The 22-year-old won a bunch sprint from race leader Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Nikias Arndt (Giant-Alpecin) as the heavens opened on what was an eventful day.
Sky sports director Rod Ellingworth had tipped Van Poppel for victory on Friday’s opening stage, which Groenewegen claimed, but the Dutchman fell short.
He repaid the faith shown from the defending race title champions 24 hours later though with a well-timed kick at the end of the 136.5km stage from Otley to Doncaster.
“It was his first sprint yesterday in a long time so he was a bit nervous,” Sky road captain Nicolas Roche said.
“We said we believed in him and we wanted to give him a proper go and that’s why the whole team committed to give him a good lead-out.”
A fault with the broadcast transmission airplane for the tour meant there was no television coverage for most of the race including the finish. Media and team staff alike relied solely on first-hand accounts from the peloton to deduce proceedings of the day.
Sky is popularly considered a Grand Tour orientated team but held its own in what was always considered a sprint stage.
The British outfit helped with the chase of a breakaway that was caught with some 15km remaining as LottoNL-Jumbo and Orica-GreenEdge also began to assemble.
Orica-GreenEdge soon after led the peloton but its plan to deliver Caleb Ewan went awry with the sprinter finishing in 30th place.
“It didn’t go according to plan,” sports director Matt Wilson said. “We had all the guys there, we just hit the front a little bit early and the guys got swamped and lost each other basically.
“I haven’t seen the race footage so I’m just going off what I heard, they hit the front with about six kilometres to go, and they got swamped about 3km to go when Sky came over the top of them.
“We all had a good talk about it at the finish, what happened and what went wrong.”
The second and penultimate stage was the last for the sprinter’s with tomorrow’s 198km hilly run from Middlesbrough to Scarborough set to shake up the general classification and offer opportunity to the puncheurs.
“It’s a tough stage tomorrow and from what I understand it’s even harder than last year,” Roche said. “If you do close to 3000m of climbing and you never go more than 1km up it means there is a lot of them.