Tour of Britain Stage 8: Merlo takes the stage, but Boasson Hagen wins the race
Boasson Hagen shows his class as Columbia stamp their authority on the race
Ben Swift bagged his first professional win yesterday at the Tour of Britain, and today it was the turn of the Italian ride Michele Merlo to take his first pro win. For Merlo though it was a bittersweet moment, a great way to cap his first season in the professional ranks, but he now faces the prospect of having to find a new team as his current outfit, Barloworld folds at the end of the season. Still, if you need to impress prospective employers this is the way to do it.
Check back here later/Sunday for a full gallery of pics from the final stage
Edvald Boasson Hagen is changing teams too at the end of the season, but the young Norwegian has his future employment already wrapped up, just like this race. To be sure he took the time bonus in the intermediate sprint from Garmin's Chris Sutton and then it was pretty much game over as far as the overall result was concerned. Such was the Columbia HTC team's dominance of proceedings that although there were 50 riders within a minute of Boasson Hagen on the General Classification at the stage start there was never really any doubt as to the eventual outcome of the race. Bosson Hagen didn't even contest the final sprint rolling home back in the bunch in 39th place. He was the outstanding rider of the race, but then he had an outstanding team behind him. Columbia closed down every possible threat including one from last year's winner Geoffrey Lequartre who at one point gained 22 seconds around the Whitehall street circuit.
if Sky can match the organisation, tactical nous and strength in depth of Columbia they will be a formidable force and Boasson Hagen can look forward to adding many more wins to his palmares.
Speaking afterwards he said: “I’m really happy that I can win the Yellow Jersey. It’s really good after a hard week for the team. It’s my second overall win, my first was at the ENECO Tour. But I never compare my results, I’m very happy to have won and really satisfied with my performance.
“It’s really nice to race in this country with all the people, it’s amazing. It’s a nice thing with all the people around the course today, it’s fantastic.”
The other rider to make a name for himself with home fans on this Tour was the serial escape artist Thomas de Gendt (Toppsport-Vlaanderen) who was in the main break in all but one of the eight stages of the race – he did it again today before dropping back, afterwards he explained that going into the stage he had spent 594Km of the race in breaks and he wanted to get the total up to 600km – job done he dropped back. De Gent's reward for such an attacking display all week was the King of the Mountains jersey and the sprint Jersey too.
Chris Sutton (Garmin Slipstream) and Cervelo's Martin Reimer claimed the other two podium spots edging out Kai Reus of Rabobank. Russell Downing was the top Brit in fifth place edging his soon to be Sky team mate Geraint Thomas into sixth, national road champ Kristian House came home in 10th.