Alex Dowsett grits his teeth for Yellow
Matthias Brandle of IAM Cycling chalked up his second straight stage win, but the story of the day was Movistar Team’s Alex Dowsett blowing the Friends Life 2014 Tour of Britain asunder with the ride of his life in one of the most dramatic ever stages of the modern day race.
A trio of Exeter winner Matthias Brandle, Alex Dowsett and Madison Genesis’ Tom Stewart rode in perfect unison for the best part of 160km to dominate the long stage from Bath to Hemel Hempsted, which many had expected to end in a sprint.
Through the rural lanes of Wiltshire, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire they poured on the power and the pace and cheered on by the biggest crowds of the week the trio prevailed to pull off one of the most stunning coups you will ever see.
At the start of the day Dowsett, in 21st position overall at 1 minute 25 seconds behind, was seemingly out of contention for the Friends Life General Classification honours, although there was every chance he would climb a fair few places in Sunday’s short time-trial which suits him perfectly.
The Essex rider, 25, has looked strong all week and but for a double puncture when pressing hard in the break on Stage Four might well have featured much higher up the rankings before now.
Mark McNally on Kop Hill
Equally Brandle, in relaxed mode after winning in Exeter on Thursday and trailing the Friends Life Yellow Jersey of Michal Kwiatkowski by 2 minutes 35 seconds, felt able to try something spectacular and not count the cost should it fail. As for Stewart, the Yorkshire man featured strongly in the break on the Tumble stage on Tuesday and when he suddenly found himself in such elite company so early in the stage he just strapped in and hung on for dear life, buoyed no doubt by the local knowledge of team manager Roger Hammond.
Whether it was because the leaders were absorbed with marking each other, tired from an unexpectedly brutal week or were mindful of a very tough 227-kilometre run from Camberley to Brighton tomorrow, they allowed to go out way beyond what the peloton would normally allow such talented riders.
Five minutes, seven minutes, nine minutes and finally nine minutes 15 seconds at 82km from home. The lead grew and grew and by the time the peloton realised that the trio were not noticeably tiring it was too late. At which point there was a massive red alert and panic.
Omega Pharma Quick-Step blew themselves to pieces riding for Kwiatkowski with Mark Cavendish and Niki Terpstra burying themselves on the Chiltern climbs. At one stage members of other teams were hand slinging the seemingly tireless Julien Vermote to try and get him to the front to reinforce the chase, which was a remarkable sight.
Team Sky were shorthanded but also sent Ben Swift up the front on a do or die mission to trying a claw back some of the time and eventually Bardiani CSF, the team of second place Edoardo Zardini, bent their backs. But it was all too late. The escape was well and truly away
Alex Dowsett post race press conference
“I’m in the form of my life but that was the hardest day of my life,” admitted Dowsett afterwards. “It was into a headwind most of the day and once I got into the break I was actually a bit hacked with myself to be honest because I had always thought I might have a good time-trial on Sunday and I was leaving a lot out there on the road. I thought I thought I might have given too much.
“But then the gap went up to seven minutes and I thought, that’s getting quite big. Then it went to eight minutes, nine minutes, and finally topped out at a bit over nine minutes. That’s when I really started digging in and a bit later I sort of made an agreement with Mathias that he could win the stage as it looked like there was a good chance of taking yellow.
“It was a risk I was willing to take. And he gave me absolute everything, I couldn’t have done it without him and Tom at Madison probably had one of the hardest days of his life, he gave everything he could and I’m grateful to him and Roger Hammond in the car for his advice with his local knowledge, telling us exactly what was coming up. I was very grateful for that.
“For the last 100-kilometres, I was more or less flat out. I was buckling in the last 5-kilometres and I was relying heavily on Matthias. Before the Commonwealths, I was doubting myself a lot. So this is more proof to me that I’m able to compete at this level.
“It was also great to see all my family at the finish, it was a complete surprise, I didn’t expect to see any of them until the finish in Brighton. It was some day.”
Dowsett now has the Friends Life Yellow Jersey and a 34 second lead over second placed Kwiatkowski and with the two riders probably fairly evenly matched on the time-trial – Dowsett might just be favourite to edge that one – a huge mount now depends on the monster Sussex stage finishing in Brighton, which features two Category One SKODA King of the Mountains climbs in the last 17-kilometres – Ditchling Beacon and the sharp ramp of Bear Road up to the racecourse.
Royal Crescent, Bath
Much will depend on how his team mates can react to the various attacks that will inevitably come but Movistar Team arrived at the Friends Life Tour of Britain determined to challenge for overall honours and have supported Dowsett with a versatile team – Giovanni Visconti, Pablo Lastras, Sylvester Szmyd, Ion Izaguirre and Enrique Sanz Unze – capable of mounting a strong defence of the Friends Life Yellow Jersey.
“I will give it everything I have got. Obviously Kwiatkowski is going like a train so I need to rest up as much as I can and give it my all tomorrow and in the time-trial. It’s a nice positon to be in though.”
Saturday sees the penultimate stage of the Friends Life Tour of Britain, and the modern Tour’s first visit to Sussex, for a leg starting from Camberley, in Surrey Heath, through West and East Sussex before the finish on Brighton’s Maderia Drive.
Highlights of Stage Six are on ITV4 at 2000 on Friday 12 September, with live coverage resuming from 1300 on Saturday on ITV4, for Stage Seven from Camberley to Brighton. Full details of the television coverage of the Friends Life Tour of Britain, including British Eurosport’s live coverage, can be found here.
For full Stage Six results, click here.
Andreas Stauff leads the way on Haytor
Matthias Brandle of the IAM Cycling team held on for victory in Exeter, attacking his breakaway companions on the final SKODA King of the Mountains climb to take the win in front of packed crowds in the city centre.
The Austrian rider was part of the day’s four strong escape group, and with the peloton bearing down on them as they approached the SKODA King of the Mountains climb of Stoke Hill on the outskirts, Brandle attacked to distance his companions.
Shane Archbold and Maarten Wynants valiantly held off the peloton on the fast descent into Exeter to finish second and third, eight seconds down on Brandle, with Sonny Colbrelli leading in what remained of the peloton a further six seconds down.
Omega Pharma Quick-Step’s Michal Kwiatkowski came in seventh, safely in the lead pack to retain the Friends Life Yellow Jersey for the second day, with no major changes to the Friends Life General Classification behind him.
The Pole also keeps the Chain Reaction Cycles Points Jersey, with Sky’s Ben Swift narrowing the deficit to just three points. Elsewhere Sebastian Lander of BMC Racing retained the YodelDirect Sprints Jersey, while Mark McNally extended his lead in the SKODA King of the Mountains Jersey, picking up points behind the break on both the Mamhead and Haytor climbs.
The break on Dartmoor
“We had to chase yesterday, because it is my job I had to go really deep to chase the breakaway back,”said Matthias Brandle speaking afterwards
“Today I got in the breakaway and thought maybe it was possible for a stage win, that’s what I tried to do. And finally its happens.
“No one really believed, but then they give us a little bit more and then we chatted some more and now we go full speed ,we started to try and then it was 2’30- 2’40 and it was impossible for them to get us back.
“Finally we really worked well together and it was me who could take the win I had the best legs on the last climb, I tried to push as hard as I could, I managed to break them down and so it was a really nice victory for me but also to win a stage at the Tour of Britain, they are really good guys here and I’m really happy that I could take the win for my team.”
The four rider break of Andreas Stauff (MTN Qhubeka), Shane Archbold (An Post Chain Reaction), Maarten Wynants (Belkin Pro Cycling) and Brandle went within the first few miles of racing from Exmouth, striking out on a venture which would see the latter three never reigned in.
With a maximum lead of just over three minutes, Omega Pharma Quick-Step were content to slowly reel them in, before a large effort by Garmin Sharp brought the lead tumbling down.
On the climb of Stoke Hill it was enough to provoke fireworks from the peloton, with several riders striking out but none being able to bridge the gap to Wynants and Archbold, who continued to chase Brandle all the way to the finish line.
The day’s Rouleur Combativity Award was added to the stage victory for Brandle, while IAM Cycling also celebrated further success by moving into the lead of the Friends Life Team Classification, a closely fought affair with the top four teams – IAM, Tinkoff Saxo, Movistar Team and Team Sky – separated by just 30 seconds.
Sebastian Lander & Michal Kwiatkowski
Speaking afterwards, Omega Pharma Quick-Step’s Michal Kwiatkowski said;
“We were trying to control that gap to around three minutes, we knew that Brandle had three minutes in the GC so was not a dangerous break away for us. We knew that if someone from another team wants to win the stage they have to take control and chase down the brea away, Garmin did it and I am really thankful to my team mates today they put me out of pressure. Out of the four stages so far this was the first one that I could really relax, it of course was tough, hard with the one kilometre climb and the fast decent into the finish.”
Friday morning sees the modern Friends Life Tour of Britain make its debut in Bath, as the historic city hosts the start of Stage Six to Hemel Hempstead, taking in over 200 kilometres of Wiltshire, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire, including three testing SKODA King of the Mountains climbs in the Chiltern Hills.
Highlights of Stage Five are on ITV4 at 2000 on Thursday 11 September, with live coverage resuming from 1300 on Friday on ITV4, for Stage Six from Bath to Hemel Hempstead. Full details of the television coverage of the Friends Life Tour of Britain, including British Eurosport’s live coverage, can be foundhere.
For full Stage Five results, click here.
The Friends Life Yellow Jersey changed shoulders for the third consecutive day as Edoardo Zardini claimed victory atop the Tumble mountain above Abergavenny.
The Italian was first across the line at the summit, heading Michal Kwiatkowski by nine seconds, with Sir Bradley Wiggins leading in a small group in fifth, a further five seconds back.
The win puts the Bardiani CSF into the Friends Life Yellow Jersey, giving the team control of two of the jerseys, with teammate Sonny Colbrelli retaining the YodelDirect Sprints Jersey for a third successive day.
On a glorious day plucked from mid-summer Zardini attacked from the moment the peloton turned left on the Tumble, one of the toughest climbs in Britain rising 500m in just six kilometres. Neither looking back nor forward but just operating in his own zone Zardini danced rhythmically on his pedals and with the bigger names marking each other soon pulled out an advantage.
Nicholas Roche attacks
Having ridden initially with Garmin Sharp’s Jack Bauer from the foot of the climb, Zardini struck on alone, before eventually Nicolas Roche of Tinkoff-Saxo decided to chance his arm and accelerated to join the young Italian and then, hitting a good patch, pulled ahead himself. Just for a moment the Irishman looked to be heading for the stage victory himself but the determined Italian was far from done.
Pacing himself nicely Zardini, 24, stormed back in the final two kilometres and took line honours along for probably the best win of his career alongside his win in Stage Two of the Giro del Trentino earlier this year. It also catapulted him into the Friends Life Yellow Jersey.
“I live in Verona and today was very like many of the training rides I do around my home in Verona so it suited me fine,” said a delighted Zardini afterwards. “I knew this climb had the reputation of being possibly the best in Britain and it lived up to its reputation. It very tough but for me it was a beautiful climb today.
“I was never in trouble when Nicolas came up to join me. After attacking I was pacing my effort because I knew there would be more to do. I let him go past and perhaps I kidded to be tired a little bit but actually I was feeling fine all the time and soon decided to go back on the attack. I felt fantastic and was able to enjoy the moment and all the support of the fans at the top.
“We are not a big team but we enjoy taking on the big team and we have had great success. We won three stages of the Giro this year and last year Stefano Pirazzi won the King of the Mountains at the Giro.
“We have come here to be aggressive and to race and we will fight hard to defend the jersey. I think we will probably need to try and find some more second somewhere in the other hard stages because obviously riders like Wiggins and Kwiatkowski will be very strong in the Time Trial. It will be difficult but we will try.”
Behind Zardini the better known riders were fighting out an enthralling contest on the 179.9km run from Newtown to the top of the Tumble, basically the top of the famous Blorenge Mountain above Abergavenny and Blaenavon.
Kwiatkowski finished very strongly nine second behind the Italian while Roche, who at one stage looked certain to pay for his earlier effort, clung on bravely for third place a further two seconds back. Rising Belgian star Dylan Teuns finished next on the same time while Wiggins arrived 14 seconds back behind the winner in fifth place.
As usual Wiggins opted to set his own pace and time trial his way up the mountain rather than react to the attacks in front of him and with David Lopez keeping him good company all the way to finish in good shape.
His stated aim before the race was always to limit his losses on the Tumble, which he has done, and then work hard towards a possible showdown in the short time-trial on the 8.8km London circuit on Sunday.
In the Friends Life General Classiciation contest Kwiatkowski is now second behind Zardini at 13 seconds, Roche third at 17, Teuns a further four second seconds back and Wiggins fifth at 24 along with teammate Lopez.
Elsewhere Liverpudlian Mark McNally continued his strong showing to retain the SKODA King of the Mountains jersey, while Sonny Colbrelli, also of the triumphant Bardiani CSF team still leads the YodelDirect Sprints jersey. Ben Swift of Team Sky leads the Chain Reaction Cycles Point’s jersey.
Roche’s Tinkoff Saxo teammate Manuele Boaro claimed the day’s Rouleur Combativity Award, having featured in the six rider break, before striking out alone to be caught on the slopes of the Tumble.
The Friends Life Tour of Britain returns to Worcestershire after a five-year absence on Stage Four, for a 184.6-kilometre leg from Worcester to Bristol, which culminates with the climb of Bridge Valley Road up to the finish on Clifton Downs.
Highlights of Stage Three are on ITV4 at 2200 on Tuesday 9 September, with live coverage resuming from 1300 on Wednesday on ITV4, for Stage Four from Worcester to Bristol. Full details of the television coverage of the Friends Life Tour of Britain, including British Eurosport’s live coverage, can be found here.
For full Stage Three results, click here.