While Mark Cavendish of HTC-Columbia is setting the Vuelta alight with back-to-back stage wins yesterday and Thursday, team mate and soon-to-be rival André Greipel, who joins Omega Pharma-Lotto at the end of the season, has claimed the opening stage of the Tour of Britain, winning the bunch sprint in Blackpool this afternoon.
Today's victory was Greipel's 18th win of a long season that began with the Tour Down Under in Australia in January, where the German won three stages and the overall title, and marks a statement of intent by the 28-year-old not only regarding his ambitions for the rest of the Tour of Britain, but also for next month's World Championshiop Road Race between Melbourne and Geelong.
His win also resulted from hard work by his HTC-Columbia team in helping bring back the day's breakaway, with Richie Porte, the 25-year-old Team Saxo Bank rider who wore the maglia rosa during May’s Giro d’Italia and won the young rider’s classification in that race, getting off the front of the peloton early on together with Woet Pouls of Vancansoleil and Jack Bauer of Endura racing.
The latter found the pace his fellow escapees were setting as they built what at one point was a five minute lead too much to handle, and spent much of the stage riding on his own with Porte and Pouls up the road ahead of him and the peloton chasing behind.
Eventually, the breakaway riders were swept up one by one, the Tasmanian Porte being the last to be caught around 20km from the finish as the peloton ratcheted up the pace ahead of the sprint finish in Blackpool, with Team Sky, HTC-Columbia and Skil Shimano all working hard at the front.
Prior to that, Pouls had managed to get over the day’s two categorised climbs first, and will race tomorrow in the red and white polkadot King of the Mountains jersey.
Earlier, Porte’s Team Saxo Bank colleague Jonny Bellis, starting his first stage race since the scooter accident that almost claimed his life 12 months ago, was off the pace from the start and abandoned the race 87km into the 133km stage for reasons that are as yet unknown.
Another rider from the Danish team who found himself in difficulty was Jaroslav Marycz, who needed treatment from the race doctor after crashing early on in the stage, which had started a little later than the scheduled time of 1030 in a rain-drenched Rochdale.
Reaction and standings to follow later.
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.