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Edvald Boasson Hagen of MTN Qhubeka became the first rider to win the modern Aviva Tour of Britain twice when he successfully defended his 13 second lead on the final stage, an 86.8km circuit race around some of central London’s iconic landmarks.
The Norwegian sprinted to fifth on the stage, which was upgraded to fourth when Andre Greipel was relegated for impeding Elia Viviani in the final sprint up Regent Street St James, handing the Italian his third stage win of the week.
Viviani’s victories in Wrexham, Floors Castle and now London also mean he is only the fifth rider to win three stages in one edition of the race, and joins Mark Cavendish as one of only two riders to win Tour of Britain stages in England, Scotland and Wales.
Speaking afterwards he said “After yesterday I saw I had good speed in the legs after a really hard week, so we thought we could win today.
“(Ben) Swifty and Andy (Fenn) put me in a perfect position for the last corner. We saw the road go up and I knew we couldn’t start the sprint too early. When I saw Greipel go I went directly on his left-hand side. He came across a little bit, a little bit and that edged me towards the barriers. I’m disappointed because it is better to win without this. He is a big champion and I’ve never seen him do this before. But we won in London and that is the main thing.”
“This week has been really good with lots of stages over 200 kilometres,” he added. “It has given me a very good base for the worlds and I am really confident. I think the Tour of Britain is the perfect roads for the worlds this year.”
After the stage Greipel insisted the incident was accidental: “I didn’t see Viviani coming. I was just concentrating on my sprint and suddenly he was next to me. The final straight wasn’t that wide, I had to look for space to overtake. Everybody was on the limit on the final corner. I didn’t do anything for purpose that’s for sure. That’s sprinting.”
Boasson Hagen’s fourth place on the day was more than enough to see him win the Aviva Yellow Jersey outright thirteen seconds ahead of Team Sky’s Wout Poels with young British rider Owain Doull capping an outstanding week’s work by moving up to third place overall thanks to a time bonus, the best result of his road career to date.
Doull also claimed the Chain Reaction Cycles Points jersey, having finished in the top ten on all but one stage (the finish at Hartside where he came 11th) and the Premier Inn Best British Rider award.
Boasson Hagen, who won three stages in 2008 and four in 2009, didn’t take a stage victory in 2015, but arguably his overall victory was all the more impressive, having to fight off a determined effort from Team Sky, working for the in-form Poels.
“I am very happy with that win,” said Boasson Hagen who joined MTN Qhubeka at the start of this season from Team Sky. “The object today was simply to defend the jersey and my team did a great job all day. Team WIGGINS took it out very fast at the start looking for the intermediate Sprint and seconds for their rider and it was very hard but then the race settled down a little. I always like to race to win. I had my chances with Sky but perhaps I get more chances with MTN Qhubeka. I think perhaps this year it was harder to win the GC than back in 2009, the course was tougher and Sky were very strong.”
Boasson Hagen now goes onto the World Championships in Richmond, Virginia where he will be riding primarily for Alexander Kristoff although on this form he clearly represents a viable Plan B. Both Greipel and Viviani have also expressed their hopes of taking the title and it could yet be that the Aviva Tour of Britain again acts as ideal build up for the eventual champion, as it did last year with Michel Kwiatkowski.
With a new look circuit hosting 14-laps of racing, the early interest in the final stage centred mainly on Team WIGGINS trying to secure two vital seconds for Doull to move him from fourth place onto the podium in third ahead of Rasmus Guldhammer of Cult Energy Pro Cycling.
For a team consisting of Great Britain’s best team pursuiters that was a pleasing scenario and provided a fine spectacle for a large crowd as Team WIGGINS went to the front half way around the first lap and bossed the race for the first three laps right up to the first intermediate YodelDirect Sprint.
A huge turn on lap three from Sir Bradley Wiggins set Doull up nicely although Russ Downing, riding for Cult Energy did manage to infiltrate the Team WIGGINS train and take the line honours to deny Doull the full three seconds. Doull, however, comfortably collected two seconds for second place to move into third on the road, a position he was able to defend.
After the first sprint an eight man break went up the road which meant Cult had to chase in an attempt to get Guldhammer into the second YodelDirect Sprint. Ultimately it was in vain with the peloton unable to get on terms in time, last year’s overall winner Dylan van Baarle taking both the second and third YodelDirect Sprints, on his way to finishing eighth overall.
Elsewhere Peter Williams of ONE Pro Cycling completed an excellent week’s riding – both individually and in the team context – by taking both the SKODA King of the Mountains title and YodelDirect Sprint jersey, only the third time that feat has ever been achieved in Aviva Tour of Britain history
Williams, from Southport, had cinched the Skoda King of the Mountains title on Saturday when he took maximum points on the final climb of the day up Brantham Hill in Suffolk and started today’s stage seven points up from Conor Dunne in the YodelDirect Sprints classification. With neither rider contesting the first sprint of the day Williams’ lead became unassailable and the celebrations could start.
“It’s a massive achievement for ONE Pro Cycling. This time last year it was just a few conversations and the ball had just started to role so it was a really new team. To come away with two leaders’ jerseys on our Tour debut is a brilliant achievement.
“I feel like I’ve been in good form all year, the setup is like nothing I’ve ever experienced before and it helps get the best out of all the riders. It’s a really good environment. Coming into the Tour of Britain we had prepared well and felt ready to come here and do something.”
For full results and standings, please click here.