It’s May 5th – one year to the day since Chris Lawless became the first British victor of the Tour de Yorkshire. The fact this was the team’s first race in new colours, with a new backer and a new sporting project, made it that bit sweeter. Here is the story of how the race was won – with the help of Lawless, Eddie Dunbar and Sport Director Servais Knaven.
In order to execute that plan (151km deep into the stage), the team still needed to have those cards in play. With the 2018 edition of the race featuring a very similar queen stage and final run into Leeds, key tactical lessons were taken away.
Lawless, who had shaken off a knee injury prior to the race, explained: “Looking at the course – if you’ve got a team that’s strong enough to ride on the front and control it you’ve got a chance. Not just that, but doing it sensibly. The year before Astana were in our position but they let the break get out too far and left themselves with too much to do. They ran out of guys and that’s how they lost the race in 2018.”
Park Rash, that’s probably the hardest climb of the day, but it’s so narrow that you can just shut the road down with one team. We knew that’s what we were going to do.
Everything had to change, from the stickers on our vehicles, to every piece of clothing, all the way to the website you’re reading this on. The aim was for ‘Project Switch’ to work seamlessly. The team went to bed as Team Sky and woke up as Team INEOS. No mean feat four months into the season!
It would be the Irishman who helped push the odds further into the team’s favour, with his counter-attack seeing him spring free, opening out a 20-second gap and taking three bonus seconds at Tinshill in the process.
“While that was going on I’d been spat on the Chevin but managed to get back on. With 5km to go, that was when I pretty much knew Van Avermaet was going to attack.”
From the team car, Knaven could see it coming together: “Chris Lawless was super strong at this point as he was able to come back to Eddie. After that it made things more straightforward tactically. We only had one option and we knew Greg Van Avermaet was going to attack to try and take the jersey. We were ready for that, and in the end it just came down to the legs on the run into Leeds. Chris was super strong and motivated.”
Lawless takes up the story. “With 5km to go, that was when I pretty much knew Van Avermaet was going to attack. He’d done exactly the same thing one year before. I just had to make sure I was on his wheel for that, and it would come down to whether I had the legs. If I did, I did, and if not, at least I’d given it my best shot.”
Did having the jersey on his back give him that little bit extra?
“Of course we were all a little bit unsure when they crossed the finish line,” he admitted. “It’s always quite hectic and you don’t always get the information you need to know. We were waiting for Radio Tour to tell us he’d won the overall. In the end that was the most important thing.
He was the only one that was actually able to go with Van Avermaet. He stood up to show what he could do and it really paid off for him in the end. It was an excellent team performance that day and we even came away with the team prize to top it off.
“I’ve still got my jersey with the numbers on, but I haven’t got round to framing it yet. I think eventually when I get my own house I’ll get it stuck up on the wall.”