Journals Riders

Inside the Tour of Britain: Rory Townsend’s race diary #5

Rory finds himself in pole position in the Eisberg sprints jersey competition with two stages remaining - but it's been far from easy...

Rory Townsend (Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes) and Ethan Vernon (Great Britain) are keeping race diaries for The British Continental throughout the Tour of Britain. This is Rory’s diary entry after stage 6

Hopefully I can build on my lead and have it cemented before the final stage

The wrap: stages 4, 5 & 6

The last few stages have been eventful for Rory. On stage 4 – the queen stage across the Pennines from Gateshead to Kendal – Rory was active from the off, getting into an early move in the search for more Eisberg sprints jersey points. But the move was swallowed up as attacks from Team Ineos defined the next part of the race. As the peloton descended from the moors though, the race began to come back together and Rory took advantage to steal a point on the final sprint at Sedburgh and increase his lead.

Stage 5 saw Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes put Matt Bostock into the break. Bostock did a fine job of defining the Eisberg sprints jersey, sweeping up maximum points at all three intermediate sprints. Rory took a tumble late on during the stage, but managed to recover sufficiently to make it back to the main bunch, with the help of his teammates.

Yesterday’s stage 6 ITT served as a virtual ‘rest day’ for Rory, with no sprint points to play for and Rory well out of the GC battle. The good news for Rory is that Van der Poel (Corendon-Circus) regained the leaders’ jersey. This means Rory’s closest challenger for the sprints jersey – De Bondt (Corendon-Circus) – is likely to be required for team duties, effectively nullifying from the jersey competition. Bagdonas (AG2R La Mondiale) therefore looks to be Rory’s main threat going into the final two stages.

Rory’s diary: stages 4, 5 & 6

Stage 4, Gateshead – Kendal. That was a really really tough stage, mentally more than anything. I tried getting away in a little move at the start with De Bondt and we were in a five-man break that seemed to go away on this climb and I thought that might have been it. And then suddenly this Movistar guy came out of nowhere and I was fighting this very different battle just trying to hold on to the group at the top of the climb.

I felt like it was going on forever and ever because you could see the road for miles ahead of you

I got over the climb and I was literally last man behind Groenewegen and just about held on to the group. And then the following two hours were just an absolute slog over the moors. I felt like it was going on forever and ever because you could see the road for miles ahead of you.

It started to ease up a little bit as we came through the towns, it got a little bit more pleasant sitting in the wheels. And then Tom [Stewart] came back to me about maybe going for the sprint. When he first said it, I was like ‘no chance’. But then he managed to twist my arm a bit. I found myself in a position going for the sprint and just seemed to find my legs somehow. Tom and [Matt] Bostock delivered me really nicely into the sprint with 200m to go. I kicked and it was just Groenewegen he came round me and just about rolled Trentin for the last point on the line. It felt like a win to pick up a point on what was such a hard day.

Stage 5, The Wirral Stage. With it being such a hard day on stage 4, I really fancied a ‘day off’. Bostock went up the road and took the sprints points, as planned. I had really wanted to have a crack at the stage [win] because whilst it’s a local stage, my sister lives there, which made it a bit more personal, and she was out watching.

My wheels went over the gravel and down I went like a sack of spuds

Unfortunately I crashed, which sidelined me for that. It was a really stupid one. It was a bit of a dodgy corner, the breakaway nearly messed it up. And then at the front of our group a Lotto Soudal guy went straight on and there was a guy in front of me from AG2R who nearly lost it. My attention was drawn by him, and as I was looking at him my wheels went over the gravel and down I went like a sack of spuds. I fell on my side, so I feel a bit bruised and beaten at the moment. But there were no major injuries and when I got on the bike I feel a lot better.

Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com – 11/09/2019 – Cycling – OVO Energy Tour of Britain – Stage 5: Birkenhead Park to Birkenhead Park, England – Rory Townsend of Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes on the podium in the Eisberg sprints jersey.

Stage 6, Pershore ITT. The TT today was not something I’d targeted before the race. I didn’t have any time to practice beforehand. I literally got the TT bike the week before the race. So I wasn’t expecting any miracles. It’s quite a specific event which takes a lot of work. So I treated it as a stage to get round, as such, as negative as that sounds, but that’s what it was.

Looking ahead. It’s put me in a decent position with regards to the sprints jersey, thanks to Van der Poel to some extent. With his team having to defend his lead, it takes one of my main competitors out of the race, in De Bondt. So it’s becoming a little bit more of a manageable task to maintain this jersey now. Hopefully I can build on my lead and have it cemented before the final stage.

I never thought I’d get to the kind of level where I could ride a race like that

On getting selected for the Irish team for the Worlds. I had an inkling it was coming. I was down as first reserve for the squad and then unfortunately Nico [Roche] had a terrible crash at the Vuelta and has broken his kneecap, which put him out of the team. So today was confirmation of something I had a hunch about anyway but it’s nice to make it official. It will be a big honour for me being at a major championships. I never thought I’d get to the kind of level where I could ride a race like that. It’ll be extra special doing it Yorkshire and a great honour for my family as well. So I’m really excited about that and extremely motivated to everything I can for Sam [Bennett] and the team, and potentially Eddie [Dunbar] as well depending on how the race goes.

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