André Greipel, winner of the opening stage of this year’s Tour of Britain in Blackpool on Saturday, seems to have developed something of an affinity with the British seaside, taking his second victory of the race in a sprint finish on Stage 6 in Great Yarmouth this afternoon.
The German, who leaves HTC-Columbia at the end of this season for Omega Pharma-Lotto, owes a debt to Team Sky for his win today, however, with the British ProTour outfit putting in a huge amount of work to pull in a two-man breakaway in the hopes of setting up Greg Henderson for the win in Norfolk.
The two escapees, Jaroslav Marycz of Team Saxo Bank and Cameron Meyer of Garmin-Transitions, had raced most of today’s 190km stage from King’s Lynn, passing through Sandringham, Hunstanton, Wells-Next-The-Sea and Norwich city centre en route to Great Yarmouth, ahead of the peloton, and at one stage held an advantage of more than 7 minutes over the peloton.
Meyer, whose team mate Dan Martin pulled out prior to the start this morning through illness, had initially got away with Cervelo TestTeam’s Jeremy Hunt after about 50km of the stage but the British rider was soon left behind, Marycz then bridging the gap across from the peloton and the pair co-operating to build their lead.
Inside the final 10km, with the peloton closing hard, Meyer attacked again to try and keep clear, but with HTC-Columbia, whose Michael Albasini (below) remains in the race leader’s yellow jersey, also forcing pace at the front of the bunch, the catch was inevitable, and frustratingly for the 22-year-old Australian was made with barely a kilometre to go.
After today's stage, Greipel said: “We were not so fresh at all with just four riders left in the race, so it was quite a good powerful beginning to the stage for the team. We tried to keep the breakaway as small as possible as we were all pretty tired from the last two days."
He continued: “We were happy that just two riders were away and we could sit on as the other riders chased the breakaway down. At the end we were focused on the sprint, and Bert Grabsch and Mark Renshaw gave me a really good position, and quite a good leadout from Mark. I think we can be really happy with this victory."
The German added: “Sky had to chase the breakaway down, so there was no one left to do the leadout, so we were just sitting on and with two kilometres to go we went, and that’s how it was."
That last comment touches on the fact that HTC-Columbia are racing with a depleted squad of just four riders after both Marco Pinotti and Tony Martin came down with a stomach virus that swept through the team.
“Tony is like a locomotive, once he is riding his bike as fast as possible, he never can stop so this is a really big thing that we lost him," confessed Greipel. "I hope we are able to defend the jersey until London.”
Meanwhile team Sky's Henderson warned that he would continue to fight for the overall title despite being fourth, 1 minute 33 seconds down on Albasini.
"The aim’s the overall in London,” insisted Henderson this afternoon, "and I have to try and get on the podium. It’s a very important race for us, a home race, and at the moment I’m in fourth place so I’m chasing time bonuses along the road and chasing time bonuses at the finish. But it’s been a long hard week and it’s taken its toll on not only myself but the whole team, who are riding full gas for me," he continued.
The New Zealander acknowledged that it would be difficult to escape the attentions of the team whose rider currently leads the race, however,
“They’re not going to let me go anywhere, Columbia mark me, we mark certain people. There’s a core group of people who can’t go anywhere basically and I can’t slip into a move because they’ll chase me instantly. Everybody’s on their last legs, so we’ve just got to keep fighting until London.”
Like Borut Bozic of Vacansoleil, who lies second, and Team Saxo Bank's Richie Porte in third place, Henderson is running out of time to overhaul Albasini at the top of the overall standings, with just tomorrow's Stage 7 from Bury St Edmunds and Saturday's Stage 8 in London remaining.
Stage Six Results 1) Andre Greipel HTC-Columbia 4:09:05 2) Borut Bozic Vacansoleil @ same time 3) Lucas Sebastien Haedo Team Saxo Bank @ same time Honda Combativity Award Winner Cameron Meyer Garmin-Transitions General Classification (after six stages) 1) Michael Albasini HTC-Columbia 24h 02m 14s 2) Borut Bozic Vacansoleil @ 1m 26s 3) Richie Porte Team Saxo Bank @ 1m 27s
The Prostate Cancer Charity Points Jersey (after six stages) 1) Greg Henderson Team Sky 48pts 2) Borut Bozic Vacansoleil 42pts 3) Michael Albasini HTC-Columbia 39pts The King of the Mountains jersey (after six stages) 1) Johnny Hoogerland Vacansoleil 54pts 2) Richie Porte Team Saxo Bank 45pts 3) Dan Martin Garmin-Transitions 32pts The Sprints Jersey (after six stages) 1) Michal Golas Vacansoleil 27pts 2) Richie Porte Team Saxo Bank 18pts 3) Johnny Hoogerland Vacansoleil 15pts
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.