Tour of Britain review: Wiggins and Cavendish spark home celebrations

It was home celebrations all around at the Tour of Britain as Bradley Wiggins took overall victory and British riders claimed five of eight stages, including three for national champion Mark Cavendish and one for rising star Simon Yates.

Race summary

  • Stage 1: A narrow, twisty, uphill sprint finish, with Elia Viviani (Cannondale) timing his run perfectly to win.
  • Stage 2: Gerald Ciolek (MTN-Qhubeka) won a scrappy sprint after Thomas Lovkvist’s solo attack was pulled back with less than 300 metres remaining.
  • Stage 3: Sky’s Bradley Wiggins dominated the 16km individual time trial around Knowsley Safari Park to establish a 33-second lead in the general classification.
  • Stage 4: Despite a late climb with 9km remaining, everyone came back together for a bunch sprint won by Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), who went early and held off Viviani for the victory.
  • Stage 5: Sam Bennett (An Post Chain Reaction) sprinted to victory at the bottom of Caerphilly Mountain after Dan Martin and Nairo Quintana had animated the race on the climb’s two ascents.
  • Stage 6: After Sky and Bradley Wiggins had covered attacks by Martin and Quintana on the climb to the Haytor summit finish, Simon Yates (Great Britain) sprinted away in the final 150 metres to win.
  • Stage 7: Guildford’s uphill cobbled finish featured for the second year in succession with the same result: a Mark Cavendish win. Cav opened his sprint early and then needed his second kick in the final 25 metres as Viviani briefly drew level.
  • Stage 8: OPQS controlled the run-in and Cavendish duly delivered win number three. Wiggins finished safely in the pack to confirm overall victory.

Race analysis

With Alex Dowsett (Movistar) not in the form which saw him defeat Bradley Wiggins against the clock at the Giro in May, a field lacking in time trial specialists meant the stage three ITT was perfectly set up for Wiggins to dominate. The only question was whether he would hold back in the kind of wet conditions which scuppered him at the Giro. He didn’t, establishing a 33-second lead which put him in the driving seat for overall victory.

Although the parcours featured several steep gradients to encourage riders such as Quintana, there weren’t enough long, steep climbs to trouble the 2012 Tour de France champion, who needed only to be attentive to successfully defend his advantage.

Having not turned a pedal in anger for six weeks, it took Mark Cavendish a couple of days to shake off the rust, but when he did he proved unbeatable in the sprints despite an impressive charge by Elia Viviani making him dig deep in Guildford on Saturday. According to Pro Cycling Stats, Cav has completed 15,078 racing kilometres this season – only Argos-Shimano’s Albert Timmer has completed more – and he’ll no doubt be looking forward to a well-earned rest in the off-season.

Cavendish edges out Viviani in Guildford to win stage 7 (Image: Tour of Britain website)

Cavendish edges out Viviani in Guildford to win stage 7 (Image: Tour of Britain website)

VeloVoices viewpoint

A mini-Ventoux? It may not have the scale or the storied history of Mont Ventoux, but I loved watching the peloton snake its way up the Honister Pass on stage two. Like Ventoux, the road stretches ahead of the riders in a (more or less) straight line and the gradient touches 25% – difficult enough in normal circumstances, but absolutely brutal on a cold, wet day where you could clearly see rivulets of rain-water streaming down both sides of the road.

Did it stop the fans? No. They were four and five-deep on the most challenging sections of the climb, and were rewarded with the sight of Dan Martin and Nairo Quintana attacking off the front of the peloton. You couldn’t possibly mistake the Lake District for the Alps, but the racing was every bit as intense.

Joined at the hip. Clearly Martin and Quintana arrived at the race intent on having some fun and testing themselves out ahead of this week’s Worlds as they formed an unusual looking Irish-Colombian double act.

The pair attacked on the Honister Pass. Then they attacked on the final climb of stage four, on Caerphilly Mountain the following day and then separately on Friday’s Haytor climb.

None of the attacks were successful, but they served the riders’ personal objectives and provided some terrific entertainment to reward the watching crowds.

Wearing his stripes with pride. Say what you like about Mark Cavendish, but his enthusiasm for the sport is almost as great as his appetite for winning. It’s really quite touching.

This is what he had to say after winning stage four, moving him ahead of Edvald Boasson Hagen with his eighth stage victory at this race:

I’ve seen this race grow over the last ten years. To see the crowds out in the last couple of years makes you proud but to actually be able to do it [take the record] in this jersey as the champion of this country I’m very proud. I’m very patriotic and to be able to represent the race as British champion is an honour for me.

A star is born? 21-year-old Simon Yates underlined the potential he displayed in winning both the points race at the Track World Championships and then two mountain stages at last month’s Tour de l’Avenir by taking the summit finish at Haytor (4.9km, 5.9%) in impressive fashion. He kept his cool while big guns fired off all around him – Giro mountains jersey winner Stefano Pirazzi, Martin (twice) and Quintana – held on to Wiggins’ wheel and then picked his moment to attack with 150 metres remaining to take the spoils.

Yates is Britain’s main medal hope in the under-23 road race at the Worlds this week, and will reportedly turn pro with Orica-GreenEDGE next year. Could we one day see him leading the next generation of GC contenders in Sky colours? Wiggins certainly thinks so, speaking effusively of Yates as a star of the future.

Incidentally, twin brother Adam finished second overall at the Tour de l’Avenir and also rode in the GB team here, riding on after an early crash. He’s another one to look out for.

Is Britain ready for WorldTour status? I know I’m biased because it’s my ‘home’ race, but I genuinely believe the building blocks are there.

With every passing year, the start-list becomes increasingly impressive. This year we had both a Tour de France winner (Wiggins) and runner-up (Quintana), a former world champion (Cavendish), the 2013 Milan-San Remo winner (Ciolek), the Volta a Catalunya champion (Martin) and a winner of 48 grand tour stages (Petacchi).

The parcours is full of stages with short but tricky climbs that create a fine balance between sprinters and attackers. And the size and passion of the crowds exceeds that of many WorldTour events.

Is the Tour of Britain – currently a 2.1 race – ready to be upgraded to 2.HC or even WorldTour status? Not just yet. But maybe soon.

General classification

1. Bradley Wiggins (Sky) 29:45:22

2. Martin Elmiger (IAM) +0:26

3. Simon Yates (Great Britain) +1:03

4. David Lopez (Sky) +1:08

5. Jack Bauer (Garmin-Sharp) +1:13

6. Sergio Pardilla (MTN-Qhubeka) +1:16

7. Ian Stannard (Sky) +1:34

8. Sebastien Reichenbach (IAM) +1:42

9. Michal Golas (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) +1:46

10. Marcel Wyss (IAM) +1:57

Other classification winners

Points: Martin Elmiger (IAM).

King of the Mountains: Angel Mardazo (Movistar).

Sprints: Angel Mardazo (Movistar).

Best young rider: Simon Yates (Great Britain).

Team: Sky.

Link: Official website

4 thoughts on “Tour of Britain review: Wiggins and Cavendish spark home celebrations

  1. What a fantastic edition of the Tour of Britain – home winner always helps of course but to see huge crowds lining the route in, at times, appalling weather, was truly joyous. I was going to suggest we try and find a slot for it earlier in the calender after two very wet editions in 2012/13 but, lets face it, the weather will probably always have the final say in this race.

    Glad you picked up on Honister too – what a dramatic climb that was through clouds thick with rain. For anyone interested my suggestion is to get yourself to Cumbria and test your legs on some truly awesome climbs: http://ragtimecyclist.wordpress.com/2013/09/22/its-a-hardknott-life/

    • I know what you mean about the timing. The problem with moving the Tour of Britain is … when? I’ve mulled over this before and came to the conclusion that it’s actually just right where it is, overlapping with the end of the Vuelta as an alternative means of preparing for Worlds. It could arguably sit during the spring classics season, although personally I think that would be a backward step. Or if one of the Spanish WT races went under for financial reasons, say, I suppose it could move there. It’s a tricky one, isn’t it?

      • Re-reading my previous comment i seem to be suggesting i have some say in these things….which i clearly don’t!

        You’re right, of course, i suppose i just like the idea of a Tour of Britain under sunny skies, to try and tempt back the likes of Quintana for future editions, but it’s fine where it is….just have to embrace the weather.

        • The calendar is actually quite inflexible, isn’t it, particularly during grand tour season. That’s why the Tours of California and Poland have to present themselves as alternatives for those not racing at the Giro and Tour, I guess. I suppose one reasonable alternative would be to move it to maybe early March and try to squeeze it in between Paris-Nice and the spring classics – it might almost qualify as warm weather prep for M-SR given the conditions we saw this year!

          Interestingly, I was catching up with the Velocast boys’ Eurosport podcast last night, and I noticed that John came to much the same conclusion.

          One other consideration is that an early/mid September date is actually quite good in terms of occupying a nice little niche in the UK sporting calendar. No risk of clashing with the Olympics, athletics championships, big Test series etc, and the football season hasn’t really got going properly yet. ToB got good media coverage, and ITV’s daily highlights were watched by more people than any sport other than the Premier League last week.

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