Chris Lawless wins Tour de Yorkshire for Team Ineos

Team Ineos' Christopher Lawless (centre) celebrates
Team Ineos' Christopher Lawless (centre) celebrates

Team Ineos came to the Tour de Yorkshire braced for a rude welcome but left with a first victory in their new guise as Chris Lawless delivered the overall win in Leeds.

Five days after the team's transformation from Team Sky was staged in a remote Yorkshire Dales location to keep away potential environmental protesters, the only voices heard around the team bus at the end of the race were those of celebration.

Lawless crossed the line second on the day behind Olympic champion and last year's winner Greg Van Avermaet but that was enough to seal victory by two seconds from the Belgian.

Nobody seemed more surprised than Lawless himself, who took his first stage-race win.

"It's my first general classification win and coming in essentially a home race it's pretty unbelievable," the Lancastrian said. "I never expected to be that far up on GC, let alone win it. I surprised myself. I'm shell-shocked really."

Lawless had moved into the race leaders' blue jersey with second place in Scarborough on Saturday, but was "gutted" not to take the win and insisted the focus was on keeping the likes of Chris Froome, Eddie Dunbar and Owain Doull in contention going into Sunday's stage.

The final 175km test from Halifax included almost 3,500 metres of climbing through the Yorkshire Dales, surely too much for Lawless.

Ineos, recognising he is more than just a sprinter, had other ideas.

"It wasn't me who said I could win the race," Lawless said. "I got back to the hotel late last night after doping control and went on to the team bus to collect my stuff.

"All the directors were there and they said, 'We think you've got a real chance'. I was taken aback a bit."

But with four of Lawless' team-mates within 10 seconds of the lead, Ineos held all the cards and played them perfectly on Sunday.

Froome attacked on the steep climb out of Otley, 20 kilometres from the finish, then Dunbar went over the top, forcing other teams to respond.

Lawless was initially struggling but was guided back by Doull and had the legs to respond when Van Avermaet put in a late dig for glory.

"I've got to really thank the team for putting faith in me," Lawless added. "I've got a good history of performing on courses like this and the team looked at how I was going on the stage yesterday and said, 'Yeah, we'll give you a shot' and I'm glad they did."

Life is easier, of course, when you have someone like four-time Tour de France winner Froome willing to work on your behalf.

The 33-year-old, riding this event for the first time, acted as road captain in the finale as Ineos managed their options.

"It was all out on the road, figuring out what was the best scenario for us," he said. "Chris being up there and getting bonus seconds every day made the difference in the end.

"For a start for Ineos we couldn't have asked for much more."

Lawless may only be 23 years old, but he is already a veteran of the Tour de Yorkshire, having started all five editions.

Each one has been in different colours - first Wiggins, then JLT-Condor, Axeon-Hagens Berman, Team Sky and now their new guise as Ineos.

"(Ineos) have effectively saved the team, there's 30 riders, over 100 staff - they've kept everyone in a job," he said. "They saved the team so to repay them like this at a home race, I'm really happy to do that."

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