The 2015 Tour of Britain was really a tale of four Sky riders: two current, two former. Wout Poels and Edvald Boasson Hagen duked it out for overall victory for most of the week, with Boasson Hagen emerging triumphant. Meanwhile Elia Viviani won three times as Mark Cavendish failed to add to his ten career victories in this race.
Viviani edged out Cavendish to win the opening stage before storming to victory on stage three. He added the final stage too after Andre Greipel was relegated for deviating from his line. In between viviani’s first two wins, Etixx-Quick Step’s Petr Vakoc‘s solo attack put him in the yellow jersey but a crash close to the finish the following day put him out of the race. Cavendish’s race ended in ignominious fashion after he crashed into a parked car during stage six.
The battle for the GC came to a head on the summit of Hartside Fell on stage five. A select group of riders threw punch and counter-punch at each other all the way up the final climb. Boasson Hagen appeared to have made the decisive move with just over 1km to go but Poels, who played a vital role in Chris Froome’s Tour de France victory in July, caught him in the final 100 metres and swept past to take the win. The result put Boasson Hagen into yellow, a single second ahead of Poels. but good racecraft and superior sprinting in the final three stages ensured that the Norwegian was able to extend and defend his advantage all the way to London.
Rider of the race
Six years after Edvald Boasson Hagen, then a fresh-faced 22-year-old Columbia-HTC teammate of a certain Mark Cavendish, won four stages and the GC at this very race, back he comes to win a second title with a ride of great power and maturity.
He’s a funny one, ‘Eddy Boss’. To some he is a failure, a rider who never lived up to the label – or should that be millstone? – of being ‘the next Eddy Merckx’. When the 2009 season brought him wins at Gent-Wevelgem and GC victories in Britain and at the Eneco Tour, expectations were raised. But a high-profile move to Sky yielded five years of struggle to establish himself as more than a jack-of-all-trades, with only the occasional flash of genius.
He didn’t live up to ridiculously high expectations, but a failure? No. Over 40 career wins, including two Eneco Tours, two Tours of Britain, two Tour de France stage wins, plus major one-day races such as Gent-Wevelgem, the Vattenfall Cyclassics and GP Plouay.
Overall victory here was built on a combination of consistency both uphill and on the flat and, despite a lack of a stage win, no small amount of panache. If not for Poels’ late surge he would have taken queen stage five but it nonetheless laid the platform for him. And the following day he extended his slim one-second advantage to 13 with a decisive dash at the intermediate sprint and then a powerful move towards the end which saw him gain four seconds on the road and a further six in bonuses for finishing second.
He will never be the next Merckx, that much is clear. But being Eddy Boss isn’t actually that bad. And he’s still only 28. Maybe the best is yet to come?
Two things we noticed
1. Whither Cav? Rumours that Mark Cavendish and Etixx-Quick Step are on the verge of parting company have been circulating for a while and Bradley Wiggins seemed to confirm this early in the week. It wouldn’t be a surprise. Cav and the team have never quite clicked, and age (although he’s still only 30), marriage and fatherhood, coupled with the rise of Marcel Kittel and a new, hungry generation of fast-twitch men, have seemingly blunted his rapier’s edge. Having won 20 stages in the four Tours de France between 2008 and 2011, he has won just six in the four editions since, with only one coming in the last two years.
Are Etixx preparing for life without Cav? It seems so, and this week gave a good indication of how the team’s next generation are shaping up. Petr Vakoc (23 years old), Matteo Trentin (26) and Fernando Gaviria (21) each won stages. Vakoc is already Czech road race champion, Trentin is a double Tour de France stage winner and Colombian sprinter Gaviria already possesses prodigious speed as he showed in overpowering Andre Greipel to win stage four.
Where will Cav end up, if he is indeed leaving? It’s hard to see exactly who will be willing to take a punt and meet his needs and salary expectations as the fastest sprinter of his (and arguably any) generation heads towards the twilight of his career. It would be interesting if he ended up at MTN-Qhubeka as Boasson Hagen’s teammate, as the pair have previously worn the colours of both Columbia-HTC (2008-9) and Sky (2012) together. Just saying.
2. The great British public. In less than a decade, cycling has burst into Britain’s mainstream consciousness. Where once we had only Boardman, Obree and Queally to admire, recent years have brought us a plethora of bona fide superstars, from the Olympic and World Championship exploits of Hoy, Pendleton and friends on the track to jerseys of both yellow and rainbow hue on the road and a production line of talent that starts at Cavendish, Wiggins and Froome but follows a long line through Thomas, Kennaugh, Stannard, Dowsett, the Yates twins and many, many more.
At the same time the Tour of Britain, now in its 12th year, has also grown from strength to strength. Promoted from 2.1 to 2.HC last year, its increased status allows it to attract riders of the quality of Cavendish, Greipel, Viviani, Boasson Hagen, Phinney, Poels, Kruijswijk and Stybar. It’s been great to see the streets of every stage lined with fans – and schoolchildren in particular – in equal measure enthusiastic and respectful. It shows the sport is in rude health in this country.
1. Edvald Boasson Hagen (MTN-Qhubeka) 34:52:52
2. Wout Poels (Sky) +0:13
3. Owain Doull (Team Wiggins) +0:42
4. Rasmus Guldhammer (Cult Energy) +0:43
5. Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-Quick Step) +0:51
6. Ruben Fernandez (Movistar) same time
7. Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) s/t
8. Dylan van Baarle (Cannondale-Garmin) +0:53
9. Chris Anker Sorensen (Tinkoff-Saxo) +0:59
10. Xandro Meurisse (An Post-Chainreaction) +1:02
Link: Official race website