Team Sky’s Lars Petter Nordhaug won the first stage of the inaugural Tour de Yorkshire in Scarborough after an exacting day which saw two of the biggest names in the field forced to abandon.
Norwegian Nordhaug sprinted clear of Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) and Stephane Rossetto (Cofidis) in front of huge crowds on the Scarborough seafront, with the trio part of a five-man breakaway which emerged after the final climb of the day at Robin Hood’s Bay.
But while Nordhaug could celebrate victory, Team Sky’s Plan A fell apart when Yorkshireman Ben Swift was caught up in a major crash heading towards Whitby and was forced to abandon along with several other riders.
Team Sky had been leading the peloton at the time of the crash, and both Swift and Ian Boswell were involved as several riders tumbled on a wet section of road during a descent in the North Yorkshire Moors, around two thirds of the way through the 174km stage from Bridlington to Scarborough.
Moments earlier, Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise’s Tim Declercq, one of two riders in a breakway, had gone straight on at the same corner and landed in a hedge before remounting.
NFTO’s Eddie Dunbar, at 18 the youngest rider in the field, also abandoned after the crash with a suspected broken clavicle. Dunbar had been part of an early break and was the first man over the major climb of the day, the Cote de Rosedale Abbey.
Swift was taken to hospital for further checks after the race.
Star sprinter Marcel Kittel (Giant-Alpecin), who won the opening stage of the Tour de France in Harrogate last year, was racing for the first time in two months after a virus and his limited training showed as he climbed off midway through the stage after falling more than six minutes down.
Sir Bradley Wiggins, riding for the first time for his eponymous development team, elected to ride conservatively and stay safe with his attempt at the Hour Record scheduled for June.
Nordhaug leads the overall classification by four seconds from Voeckler heading into Saturday’s second stage from Selby to York.