Tour of Britain London finale in pictures

We bring you the action from yesterday's circuit race from Whitehall to the Tower

by Simon_MacMichael   September 19, 2011  

Along with what seemed to be a large proportion of cycling fans from London and the South East, we were in London yesterday to see the culmination of what has been the biggest and best Tour of Britain since the race was relaunched in 2004 after a five-year absence.

If the time trial earlier in the day meant that all Lars Boom had to do to seal his overall victory was avoid mishap, the big unanswered question was whether Mark Cavendish, winner of the opening day's stage in Dumfries, would be able to complete his preparations for this weekend's UCI Road World Championships with a win in the city where last month he had won the Olympic Test Event.

Although only five riders remained in the HTC-Highroad team, the race also gave perhaps one final opportunity to see the team's fabled leadout train in action as the riders prepare to go their different ways at the end of the season.

Meanwhile, Team Sky were looking to build on what was turning out to be a successful day with Alex Dowsett clinching the individual time trial and Steve Cummings rising to second overall, and as the last stage of the week-long race, plenty of other teams and riders would have designs on making an impact in the British capital.

Not least among those was the Ireland-based An Post team, who have had a great race in which their riders have been among the chief animateurs, and with indecent haste - to the apparent merriment of the likes of world champion Thor Hushovd and others- it was one of the men in green, Ronan McLaughlin, who launched an attack within seconds of the stage starting.

The main field rolled out at a rather more sedate place as the Irishman headed off up the road. At the front was Team Sky's Geraint Thomas, in the blue Prostate Cancer Charity Points Jersey that officially belonged to Boom - the Welshman had moved back into second in the standings following the time trial, and by the end of the race would win the classification outright.

When another rider bridged across to McLaughlin during the opening lap, there was little surprise that he came from Rapha-Condor-Sharp, another of the UCI Continental teams that have attacked during the race, nor that the rider should be the former British champion, Kristian House. He and McLaughlin would stay out in front for almost the whole race.

Back in the bunch, Rabobank-bound Mark Renshaw led Mark Cavendish, as he has down so many times in the past, with the Australian's future team mate Boom tucked in behind as he kept near the front of the race and out of trouble.

While HTC-Highroad had work ahead at the end of the stage, others could relax and reflect on a job well done, including An Post's Pieter Ghyllebert, whose efforts in the opening days of the race had earned him the Yodel Sprints Jersey.

Hushovd, wearing the rainbow jersey he won in Geelong 12 months ago for the final time before defending his title in Copenhagen next week, was easy for the crowd to pick out, but the winner of Stage 4 in Caerphilly preferred to spend today's stage in the bunch.

Into the closing laps, and while House and McLaughlin were still in the lead, Rabobank were controlling the front of the peloton, with Team Sky and HTC also close to the head of the bunch as the 2011 Tour of Britain neared its climax.

Anticipation in the crowd was starting to rise as Cav, now on the wheel of Bernie Eisel, continued to bide his time ahead of the finale.

With two laps to go, the peloton was starting to become strung out as the big treams leading the chase threatened to swallow up the two breakaway riders as the rain started to pour down.

McLaughlin was swept up on the penultimate lap, but House continued to go it alone, gritting his teeth as he entered the final lap with the light fading fast and the rain now lashing down.

It wasn't to be for he Rapha-Condor-Sharp man as the pace increased further still ahead of the finale. Coming off the final bend, with the roads made treacherous by the rain, Cavendish had eased off and seemed to be nowhere but powered through for an impressive win ahead of Renshaw, the Manxman riding back towards the line afterwards to the cheers of the crowd.

And that, in all likelihood, was Cavendish's last victory in white HTC-Highroad shirt; but irrespective of whether he joins Team Sky, as the rumours suggest, there is every chance that he'll still be riding in a white jersey next season - albeit one with horizontal, rather than vertical stripes. We'll know for sure on Sunday.

 All pictures copyright Simon MacMichael

 

3 user comments

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A great day. Amazing to see the peloton take the hairpin at the Tower.

posted by Coleman [329 posts]
19th September 2011 - 15:51

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I think people had travelled in from the midlands and the West.

posted by a.jumper [679 posts]
19th September 2011 - 22:15

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I travelled down from York as it was the only stage that I could reasonably do by public transport - great day out!

posted by MrsBYork [20 posts]
20th September 2011 - 19:01

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