Tour of Britain Stage 2: Gerald Ciolek takes the stage and leader's gold jersey
Milan-San Remo winner attacks on climb to finish to clinch rain-soaked stage
Gerald Ciolek of MTN-Qhubeka is the new leader of the Tour of Britain after winning a rain-soaked Stage 2 of the race in the Lake District this afternoon. The German, winner of Milan-San Remo in March, joined Sam Bennett of An Post-Sean Kelly in chasing down IAM's Thomas Lofkvist on the half-kilometre climb to the finish in Kendal. Bennett, who had led Ciolek up that climb, deparately tried to cling on, but the German proved too powerful, overhauling him with metres left.
Earlier in the 225km stage from Carlisle, two of the stars of this year's Tour de France, Dan Martin of Garmin-Sharp and Movistar's Nairo Quintana, had gone on the attack, the latter having team mate Angel Madrazo for company, but they were brought back with more than 35km remaining.
The Spanish team had clearly targeted today's stage and a third Movistar rider, Enrique Sanz, then went on the attack, but with Sky controlling the front of the peloton for much of the day, he too was caught.
That wasn't the only thing not to go according to plan for Movistar - they also lost former Italian road champion Giovanni Visconti to a crash, one of a number of riders to come to grief on wet roads, among them Team Sky's Sir Bradley Wiggins in the same crash, although he would finish safely in the bunch and lies 12th overall.
"Brad was in the crash after 50km," said Sky sports director, Servais Knaven.
"Visconti crashed in front of him and he landed on him. There were a few guys involved but Brad was really lucky – coming down at 60km an hour.
"He is fine which is good news. He was going well at the end and has only lost a couple of seconds there to the lead guys.
“The team rode really well to control the race. You can see how committed they are.
"Over the Honister Pass there were not many guys left initially but there were four of us there. They are going really well. Tomorrow it’s the time trial and obviously we’re hoping Brad can be in yellow tomorrow evening.
“It was really, really cold out there - eight degrees and for 80 per cent of the day it was raining. I think the whole peloton felt that. But the team survived it really well and did a really good ride as a unit,” he added.
Ciolek's MTN-Qhubeka team now finds itself reduced to just four riders after Andreas Stauff and Ferekalsi Debesay also crashed during the stage.
“It was a strange day for us, losing two riders and then winning but that’s the sport. You can win and lose on the same day,” reflected Ciolek.
“Honister Pass was a really hard climb but I just stayed calm and made sure I was with riders like Cavendish and Petacchi because I knew they would bring it back. I was feeling good so I wasn’t too worried because the front group was just ahead of us the whole time.
"Coming into the finish there was a sharp right turn. I got a bit of a gap from the first riders within the last kilometre then chased Sam Bennett and he gave me a really hard time to catch him. I caught him and went on his wheel with 150 metres to go and was quite confident from then.
“This season started off pretty well for the team. We went to all the races with goals and didn’t do well in all the races and that’s normal but I am very happy with how the year has gone for me and for the team. We’ve been very successful."
Inside the closing 10 kilometres, Omega Pharma-Quick Step's British national champion, Mark Cavendish, also chanced his arm but was pulled back ahead of Lovkvist making his bid for the win with 8km remaining.
Tomorrow's Stage 3 is a 16.1km individual time trial at Knowsley Safari Park.