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Sir Dave Brailsford dismisses protestors on opening day for Team Ineos

Brailsford dismisses protestors on opening day for Team Ineos
© Reuters
Jesper Asselman made the most of a breakaway to take the first stage of the Tour de Yorkshire.

Sir Dave Brailsford insisted environmental protests against Team Ineos had been a bit of a damp squib on a rain-sodden opening day of the Tour de Yorkshire.

Jesper Asselman took a dramatic opening stage victory from a breakaway at the end of a day which began with anti-fracking protesters gathering around the Ineos bus in Doncaster to voice opposition to the team's new owners.

But though the few dozen on hand made their presence felt with large banners and shouts of "Sell-out" when Chris Froome and his team-mates appeared before sign-on, Brailsford was dismissive.

"I had to hunt them down first because I couldn't find them," the Ineos team principal said. "There was hardly anybody there, let's be honest, let's be real.

"The 15,000 mob that was to attack me this morning didn't really materialise."

That might be an exaggeration, but there was also little sign of the promised protest along the route, and no trace at the finish.

By the time the drenched Ineos riders found the warmth of their bus in Selby, there were only fans gathered round.

"If we'd had any concerns (about launching in Yorkshire) we wouldn't have done it," Brailsford added. "We were right not to have any concerns because the people are here and they're enjoying it.

"You might have people with flags but what about these people here? Does their opinion matter any less? No it doesn't."

The main concern for Ineos, and indeed the rest of the peloton, was the relentless rain as the Tour de Yorkshire's magic touch with the weather deserted was found wanting.

For 182 kilometres the riders fought against the conditions. Seven set off in the breakaway but with their lead never much more than two and a half minutes they seemed doomed to failure with Ineos and Mark Cavendish's Team Dimension Data leading the chase.

The final four survivors of the break – Asselman, Dan Bigham, Joe Nally and Kevin Vermaerke – had other ideas and dug deep.

As they raced towards Selby Abbey the peloton was baring down fast but Asselman had just enough to take the win, crossing the line with a Yorkshire flag hanging from his handlebars after he tagged a spectator in the finale.

The result was reminiscent of last year's opening stage, when Yorkshireman Harry Tanfield took a famous win in Doncaster from a breakaway, just a few metres in front of the charging pack.

"I thought we were going to get caught [earlier] because the advantage went down really fast in the last 15 to 20km," said Asselman, who raised his arms in victory for the first time since March 2016.

"When we went underneath the flamme rouge (one kilometre remaining) I knew we had a little chance but I knew I had to stay calm and wait for the right moment.

"It was a little bit of a gamble, but I went through a small gap on the inside and just went full gas. I looked under my elbow and saw it was going to happen."

Italian Filippo Fortin of Cofidis emerged from the main peloton to finish second behind the Roompot-Charles rider with Jonas van Genechten of Vitus Pro-Cycling third.

There were four Brits in the top 10 with Gabriel Cullaigh of Le Col Wiggins fifth, Ethan Hayter of Great Britain sixth, Cavendish eighth and Chris Lawless of Ineos ninth.

Lawless' team-mate Froome rolled home in the main pack, somewhat more damp than his last race in Yorkshire when the 2014 Tour de France began here.

"The weather was a bit grim but the people were pretty friendly," the four-time Tour de France winner said. "It's good to be here."

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