Tour of Britain Stage 1: Sutton wins it for Garmin
Red light at level crossing ensures first stage ends in a sprint
The first stage of the Tour of Britain went to one of the biggest teams in the race, Garmin Slipstream, if not to one of their best-known riders, Chris Sutton winning the 172Km stage from Scunthorpe to York in a sprint finish.
Afterwards, Sutton descibed his win as "one of the highlights of my career, particularly after coming so close to two stage wins last year". The young Aussie also paid tribute to the way his team rode at the front of the race to control things, allowing him to sprint away for the win. Ominiously for the other teams in the race, he went on to say that he felt he could win three or four stages this year.
Had a railway level crossing not intervened, things might have gone very differently, with two young riders, the Dane, Martin Mortensen of Vacansoleil and the Belgian Thomas De Gendt (Topsport Vlaanderen), putting 12 minutes into a seeminly disinterested peloton.
In its early editions, and admittedly in a shorter format, the Tour of Britain was often won by a rider making a big break on the first flat sprinters' stage and then protecting it all the way to the finish. Not this year though.
As the peloton wound itself up to chase the pair down they got held up as the barrier on a level crossing closed, costing them two minutes. It's hard to say whether it cost them the stage win – this is the era of team directeurs checking the Garmin, doing the maths, and telling the chasing pack when to put the hammer down, but it might have. On the other hand they were caught relatively easily before the final run-in to York, so maybe not.
As it was, the two escapees were swallowed up in the rolling hills on the way in to York. Wiggins and the Garmin team then sat on the front and upped the pace on the run-in, and with Wiggins protecting his flank so that nobody could come around early, Sutton took the win. Although 93 riders finished the stage in the same time as Sutton various time bonuses mean that he goes into tomorrow second stage with a four second lead and that the field is further divided up by a few seconds here and there. Mortenson's reward for his exploits on the break was third position on general classification four seconds down on Sutton, as is Michael Merlo who finished second in the final sprint.
How Sutton can hold on to that four second advantage is a moot point with a bevy of good riders at his heels, amongst them such stalwarts as Russell Downing soon to be of Team Sky and coming off the back of an impressive win in the recent Tour of Ireland, who is 9 seconds back on the Australian in the general classification along with another soon to be Team Sky rider, Edvald Boasson Hagen, and Ian Stannard another soon to be Sky Man is one second further back.
Top 20 Tour of Britain Stage 11) Chris Sutton (Garmin-Slipstream) 4:07:59 2) Michel Merlo (Barloworld) 3) Ben Swift (Team Katusha) 4) Russell Downing (Candi-TV-Marshalls Pasta) 5) Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Topsport Vlaanderen) 6) Reinier Honig (Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team) 7) Martin Reimer (Cervelo Test Team) 8) Lloyd Mondory (Ag2r La Mondiale) 9) Ian Wilkinson (Team Halfords) 10) Tim Mertens (Topsport Vlaanderen) 11) Malcolm Elliott (Candi-TV-Marshalls Pasta) 12) Alexander Kristoff (Joker Bianchi) 13) Koldo Fernandez (Euskatel Euskadi) 14) Daniel Lloyd (Cervelo Test Team) 15) Ian Stannard (ISD-Neri) 16) Danilo Napolitano (Team Katusha) 17) Graeme Brown (Rabobank) 18) Alan Marangoni (CSF Navigare) 19) Davide Appollonio (Cervelo Test Team) 20) Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Columbia-HTC)
Top 10 General Classification after Stage 11) Chris Suttons GRM Garmin-Slipstream 4:07:49 2) Michael Merlo BAR Barloworld :04 3) Martin Mortensen VAC Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team 4) Ben SwiftKAT Team Katusha :06 5) Russell Downing CTV Candi-TV-Marshalls Pasta :09 6) Alexander Kristoff TMB Joker Bianchi 7) Edvald Boasson Hagen THR Team Columbia-HTC 8) Pieter Vanspeybrouck TSV Topsport Vlaanderen :10 9) Reinier Honig VAC Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team 10) Martin Reimer CTT Cervelo Test Team