Marc de Maar of United Healthcare took today's fifth stage of the Tour of Britain, attacking from a select group to finish clear in Stoke-on-Trent. Sep Vanmarcke of Garmin-Sharp pipped de Maar's teammate Boy Van Poppel to second place. Leigh Howard of Orica-GreenEdge takes the race leader’s jersey back from Mark Cavendish after losing it to the world champion in Blackpool yesterday.
The peloton had already been split apart by the time a lead group of fewer than 30 riders tackled Gun Hill, seen beforehand as the day’s potentially decisive climb, its summit crested around 30km out.
An early break of three - Ivan Basso, Bernard Sulzberger and Bartosz Huzarski - had hoovered up most of the KOM and sprint points on offer, before fierce crosswinds and some spectacular attacking climbing from Endura's Jon Tiernan-Locke, among others, made mincemeat of the peloton, shipping most of the field including race leader Cavendish. Bradley Wiggins, who was climbing well in the lead group, went back to help out the sprinter.
A lead group of 23 formed from the chaos and they worked well to extend their lead to over four minutes before the final kilometres brought a flurry of attacks from which the 28-year-old de Maar, formerly with Rabobank and Quickstep and today wearing the jersey of Curacao national champion, eventually profited.
de Maar's victory was an especially courageous one since the rider had hit the deck after clashing with Jeremie Galland with around 9km to go, but with adrenaline no doubt pumping, and after pulling himself back to the lead group, he went off the front with 6km remaining and managed to stay out until the line, finishing 15 seconds ahead of the chasing pack.
His United Healthcare team mate Van Poppel, who spent a day in the race leader’s jersey earlier this week, finished third and now lies second overall, narrowly outsprinted for second today by Garmin-Sharp’s Vanmarcke, who moves to third on GC.
Just one Team Sky rider was in the break – Christian Knees, one of five climbers who are within half a minute of the top three, the others being Garmin-Sharp’s Nathan Haas, Endura’s Tiernan-Locke and the Liquigas-Cannondale rider, Damiano Caruso.
Another United Healthcare rider, Christopher Jones, lies 10 seconds further back and 34 seconds off the race lead in eighth place, but there's another big stage looming tomorrow with lots of potential for further shake-ups in the GC with the climb of Caerphilly Mountain.
Dave is a founding father of road.cc and responsible for kicking the server when it breaks. In a previous life he was a graphic designer but he's also a three-time Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling world champion, and remains unbeaten through the bog. Dave rides all sorts of bikes but tends to prefer metal ones. He's getting old is why.