Mark Cavendish, winner of a Tour of Britain stage in Guildford 12 months ago in the rainbow jersey of world champion, this afternoon repeated the feat in the red, white and blue colours of national champion, getting a storming leadout from Omega Pharma-Quick Step team mate Alessandro Petacchi ahead of the final 200 metre climb to the line, and holding off Cannondale's Elia Viviani to win.
Last year, Cavendish rode the race with Team Sky; his former team mate Sir Bradley Wiggins came home safely in the bunch today, and barring mishap will seal his overall victory in the final stage's circuit race in Central London tomorrow.
With 10km left, George Atkins of the Great Britain under-23 team jumped off the front of the main group but was quickly brought back.
By now, the day’s break, comprising four riders - Peter Williams of Team IG Sigma Sport, UnitedHealthcare’s Lucas Euser, Sojasun’s Christophe Laborie and Kristian House of Rapha Condor JLT - had just 10 seconds’ advantage on the chasing group. They would be caught with 6km left.
Omega Pharma-Quick Step had taken on much of the pace-setting duties throughout the 150.4km stage from Epsom to Guildford, which followed a winding course through the Surrey countryside, as they looked to set up Cavendish for the win, and never let the escapees' advantage drift much beyond 3 minutes.
Coming under the flamme rouge, Petacchi led what was now a very strung out peloton, Cavendish sitting on his wheel, and as the Italian peeled off, his work done, the British champion was left on his own ahead of that short but punchy final climb perhaps a little earlier than he would have liked.
Heading up the cobbles of Guildford High Street, two men who had spent spells in the IG gold jersey of race leader after themselves winning stages - Viviani, and Gerald Ciolek of MTN-Qhubeka, who would finish third - were closing fast, but once again it was Cavendish who prevailed, taking his second stage of this year's race, and ninth career Tour of Britain stage win.
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Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.