Team Sky’s Elia Viviani is the first leader of the 2015 Aviva Tour of Britain after he gatecrashed a much-anticipated sprint battle between Etixx-Quick Step’s Mark Cavendish and André Greipel of Lotto-Soudal to win the opening stage in Wrexham this afternoon.
The Italian blindsided Cavendish on the former world champion’s left as the Manx rider, winner of 10 Tour of Britain stages, fought with Greipel who had come off his wheel to try and overtake him on the right in the final charge to the line at the end of the 177.7km stage from Beaumaris on Anglesey.
Cavendish’s Etixx-Quick Step leadout train had put him in an ideal position as the day’s four breakaway riders were swept up at the start of the final kilometre.
But Viviani’s win, by around a tyre’s width from Cavendish with Greipel third, was just reward for Team Sky who had worked hard to keep the escapees in check throughout the afternoon, with Andy Fenn leading the peloton for much of the time.
Three of the four members of the break got to visit the podium at the end of the stage, including Kristian House, riding his final race for JLT-Condor. Winner of the mountains competition at the 2012 Tour of Britain, House is the first leader of that classification this year.
Conor Dunne of An Post-Chain Reaction meanwhile leads the Yodel Sprints competition after coming out on top in today’s intermediate sprints ahead of Tom Stewart of Madison-Genesis and Peter Williams of One Pro Cycling, the latter awarded the day’s Rouleur combativity award.
House, who yesterday announced he is moving to One Pro Cycling, attacked with 4 kilometres remaining, his future team mate Williams following his move.
But they were pulled back as Etixx-Quick Step led by Tour de France stage winner Zdenek Stybar forced the pace on a technical finish – in vain, as it proved, as Viviani took one of the closest victories ever seen in the race.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.