Not again Cav
The first and last stages of this year’s Tour of Britain are made for the sprinters and offer a showdown between the two best sprinters in the world –Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) and Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep).
What we don’t want is a repeat crash like in stage one of this year’s Tour de France in Harrogate. Kittel took the honours today with Cav in third in what was a hectic but fair sprint.
Unbeknown to us watching is that earlier on in the stage Cav had collided with a car and mechanic while getting back on to the race following a comfort break. Turns out he has damaged his hip and was in a lot of pain but thankfully still riding and getting stuck in.
A precautionary trip to the hospital immediately after the stage to get it checked out gave him the all clear to continue, let’s hope he makes it to London and recovers in time for a second showdown.
How good was that last 10km?
Today’s stage was up and down all day but most riders were only thinking of the last 10km with the second category climb of the Great Orme 5km from the finish and a downhill run in to the line on the Llandudno seafront.
With 10km to go it was touch and go whether the break would stay away but as they hit the climb they knew they weren’t going to make it. As soon as the bunch caught them the attacks started. Going over the top it was Michał Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) who made the first move and quickly gained momentum with a fast and furious descent. He stayed away until the bottom when Alex Dowsett (Movistar) went and tried to time trail to the finish. Sylvain Chavanel (IAM Cycling) bridged across eventually but was too tired to contribute.
Meanwhile Sir Bradley Wiggins (Sky) put in a massive effort to close the gap and bring over his team mate Ben Swift who duly opened the sprint. With Kittel dropped and Cav not up front the race’s other sprinters were all up there with Cav’s lead-out man Mark Renshaw (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) taking the win from Swift and Irishman Sam Bennett (NetApp-Endura) on the line.
Sprinters swap roles
With a summit finish to today’s stage there was no chance of a sprint finish. Any team with a climber or GC hopeful in their squad needed to get them to the foot of the day’s final climb, the Tumble, in the best position possible near the front. This meant the pace leading up to the foot of the climb was savage as teams drove to get their main men in the best position.
Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) was the most visible rider at the front of the peloton driving it along at a high pace for team mates Mark Renshaw and Michał Kwiatkowski. Team NetApp-Endura’s Irish fastman Sam Bennett also joined in and there were also several other leadout men visible way earlier than normal in a stage.
It looked like an inverted sprint stage as the fastmen were used up early then the rouleurs then the climbers were left to do their thing.
Timmer does a Bauer
Today’s break comprised of nine riders and as usual went away early on in the stage. The stage then followed a predictable routine where the peloton let the gap go out and later on started working to bring the break back.
Despite a furious chase late on, three riders were still away at the foot of the final climb. Albert Timmer (Giant-Shimano) then attacked out of the break and was joined by none other than Jack Bauer (Garmin-Sharp) who narrowly lost a Tour de France stage this year after being caught literally metres from the line after a daylong break.
The two worked together but slowed in the final run to the line where Michał Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) caught and passed them with metres to go and Timmer had to settle for second. Bauer who finished fourth must have known exactly how he felt…
The difference in experience
The front of the peloton looked in a jovial mood today; none more so than at the top of the day’s climb. The riders on the front looked to be just cruising aliong as they were in no hurry to pull the break back just yet.
Riders like Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Sir Bradley Wiggins (Sky, Steve Cummings (BMC) and the rest of the English guys on World Tour squads were all laughing and joking with each other.
The experienced UK based professionals like Adam Blythe (NFTO) and Yanto Barker (Raleigh) were also visible near the front chatting and making sure they stayed alert. At the back owever it was completely different.
Lots of home based riders could be seen struggling and losing wheels as they dropped away from the peloton. These are elite class riders and would beat any mere mortal rider but to see them struggle reminds you that the experience gained at World Tour level races is very hard to replicate on a diet of domestic races.
Hopefully with the 3 day tour in Yorkshire and the Welsh one day race planned for next year will allow home based riders more opportunities to get some experience for the 2015 Tour of Britain.
Dowsett the animator
Essex boy Alex Dowsett (Movistar) has been one of the most aggressive riders in this year’s race and it was so good to see him pull on the leader’s yellow jersey at the end of today’s stage.
He tried for the stage win on day two and was away in the break on other days. He was dealt the cruellest of blows with a double puncture while in the break the other day and then the race official wouldn’t allow him to be paced back up to the break behind a car despite others doing the same.
Today he drove the break along with eventual stage winner Matthias Brandle (IAM) and third place Tom Stewart (Madison-Genesis) and claimed the leader’s jersey.
He did say he was tired and today really took it out of him but we’re sure he’ll do all he can to keep the jersey on tomorrow’s very tough stage. Until then we hope he enjoys his time in yellow and continues to animate the race whatever happens.
Today’s stage although not billed as the Queen stage in this year’s race certainly looked tough on paper. Two category one climbs inside the last 20km with the last just 5km from the line guaranteed an exciting finish.
The first of these two climbs is the iconic Ditchling Beacon, the main climb on the annual London to Brighton cycle ride, and the crowds came out in force for it. It was like a mini Alpine climb with the amount of spectators covering the roadside and narrowing the road.
The last climb of Bear Road was less busy but the sea front in Brighton was absolutely packed as people crowded the barriers to get a glimpse of the race in the last few kms.
Those of a certain age will be no doubt be reminiscing when seeing these crowds of the Tour de France stage that finished here in 1994, was it really 20 years ago??
This is a paint job!
Wiggo won the men’s elite time trial national championship back in June so Sky decided to update his TT bike with this striking Union Jack paint job. We love it!
Kittel vs Cav is going to be great next year
The last stage along with the first were nailed on guaranteed sprint finishes and neither disappointed. Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) may have just edged out Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) for the win today but it couldn’t have been closer right to the line.
This has been one of their best head to head sprints all year and although Cav was beaten he wasn’t that far behind. Considering he hit the deck very hard on stagfe one and worked tirelessly for the team all week, something Kittel managed to avoid on both counts, we think he did pretty well and we can’t wait to see both of them fresh and battling again next year.