BMC Racing Team (UK) – Greg Van Avermaet claimed overall victory at the Tour de Yorkshire after a strong and aggressive display of racing from BMC Racing Team throughout the day.
The Tour de Yorkshire saved the toughest stage for last with the 189.5km route littered from start to finish with short, steep, punchy climbs of which six were categorized and many had gradients that tipped over into double digits.
At the start of the day, less than 30 seconds separated the top ten on the General Classification while there was just over one minute between the first 35 riders overall and as a result, the battle began the moment the flag dropped.
Three riders tried to go clear early but BMC Racing Team wanted to keep the pressure on the rest of the field and their hard tempo at the front of the bunch saw riders both trying to attack off the front and beginning to drop back on the Côte de Hebden after just 16km of racing.
The race eventually settled down with two riders leading over the top of the Côte de Goose Eye as Bookwalter found himself riding as part of a large chase group one minute behind while the peloton, led by race leader Magnus Cort Nielsen's Astana Pro Team sat another two minutes back.
On the Côte de Park Rash, one of the day's toughest categorized climbs, Stephan Rossetto (Team Cofidis) went solo at the front of the race before approaching the 100km to go mark with a 4'30" advantage over the Bookwalter-led group with the reduced bunch another four minutes back.
Rossetto was still over eight minutes ahead of the peloton with 60km to go but as he sat more than nine minutes back overall, it was the 3'40" gap between the peloton and the chasing group, where Bookwalter sat as the virtual race leader, that was forcing a more determined chase from Astana Pro Team.
Just 10km later, the peloton exploded with riders attacking off the front, cutting into the lead of the group with Bookwalter and drawing out a select group of riders, including Van Avermaet, Patrick Bevin, Nathan Van Hooydonck and Danilo Wyss, that was attempting to isolate the race leader.
On the top of the Côte de Otley Chevin, with 25km to go, the lone leader's advantage had fallen to three minutes as what was left of the main bunch was able to claw back to the Bookwalter group.
Van Avermaet, Bookwalter, Wyss, and Bevin were pulling hard at the front of the main bunch as Cort Nielsen lost contact heading into the bumpy final 10km of the day and the gap to Rossetto started to fall quickly.
With 5km to go, the gap to Rossetto was 1'20" and eventually he was able to hold on to take the win as Van Avermaet and his teammates continued to capitalize on their advantage heading into the final kilometer of the race.
After being positioned perfectly onto the home straight by his teammates, Van Avermaet surged towards the line to take second on the final stage and secure an impressive overall victory.
Patrick Bevin also finished inside the top ten overall, 37 seconds behind Van Avermaet in ninth place.
As well as his overall title, Van Avermaet claimed the Points Classification while BMC Racing Team took home the prize in the Best Team Classification after a great four days of racing.
The Winner's Interview with Greg Van Avermaet:
Congratulations, Greg! What does this win mean for you?
"First of all, I want to say that this is a victory for Andy Rihs. I'm really happy with the win. It's the first win for BMC Racing Team since Andy died so it was a goal to win the race in honor of him."
"We all had it in mind to win the race for him and tomorrow is his funeral. He supported our team for many years and I think that the work that the team did was really amazing. We had him in our minds and it was really great that we could finish it off. So thank you to Andy, thank you to the team, and I'm so happy that I can win this race. It was a great atmosphere and I'm happy to have the Tour de Yorkshire on my palmares. It's always nice to win a GC as it's not that easy for me."
We saw another aggressive race from BMC Racing Team today. Was that the plan coming into the stage?
"We had a pretty good plan. We wanted to put Brent in the front as he was still a GC contender and that worked well. Magnus Cort Nielsen could not follow so it was up to us to take a bonus second and then at the end of the stage, it was good enough for the overall."
"It was really hard with more than 2000m of elevation. Everybody is in good shape, everybody did what they had to do, and I'm super happy that I can finish it off. When the race opened up, we still had three or four guys there and we really tried to control the situation. We were only five guys but everyone did their best so it's nice to finish it off."
What did you think of the atmosphere and the crowds at the Tour de Yorkshire this week?
"It was amazing here. There are not so many races with so much support. I remember from the Tour de France and the previous edition I did, it was already amazing but I think this year tops it off with the nice weather and the good parcours so congratulations to the organization. The whole week was incredible. This race really has a place on the calendar."
"The Tour de Yorkshire overall is a race that really suits me. It has a punchy parcours and one that I'm really good at. First of all, I was coming here to try and win stages but in the end, I think it was good that I came second on day two as we didn't have to control the race really and this was the main thing that helped us win. We still had four guys when the race opened up and we could control from there. I just had to finish it off. This week was really a team effort and I'm happy I could take the win for the guys"
Quotes From the Finish Line:
Sports Director, Klaas Lodewyck:
"The plan coming into today's stage was to make the race really hard especially after 10km as that was when we had the first long climb. As Astana Pro Team only had five riders at that point, we knew that we needed to isolate the leader and I think the move that Brent made was really good for us. It put the whole race under pressure and we had both a chance to win the GC with Brent and also with Greg."
"For a moment, we let the race do its own thing and we saw teams starting to pick up the pace again and Greg said he felt really good. So, when everything came back together behind Rossetto, we decided to set the pace for Greg. The team did an amazing job. They all rode above and beyond. We really made the race exciting and this win feels amazing. I'm really happy for Greg and for the whole team."
Tour de Yorkshire:
Stage 4: Halifax > Leeds, 189.5km
Top 3: 1. Stephan Rossetto (Team Cofidis) 2. Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team) 3. Ian Bibby (JLT Condor)
BMC Racing Team Top 3: 2. Greg Van Avermaet 11. Patrick Bevin 12. Brent Bookwalter
Top 3 on the GC: 1. Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team) 2. Eduard Prades (Euskadi - Murias) 3. Serge Pauwels (Team Dimension Data)
BMC Racing Team Top 3 on the GC: 1. Greg Van Avermaet 9. Patrick Bevin 12. Brent Bookwalter