. You still need quite a big gap in that last kilometre because the guys who are sprinting just lift the pace so much. They’re doing 60 kph to your 50 kph.
“It was pretty heartbreaking them coming around me with 50-100 metres [to go].”
Trentin is the new race leader, with Cimolai next, 11 seconds down.