Tom Stewart is the first British rider to win the Tour de Normandie since Paul Curran’s 1985 victory.
JLT Condor’s newest signing won the overall competition by 1 second over Alexander Kreiger (Leopard Trek Pro Cycling). Stewart took control of the race lead on Friday following a successful breakaway move. The Yorkshire-based rider slipped into a seven man breakaway that would out-run the peloton to the line on the 174km to Bagnoles de l’Orne. Stewart sprinted over the line in 3rd and a minute clear of the chasing peloton.
Friday’s fifth stage was one of mixed fortunes for JLT Condor. The six man squad was reduced to four as Ian Bibby and Robert McCarthy were forced to leave the race due to illness.
Tom Stewart was clearly delighted to take home the prestigious yellow jersey. “I’m absolutely thrilled to bits to win. It is one of the most chaotic, dangerous, stressful, and difficult races to ride. I don’t know how we’ve done it. We’ve pulled off something really special. It makes me so proud to part of the team and I’m so happy for Matt [Gibson] to take home the green jersey as well.”
“James [Gullen] and Ali [Slater] rode their hearts out for me over the weekend. They sat on the front of the peloton and rode into the wind for countless kilometres to ensure no one could attack. It wasn’t an easy job. Other teams had four or five riders they could use up in attacks. James and Ali rode like ten men.”
Gibson snatches stage victory
Twenty-one year old, Matt Gibson, motivated by his teammate’s yellow jersey and several top three finishes on the earlier stages, finally found his chance to secure a stage win on Saturday. The result capped off an eventful weekend for the men in burgundy and blue.
John Herety laid to rest nearly a decade of chasing a Tour de Normandie victory:
“I’ve been coming to this race for nine years with this team. It feels like a weight off my shoulders.”
Important race to win ahead of spring season
JLT Condor’s team manager explained that the race was an important stepping stone for building talent. “It is a hard race because the terrain is challenging and cross/head winds affect tactics. It is a race used by talent spotters and riders are all fighting hard to be seen. Do well here and you can gain the attention of other prestigious races, too.”
Whilst the overall victory was key for Herety, he noted that the performance of young rider, Matt Gibson, was particularly special. “For Matt to come back after his illness [career-threatening, Epstein’s virus], take a stage win and the green points jersey, is a massive achievement. We were right to believe in him and the potential he has.”
“We are all very very happy, if not physically drained.”
Commonwealth Games & Tour de Yorkshire
The team now shifts focus to Australia’s Gold Coast, where four JLT Condor riders have been selected by their nations to take part in the Commonwealth Games event from the 4 and 15 April 2018.
Last week, ASO formally announced its selection of twenty teams to take part in the 2018 Tour de Yorkshire. The event has become one of Britain’s biggest stage races. The race will take place from the 3 – 6 May 2018.