An exhausted Mark McNally admitted he left everything out on the road as the Brit powered to claim the Grey jersey on day two of the Tour de Yorkshire.
The 25-year-old Madison-Genesis rider was part of a group of seven who broke away early in the second stage, before tearing away again alongside Bert De Backer to open up a minute gap to the peloton with just 15km remaining.
But with a world-class leading group chasing the pair down, McNally – who also claimed the King of the Mountains title at last year’s Tour of Britain – was eventually caught and swallowed up to finish 106th overall.
And despite not being able to maintain his pace, McNally was voted the most aggressive rider of the day on Twitter and awarded the Grey jersey, an accolade he dedicated to the fans lining the roads of Yorkshire.
“It was a tough, tough day out, but I’m happy enough obviously,” he said.
“We did well, we had a big gap and then it got to about 50km to go and everyone completely committed. You could see people were a bit legless about 30km out, so I spoke to De Bakker and said, ‘shall we just go?’
“So we just went for it as hard as we could, and then it was about holding on for grim death. I left everything on the roads so I couldn’t have done any more.
“Getting the Grey jersey is great and it’s just unreal out here in Yorkshire, you go through the little towns and there’s all the people out.
“It’s always good to race in front of these crowds, the Tour of Britain is great and this is a new opportunity – it’s always good to get out on the highest stage.”
Team Sky’s Lars-Petter Nordhaug kept hold of the Blue jersey as leader of the general classification, while Moreno Hofland flew over the line first in an intense sprint finish – 30 riders finishing within six seconds of the Dutchman.
Erick Rowsell kept his place as leading Brit, while Stephen Cummings, Russell Downing and Scott Davies all also find themselves inside the top 20 heading into the final stage, the latter recovering well from a puncture with 50km to go.
And youngster Harry Tanfield produced one of the rides of the day, the 20-year-old finishing ninth on the stage in his first ever UCI 2.1 category race.
Meanwhile, Louise Mahe pipped Eileen Roe and Katie Curtis as the women’s race was decided by another tight finish, Scotland’s Katie Archibald claiming the sprint title.
And Archibald – part of Team GB’s reigning European Championship winning side in the team pursuit – insisted the race had the feel of a grand tour about it.
She said: “I know it’s only early in the season but this has definitely been my favourite race so far, I really enjoyed it.
“It feels like being abroad with such a massive crowd in the York city centre. Everything about it really made it a fast and inspiring race, and even though there was a lack of a peloton we more than made up for it with the style of race and the tight finish.
“I did the women’s tour last year and I want to ride in it this year, and that’s what it feels like. There’s a real top party feel to it here.
“My team [Pearl Izumi] were leading out Katie Curtis today and we got her on the podium so we’re happy with that. It’s just about fine-tuning things and going from there.”
© Sportsbeat 2015