The AJ Bell Tour of Britain was greeted with a welcome that was as warm as the temperatures in Devon today (Monday 6 September).
Devon hosted Stage Two of this year’s race, with the professional riders starting in Sherford under blue skies, matching the AJ Bell Leader’s jersey worn by Olympic silver medallist Wout Van Aert at the start of the day after his victory in the opening stage in Cornwall.
The race may have been delayed by a year but the atmosphere at the start and right along the route made it well worth the wait.
The 115 mile stage saw a fantastic turnout at all of the communities along the route with spectators at Ermington, Totnes, Dartmouth, Kingsbridge, Modbury, Ivybridge, Cornwood, Yelverton, Tavistock, Princetown, Moretonhampstead and Dunsford providing incredible support for the cyclists.
A small group of five riders, which included SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling’s veteran from Bristol Will Bjergfelt, broke away from the peloton as they looked to sweep up the Skoda King of the Mountains and Eisberg Sprint points.
Jacob Scott, from Canyon dhb SunGod, was among the breakaway group and was determined to keep the Skoda King of the Mountains Jersey. He was first to summit each of the climbs at Strete, Rundlestone and Warren House Inn.
American rider Robin Carpenter, from Rally Cycling, scored maximum points in the Eisberg Sprints at Slapton, Kingsbridge, and Tavistock but with Jacob Scott close behind him on each occasion the Canyon dhb SunGod rider did enough to hold onto the Eisberg Sprints Jersey for another day.
However Carpenter proved the strongest rider on the day – putting in a decisive attack which enabled him to take a solo victory at the finish in Exeter.
As well as becoming the first American to win a stage of the AJ Bell Tour of Britain, Carpenter also moved into the overall lead in the General Classification, and now sits 22 seconds ahead of Wout Van Aert, of Team Jumbo - Visma, in second place, and 26 seconds ahead of Ethan Hayter, of INEOS Grenadiers, in third.
Race commentator Ned Boulting said in ITV4’s TV coverage that “Devon was looking magnificent” and everyone involved in the stage agreed.
Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council Cabinet Member with responsibility for cycling, said: “The last 18 months has been difficult for everyone so it was good to see thousands of smiling faces along the Stage route in Devon today. Thousands of people turned out to watch a world class sporting event on our doorsteps, which was fantastic, and they were treated to some excellent racing from some of the sport’s top cyclists.
“Hopefully it provided a boost to some of our local businesses as well and helps them as we aim for a strong economic recovery in the county. And we were blessed with stunning weather so a worldwide audience watching on TV got to see some of Devon’s most scenic locations looking their best.”
Councillor Jonathan Hawkins, South Hams District Council Executive Member for Health and Wellbeing, said: “Wow what a turn out. I am so delighted to see so many communities and individuals come out to cheer on the Tour of Britain riders. It has been a spectacular day and South Hams looked at its very best.
“Our beautiful district looked stunning today and the people came out in force to show their support for the riders. Well done to all of them for taking on our winding roads, and steep hills – I hope that everyone enjoyed the lovely back drop to this race that was South Hams.”
Councillor Duncan Wood, Exeter City Council’s Lead Councillor for Leisure & Physical Activity, said: “It is fantastic that the second stage of the Tour of Britain finished in Exeter. It was a brilliant atmosphere at the finish line and it was great to see so many people enjoying the day.”
Mick Bennett, Race Director of the AJ Bell Tour of Britain, said: “Today’s stage was beyond all expectations and it’s credit to everybody involved. I can’t sing everyone’s praises enough. With almost 3,500 metres of climbing this was definitely more difficult than previous Devon Stages. We want the Tour to show that Britain’s open again. We were fortunate with the weather, which was glorious, but that’s why people come to Devon.”
Devon has now featured in the Tour 13 times, hosting or co-hosting Stages on 11 occasions. Since Devon’s first inclusion in the race in 2007 it has brought in over £41 million to the local economy, with more than 1.7 million people having watched the race in the county in that time.
Highlights of today’s Devon Stage will be shown on ITV4 this evening.
Stage Two results:
Stage Winner: Robin Carpenter (Rally Cycling)
AJ Bell Leader’s Jersey: Robin Carpenter (Rally Cycling)
Sportsbreaks.com Points Jersey, Leader: Ethan Hayter (INEOS Grenadiers)
Skoda King of the Mountains Jersey, Leader: Jacob Scott (Canyon dhb SunGod)
Eisberg Sprints Jersey, Leader: Jacob Scott (Canyon dhb SunGod)