Erick Rowsell admitted he was relieved to hang on to a top-ten finish in the first ever Tour de Yorkshire, after a gruelling final stage left the field feeling the pain.
The 24-year-old Madison Genesis rider started and finished the day in eighth spot in the overall classification, while fellow Brits Richard Handley (JLT Condor), Stephen Cummings (MTN-Qhubeka), and Scott Davies (Great British Cycling Team) were all close behind, securing places inside the top-12 after superb final-day rides.
Rowsell, younger brother of Olympic champion Joanna, ended as the highest placed British rider, 1:21 off the leader’s pace, and admitted, while it was not his aim, the accolade was a welcome bonus.
“It was a really tough day’s racing, so I’m pleased to hang onto my place in the general classification – that was the goal of the team,” Rowsell said.
“That sort of terrain with a bit of wind and rain can be really hard – I’m really happy with how the team rode and the performance we put in.
“Being the leading Brit was not something we aimed for, but it’s a nice thing to be able to say.
“Obviously it’s a big race here, and for a domestic team like us it will be one of the biggest events we ride all year, there’s so much coverage of it around.
“For us, it’s really good to do as we’ve done and that’s definitely a positive to take away from it for sure.”
The final day’s action took the riders over the Pennines from Wakefield to a packed Leeds, where the Grand Départ began last summer, and the six climbs and two sprints scattered the field before Belgian Ben Hermans charged away to victory.
But British-based Team Sky’s Lars-Petter Nordhaug, who claimed the first stage on Scarborough’s stunning coast on Friday, hung on over the weekend to lead the overall classification and take the first ever Tour de Yorkshire Blue jersey.
Elsewhere Sir Bradley Wiggins put on a show for the thousands of fans lining the roads, the legend surging through the field after taking the first two days easily with his attempt on the hour record fast-approaching.
Local boy Josh Edmondson put on a thrilling show over the hills, the 22-year-old charging out in front in an attempt to lead the peloton through his home town of Leeds before being reigned in to finish 22nd on the stage.
The British riders did not end the Tour without reward though, as Ian Bibby secured the Grey jersey after being voted the most aggressive rider online by the public.
The NFTO star showed his intent early in the 167km course, breaking clear as part of a small group as he went in search of the King of the Mountains title.
And despite missing out on that prize – Frenchman Nicolas Edet the eventual Pink jersey winner – Bibby insists leading the race helped him to appreciate the magnitude of the ride.
“It was good to be at the front, take it all in and get a clear view of it all rather than sitting in the bunch,” the 28-year-old said.
“When you are flat out in the groups and the bunch you sometimes don’t take it all in as much, so when you’re off the front you realise how many people are watching and you can appreciate the noise – that was a pretty good highlight of it all.
“I thought I might get King of the Mountains, but to get the aggressive jersey is really good, I’m definitely happy with that.
“It was pretty amazing, the crowds were incredible – I don’t think I’ve seen anything like that before.”
© Sportsbeat 2015