Van Avermaet, who won the race in 2018, started the final day six seconds behind eventual winner Chris Lawless (Team INEOS) and gained ten valuable bonus seconds with the stage win, but Lawless’ second place on the stage was enough to secure the General Classification and Van Avermaet settled for second place, two seconds behind.
The queen stage of the four-day race featured five short, but steep climbs before a flat run into the finish in Leeds and although nine riders managed to go clear in the first 15 kilometers, of the 175-kilometer stage, the peloton kept their advantage to three minutes.
As has been the case in the first three stages, Van Avermaet was well protected and positioned throughout the stage by his teammates, especially approaching the final two climbs when the pace in the peloton increased and the breakaway’s advantage started to come down.
Just three riders remained in front on the run into the final climb, the Cote de Otley Chevin, meanwhile behind Michael Schär and Nathan Van Hooydonck led the peloton onto the climb.
An attack from Chris Froome (Team INEOS) immediately caused a split and Van Avermaet dug deep to bridge to the group of seven riders.
Eddie Dunbar (Team INEOS) was the next rider to attack and managed to catch the remaining breakaway riders while behind, the two chase groups came back together.
Van Hooydonck and Serge Pauwels immediately took control of the chase, putting in a huge effort to bring the leading quartet back and although the gap hovered around the 20-second mark for some time, the catch was made in the final 10 kilometers when Van Avermaet attacked from the group, with Lawless on his wheel, and bridged to Dunbar.
The trio battled on in the final five kilometers, managing to hold the chasers off, and after opening his sprint in the final 200 meters, Van Avermaet crossed the line first to raise his hands in the air.
The Winner’s Interview with Greg Van Avermaet
Congratulations, Greg. How are you feeling after today’s stage win?
“I am really happy that I won the stage. Winning the overall title would maybe have been better but in these circumstances, with Team INEOS being that strong, it wasn’t possible. I think I made a good move, attacking on the last climb to bridge over to Dunbar. Lawless was still on my wheel at that point but, it was the only option to try to win something.”
You came into this race after a long Classics campaign, how would you sum up the last four days of racing?
“I was fighting from Omloop Het Nieuwsblad to Liège-Bastogne-Liège for a win and I missed out on a win in my bigger goals. Of course, I was disappointed in those races as I was expecting more from myself. This win makes it a little better as it’s a nice way to end this first part of the season but for sure, the Classics was my bigger goal.”
“Overall, I am really happy with how this race has gone though. This is my last race before my rest period and, it’s been a hard week of racing in difficult conditions but, I am really happy with the way me and the team have raced. The course of this race is really good for me. It’s really hard but I can survive and I have a good sprint.”
“I knew it would be really hard to win the General Classification. It was good that I was third yesterday so I got some bonus seconds and had an advantage over some other riders. I knew Team INEOS and Riwal were really strong but I was hoping that they may battle each other more and I would be ready. For this reason, we saved the team to the end. It was good that we could bring Dunbar back and I could jump, and it was only Lawless who could come with me. Tactically, I don’t think I could have done more so I’m happy with a stage win and second overall.”
Quotes From the Finish Line
Jackson Stewart, Sports Director:
“It was a really good team effort over the last four days and it was nice to see Greg finish it off for everyone with the stage win today. The guys commit a lot to Greg at every race and he always wants to be able to pay them back. He was able to do that today and in doing so, he came really close to defending his overall title. We were a little bit outnumbered in the end to be able to do that but we did our best.”
“It was nice to get the stage victory today. Last year we didn’t manage to do that but we took the overall win, and this year we finished second on the General Classification but we won the hardest stage of this year’s race.”
“We had a little bit of bad luck throughout the week and losing De Marchi was obviously a pity as that would have given us more firepower but we raced aggressively and we can be happy as we achieved one of our goals which was to come away with a stage win.”
Tour de Yorkshire
Stage 4: Halifax > Leeds (175km)
Top 3: 1. Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team) 2. Chris Lawless (Team INEOS) 3. Eddie Dunbar (Team INEOS)
CCC Team Top 3: 1. Greg Van Avermaet 31. Serge Pauwels 39. Michael Schär
Top 3 on GC: 1. Chris Lawless (Team INEOS) 2. Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team) 3. Eddie Dunbar (Team INEOS)
CCC Team Top 3 on GC: 2. Greg Van Avermaet 19. Nathan Van Hooydonck 20. Michael Schär