Having won the Eisberg sprints jersey with Alex Paton in last year’s OVO Energy Tour of Britain, retaining the red jersey was the number one priority for Tim Elverson’s Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes team heading into the 2019 race.

Thanks to the efforts of Rory Townsend on day one, the team were immediately on track.

“Obviously we had Alex who won it last year and it’s just kind of picking up from where he left off. It was part of the plan and it’s something we wanted to do in the race,” said the 24-year-old speaking following the final stage.

“It feels fantastic to win. To take the jersey in what is the biggest race of the season for our team. It’s something we’ve prepared for all year and the fact that it’s supported by Eisberg, the same as our team has been for the last couple of years is a nice touch as well. “

Townsend was in the breakaway on stages one and three to build a lead in the red jersey competition, also picking up the Wahooligan Combativity Award on day one in the public vote.

Going into the final two stages of the race, the team’s worry was that the battle for the general classification would subsume their quest for the Eisberg sprints jersey, as Mathieu van der Poel, Matteo Trentin and Team INEOS all sought the time bonuses available at each intermediate location.

“I knew what was happening but to some extent frankly I didn’t really have much say in what was going on. I’ve been struggling since the crash to really do much. Obviously hindsight is a great thing but looking back I would have tried to lock the jersey down a bit earlier and then look to get into stages after that instead of looking at stages while the jersey was still a little bit open. Today I was in that second group, just hoping things played out the way they did in the end up the road ahead of me. It was not really pleasant.”

Thankfully for Townsend, racing in his third Tour of Britain, and the team, it was another British UCI Continental team that came to the rescue, with Matt Holmes of Madison Genesis bagging the first two Eisberg sprints at Hazel Grove and Uppermill, as he sought to overturn Ben Swift’s position as the Best British Rider, although Corendon Circus’ Dries de Bondt did narrow the gap at the final Eisberg sprint of the race in Horwich.

Townsend’s reaction on being told he’d won the jersey? “Just pure relief. It was really nice. We still had other things on our mind to some extent, the gap wasn’t huge. At that point we were still considering trying to bring it back to try and get something out of the day but just very much relief. I was very happy with how the stage started today, three guys up the road who weren’t in contention. Then of course that last sprint was a little bit up in the air.”

While some may argue that teams should set their sights higher on a stage win or general classification placing, Townsend defending the tactic in a race that saw two of the four British UCI Continental teams take a jersey classification.

“It’s really important for all the domestic teams. Obviously this is a race with huge talent, with massive world attractions in terms of people watching and the big teams are here as well. They take it very seriously so for us as domestic teams, it can be really difficult for us to get stuff out of the race. But coming here with a distinct target, going for a jersey and getting up there in breakaways, it gives us a realistic goal from which to take something from the race.”

While for many of the domestic professionals in the peloton the OVO Energy Tour of Britain marked the end of the season, or for some the end of their careers, for Townsend the news came during the Tour that he would represent Ireland at the road World Championships for the first time.

“Firstly I’m really proud to be called up for it. It was quite a late call up, I’m over the moon about that. I don’t know if I’m looking forward to racing just yet. I couldn’t have asked for better preparation after this last week of racing. If I have an easy week hopefully I’ll be going to the Worlds in really good shape. I’ll be giving everything I can for the team.

“Brian Nugent the head of Irish cycling said this is the best position the team’s been in for a number of years. Obviously it was a shame for the team to have lost Nico [Roche] but we’ve got a big card to play with Sam [Bennett] who is in fantastic form. He is probably the fastest guy in the world right now in a straight out sprinting and it’s very exciting to be able to ride on the team with Sam.”

Having been a staple of SweetSpot events since 2016 when he won the points jersey in the Tour Series, before going on to help his Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes team take back-to-back Tour Series titles in 2018 and 2019, including his first race win at Brooklands this May, everyone at Tour of Britain organisers SweetSpot would like to wish Rory all the best for his World Championships debut.

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