Tour of Britain stages 7 & 8: Boom seals overall victory as Cavendish wins final stage

A breakaway win by Gediminas Bagdonas in the Tour of Britain‘s longest stage on Saturday preceded a double British success on the race’s final day, as Alex Dowsett claimed victory in the individual time trial before, predictably, Mark Cavendish brought the curtain down by bookending the race with his second sprint win. The one-two combination of Cavendish and Mark Renshaw won three stages between them, but overall victory went to double stage winner Lars Boom of Rabobank, who had led ever since stage three and was the most consistent rider of all.

Stage 7: Bury St Edmunds to Sandringham, 199.7km

Lithuanian Gediminas Bagdonas (An Post) prevailed in a sprint finish at the Sandringham Estate. The day’s six-man break were allowed to stay away all day by a peloton happy to conserve their energies for Sunday’s concluding double stage.

Bagdonas was the fastest finisher from the successful breakaway (image courtesy of Klaipeda Splendid)

Faced with the longest stage of the race on its penultimate day, a determined breakaway was always likely to have a much higher than usual chance of surviving to the finish. Bagdonas initiated the escape early on and was joined by Ian Wilkinson (Endura), Mathieu Claude (Europcar), Wouter Sybrandy (Sigma Sport) Richard Handley (Raleigh), and Stijn Neirynck (Topsport Vlaanderen). The six riders established a seven-minute lead and never looked under serious threat. With all six breakaway men well down in the overall classification, Rabobank were content to ride a controlled but not excessive pace at the front of the peloton, happy for the break to sweep up the intermediate and finish line time bonuses to protect overall leader Lars Boom‘s advantage. And with the key sprinters’ teams – HTC-Highroad, Sky and Garmin-Cervélo – equally happy to keep their powder dry for the final day, the entire bunch was content to ride at a comfortable tempo throughout.

The six escapees worked well throughout, negotiating three minor climbs early on before maintaining a good pace on the long, flat run to the finish. Only in the final kilometre did the cat-and-mouse games begin, with the pace slowing to a near-standstill on a couple of occasions as the sextet eyed each other up as if competing in a track sprint. Bagdonas was initially forced to the front but first Handley and then Wilkinson attempted brief, half-baked attacks, which allowed him to drop back into a more favourable position and then catapult himself to the front in the final 100 metres to take an easy win.

The main peloton arrived 1:23 later and enacted an almost identical finish. World champion Thor Hushovd came to the front, launched a half-hearted attack, then thought the better of it, inadvertently providing a lead-out for Mark Cavendish to delight the assembled crowds by winning a barely contested sprint to take seventh place and nine valuable points which moved him to within three points of Boom in the points classification. Boom’s 28-second lead in the general classification remained intact.

Stage 7 result:

1. Gediminas Bagdonas (An Post) 4:33:17

2. Ian Wilkinson (Endura) same time

3. Mathieu Claude (Europcar) s/t

4. Stijn Neirynck (Topsport Vlaanderen) s/t

5. Richard Handley (Raleigh) +0:04

Stage 8a: London, 8.8km individual time trial

Sky dominated the short individual time trial that formed the first part of a final day London double-header, winning the stage with British time trial champion Alex Dowsett and also placing Steve Cummings and Geraint Thomas in the top five. But the biggest winner was Boom, whose second place extended his general classification lead to an unassailable 36 seconds.

The 8.8km route was essentially a straight blast along the Embankment to the Tower of London and back again, with just a couple of corners immediately after the start and just before the finish providing a minimal technical challenge.

Dowsett beat the favoured Boom to claim the ITT victory (image courtesy of Philippe Huguenin)

Endura’s Swedish rider Alex Wetterhall set the early benchmark time of 10:33, which would eventually be good enough for sixth overall. He was eventually pushed off the top of the timesheets by Vacansoleil’s Lieuwe Westra, who recorded 10:19, with Dowsett in turn posting the eventual winning time of 10:14.

Sky teammate Cummings – the overall runner-up in 2008 – finished nine seconds behind Dowsett, fourth fastest and enough to leapfrog him up to second overall. As race leader, Boom set off last and was just a second down on Dowsett at the intermediate split, but faded slightly over the second half of the course. Nonetheless, his time of 10:19 was marginally faster than Westra’s – giving him his fourth top two finish in the race (two firsts, two seconds) and a 36-second lead over new second-place man Cummings.

Even Mark Cavendish got in on the act. Normally he would not give 100% in a time trial, but here he was looking to keep himself alive in the points competition. 13th place earned him three valuable points, leaving him 14 adrift of Boom – and six behind Thomas – to keep his slim hopes alive.

Stage 8a result:

1. Alex Dowsett (Sky) 10:14.73

2. Lars Boom (Rabobank) +0:05

3. Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM) +0:05

4. Steve Cummings (Sky) +0:09

5. Geraint Thomas (Sky) +0:16

Stage 8b: London city circuit, 90km

The race finished with a crowd-pleasing 10-lap circuit of the same course used earlier in the day for the time trial. And the crowd were certainly left pleased, despite the late rain, as home favourite Cavendish led Mark Renshaw across the line, claiming his second victory ahead of next week’s World Championships, while Lars Boom finished safely to confirm his overall victory.

Cavendish takes the confidence gained from two sprint wins here into the Worlds

It came as little surprise when a rider from An Post – the race’s most aggressive team by far – attacked right from the start. Ronan McLaughlin shot away from the peloton, and was soon joined by 2009 British champion Kristian House (Rapha Condor). The pair pulled out a 33-second lead over the peloton, but with the majority of the circuit being run on the long, straight Embankment they were always within sight of the bunch. The gap gently edged downwards over the last couple of laps, and although House went on alone to start the final lap with a 19-second advantage, he was pulled in before the bunch doubled back at the Tower of London for the last time.

With the usual suspects massing for the final sprint on roads which were now damp and slippery after rain started to fall, Renshaw took up his familiar position near the front as they swept round the final right-hand corner by Big Ben onto Whitehall. Cavendish, mindful of the danger, tiptoed around fully 20 metres behind in fifth place, but then unleashed his familiar burst to pick off those ahead of him and take the victory ahead of his teammate with some ease. The two HTC-Highroad riders, in their final race together, therefore claimed their third one-two finish, with Cavendish taking two stages to Renshaw’s one.

Cavendish later explained his hesitancy at the final corner:

I didn’t want to take too many risks today with the Worlds coming up. It was a wet finish and I saw [Ben] Swift lose his wheel on the second last corner so I backed off on the last corner and ended up 20 metres behind coming out of it. I thought it was too far back to get it but I went for it anyway and I came through on the line.

It’s been really good to come away with three stage wins this week, can’t get much better. Not only that we got three first and second placings which is superb.

The gold jersey of Lars Boom finished safely in the pack, and he claimed overall victory by 36 seconds. After the stage, the Dutch rider said:

It was awesome. London is a very nice city. It’s a lovely country, I didn’t expect that. The public was awesome, a lot of cheering so it was a great week for us.

My most memorable moment was the first stage, the circuit, the small roads, the rain — it was awesome.

In addition to overall winner Boom, Geraint Thomas‘ fifth place in the final sprint was enough for him to win the points competition ahead of Cavendish. The sprint and King of the Mountains prizes had already been secured by An Post’s Pieter Ghyllebert and Rapha Condor’s Jonathan Tiernan-Locke, with the latter also placing fifth overall on GC.

Closing thoughts

Cavendish’s final burst in the broken sprint was a timely reminder of the savage acceleration he is capable of producing when he has a sniff of victory, confirming his status as favourite for next Sunday’s World Championship road race. Thor Hushovd also showed decent form during the week, but the biggest threat to Cavendish may well be Slovakian rider Peter Sagan (Liquigas), whose outstanding 2011 includes three wins at the Vuelta a España. Former teammate André Greipel has had an up-and-down season but is one of the few men to have beaten Cavendish in a head-to-head sprint this year, and he will form part of a twin German threat alongside Marcel Kittel, who has won 14 races in his first professional season, breaking the previous record for a neo-pro of 11 victories held by Cavendish himself.

Wins by Alex Dowsett in the time trial and Geraint Thomas in the points classification masked a disappointing race for Sky, who entered a very strong squad with two genuine overall contenders in Thomas and Steve Cummings. On a couple of occasions they had the opportunity to win stages and blow the race wide open, particularly on stage three in Stoke where they had their entire team in the decisive break, but a combination of questionable tactics, misfortune and a rival, Boom, at the top of his game conspired against them. Even given Thomas’ injuries sustained in a crash on stage six, Sky were never able to apply enough pressure on Boom and his Rabobank team to give Cummings a genuine shot at the overall win. Should the rumours of Cavendish’s arrival be confirmed – and, if true, it is a little surprising that it was not announced at the end of the race here – he will provide a sharper focus and ruthlessness for a team which is arguably a bit too democratic for its own good.

Anyway, the next stop is Copenhagen next week for the World Championships. Can Cavendish complete another barnstorming year with his first rainbow jersey?

Stage 8b result:

1. Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) 1:59:13

2. Mark Renshaw (HTC-Highroad) same time

3. Robert Förster (UnitedHealthcare) s/t

4. Geraint Thomas (Sky) s/t

5. Ben Swift (Sky) s/t

General classification:

1. Lars Boom (Rabobank) 26:57:35

2. Steve Cummings (Sky) +0:36

3. Jan Barta (NetApp) +0:55

4. Linus Gerdemann (Leopard-Trek) +0:57

5. Jonathan Tiernan-Locke (Rapha Condor) + 1:03

6. Iker Camano (Endura) +1:07

7. Jelle Wallays (Topsport Vlaanderen) +1:12

8. Joost Posthuma (Leopard-Trek) +1:13

9. Leopold König (NetApp) +1:19

10. Daniel Lloyd (Garmin-Cervélo) +1:25

Link: Tour of Britain official website

Tour of Britain recaps

Stages 1-3: Manx Missile and Boom win explosive sprints

Stages 4-6: Boom extends his lead

Tour of Britain stages 4-6: Boom extends his lead

The Tour of Britain‘s three most mountainous stages ended in contrasting sprints won by world champion Thor Hushovd, lead-out specialist Mark Renshaw and overall leader Lars Boom. Ahead of the final two flat stages and individual time trial Boom – a specialist against the clock with two prologue wins to his name this year – holds a commanding 28-second advantage over the field and has established himself as the odds-on favourite to defend the gold jersey all the way to Sunday’s finish in London.

Stage 4: Welshpool to Caerphilly, 183.7km

World champion Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervélo) prevailed after the concluding first category climb of Caerphilly Mountain shattered the leading group ahead of the finish. Lars Boom (Rabobank) finished a strong second to preserve his overall lead.

An Post’s Pieter Ghyllebert was prominent in the day’s breakaway as he sought to consolidate his lead in the sprinters’ competition, which he duly did by winning at each of the three intermediates. He was joined in the escape group by Jack Bauer (Endura) and Kristian House (Rapha Condor). The trio established a 5½-minute lead until Sky started driving the chase behind, looking to set up Welshman Geraint Thomas for a win on home soil.

Ahead of his defence of the rainbow jersey, Hushovd showed he is in fine form with a strong win

The break was caught inside the final ten kilometres as the peloton headed for the steep final climb. Sky’s Steve Cummings was the first to attack, joined quickly by Jonathan Tiernan-Locke (Rapha Condor) as the bunch shattered behind them. They were gradually reeled in, and a selection of around 25 riders tackled the resultant descent together.

In the final sprint Hushovd took the final corner with around 200 metres remaining in first place, and easily held off Boom by at least four lengths to claim the win. Thomas was forced to slow as Hushovd beat him to the corner and finished 11th, although still in the same time as the stage winner.

With Mark Cavendish finishing in a chasing group 31 seconds down Thomas moved up to second overall, 12 seconds behind Boom. Boy van Poppel (UnitedHealthcare) is third at 14 seconds.

Stage 4 result:

1. Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervélo) 4:32:22

2. Lars Boom (Rabobank) same time

3) Cesare Benedetti (NetApp) s/t

4) Ian Bibby (Motorpoint) s/t

5) Boy Van Poppel (UnitedHealthcare) s/t

Stage 5: Exeter to Exmouth, 180.3km

The best double act in the business – if comedy had the Two Ronnies, when it comes to cycling sprints their equivalent is the Two Marks – notched up yet another one-two on the HTC-Highroad farewell tour. But this time it was Mark Renshaw who raised his arms in victory as Mark Cavendish gifted his lead-out man the win in Exmouth.

The Devon stage featured three categorised climbs in quick succession in its first third before a long and largely flat run to the finish, and constantly ebbed and flowed for much of its length. Rapha Condor’s Jonathan Tiernan-Locke was the main protagonist early on, breaking away and collecting the maximum 22 points from the day’s three categorised climbs to take over the lead in the King of the Mountains competition. He was eventually caught by two chasing groups to form a 13-man escape. This in turn was reduced after the final sprint 26km from the finish to the trio of Alex Wetterall (Endura), Preben Van Hecke (Topsport Vlaanderen) and Damien Gaudin (Europcar).

Renshaw seized a rare moment in the limelight after a classy gift from teammate Cavendish (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

With HTC-Highroad – minus Alex Rasumssen, who was dismissed for missing a third doping control – and Garmin-Cervélo leading the peloton, last man Gaudin was left dangling off the front until being finally swept up with less than 4km left. In a frenetic run to the finish, Garmin took over the pace-setting with HTC keeping a watching brief, but were challenged at the front by both An Post and UnitedHealthcare, with the latter jumping to the front inside the last kilometre.

But as the leaders swung round the final right-hander on to the sea-front in Exmouth with 250 metres left, the familiar white-jerseyed pairing of Renshaw and Cavendish accelerated and took over. Renshaw opened up his lead-out as usual but Cavendish delayed his own sprint to hold the rest of the bunch at bay, allowing the Aussie to claim only his second individual stage of the year at a canter. Just to prove a point, Cavendish easily outsprinted the rest of the field to take second ahead of UnitedHealthcare’s Robert Förster and Sky’s Geraint Thomas. Thomas remains second overall, 12 seconds behind Lars Boom.

The finish was a classy gesture by Cavendish in recognition of Renshaw’s three years of service as the pilot fish nonpareil to the best finisher in the sport. It also made a point to the Australian selectors who have chosen not to include him in their squad for the upcoming World Championships.

Renshaw acknowledged Cavendish’s generosity after the stage, telling journalists:

I dare say he wasn’t giving 110% [at the finish]! There’s been a lot of times I’ve helped him to victories so it was great to see him help me win a stage.

The plan was to work for Cav like all the time. I made sure I was first through the corner at 250 [metres to go] and put the head down and went from there. I maybe put one or two lengths into him through the corner and he probably hesitated a second or two to give me a few metres advantage.

Stage 5 result:

1. Mark Renshaw (HTC-Highroad) 4:17:38

2. Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) same time

3. Robert Förster (UnitedHealthcare) s/t

4. Geraint Thomas (Sky) s/t

5. Andrew Fenn (An Post) s/t

Stage 6: Taunton to Wells, 146km

Lars Boom strengthened his grip on the gold jersey by claiming his second win of the race after a crash-marred stage that climbed Cheddar Gorge before finishing in Wells.

There was plenty of early action, with the first King of the Mountains and sprint intermediates coming within the first 20 km. Climbing classification leader Jonathan Tiernan-Locke led a small break over the top of the opening third category climb before returning to the bunch. The key GC contenders then went after the three bonus seconds available at the first sprint. Boom already looked to be on his way to securing the maximum bonus when behind him second-placed Geraint Thomas attempted to squeeze into a small gap and appeared to touch pedals with sixth overall Ian Bibby (Motorpoint), causing the pair to go down heavily. Although Thomas eventually remounted and was able to regain the peloton after they neutralised racing, Bibby was forced to abandon and taken to hospital with a broken collarbone.

Boom is now firmly in command at the top of the GC after his second win

The day’s main breakaway subsequently formed, comprising Ben Swift (Sky), Lars Bak (HTC-Highroad), Mark McNally (An Post) and Paul Voss (Endura), although the Rabobank-led peloton kept them on a tight leash and never allowed them much more than one minute’s advantage. Swift yo-yoed off the back on the climb of Cheddar Gorge before being dropped on the descent, leaving the other three to continue out in front before being finally caught on the final first category climb of the race, Old Bristol Hill, with less than 30km remaining. Tiernan-Locke was first over the summit, ensuring victory in the King of the Mountains competition.

On the run-in to the finish the peloton shattered, leaving a front group of 21 including Boom to contest the finish, while a struggling Thomas found himself cast adrift in the main bunch. Endura’s Iker Camano launched a late solo attack, but he was reeled in before the final sprint. Garmin-Cervélo’s Gabriel Rasch and Julian Dean led into a tight right-hander with 200 metres to go. However both overcooked it, with Rasch piling straight into the barrier. Immediately behind them, Boom was able to profit from the resultant confusion to win the sprint as he pleased by at least six bike lengths ahead of Europcar’s Alexandre Pichot and NetApp’s Leopold König.

With his time bonuses and with Thomas finishing 1:24 down in the main bunch, Boom extended his overall advantage to 28 seconds over new second-place man König, with Garmin’s Daniel Lloyd now the best-placed British rider in third, a further second back. Thomas dropped out of overall contention to 12th overall.

With a comfortable cushion and his biggest strength, Sunday’s short time trial, to come, Boom is now in complete control of the race and should clinch overall victory barring an accident. Having won two stages and added a second place, there is no question that he has been the strongest and most consistent performer this week, and throughout today’s stage he was always well placed at the front of the bunch ready to cover any moves his rivals threw at him.

After five completed stages, the winners provide some insight into who is carrying good form into next week’s World Championships in Copenhagen. Boom will enter the time trial on a wave of confidence and form, and poses an outside threat in the road race. The latter, which is more suited to pure sprinters than in recent years, will see Mark Cavendish installed as the man to beat, backed by a very strong British team which includes Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins – second and third at the Vuelta a España – veteran David Millar, Thomas, Steve Cummings, Jeremy Hunt and Ian Stannard.

Stage four winner Thor Hushovd is sure to put in a strong defence of the rainbow jersey and Peter Sagan, who is not racing here but was the dominant sprinter at the Vuelta with three wins, will also feature at the sharp end. Neither can rely on a team as strong as Britain’s, but both will be riding on others’ coat-tails ready to pounce at the finish. Mark Renshaw will, of course, be absent from the Australian squad.

Stage 6 result:

1. Lars Boom (Rabobank) 3:19:02

2. Alexandre Pichot (Europcar) same time

3. Leopold König (NetApp) s/t

4. Jan Barta (NetApp) s/t

5. Steve Cummings (Sky) s/t

General classification:

1. Lars Boom (Rabobank) 20:13:18

2. Leopold König (NetApp) +0:28

3. Daniel Lloyd (Garmin-Cervélo) +0:29

4. Linus Gerdemann (Leopard-Trek) +0:31

5. Steve Cummings (Sky) +0:32

Link: Tour of Britain official website

Tour of Britain recaps

Stages 1-3: Manx Missile and Boom win explosive sprints

Tour of Britain stages 1-3: Manx Missile and Boom win explosive sprints

A cancelled second stage of the Tour of Britain (due to the effects of Hurricane Katia) was sandwiched by a contrasting pair of sprint victories by ‘Manx Missile’ Mark Cavendish and Rabobank time trial specialist Lars Boom. Both finishes underlined the importance of effective teamwork as HTC-Highroad manoeuvred Cavendish into position to take an easy stage one win, while bungled team tactics by Sky contributed significantly to Boom’s victory.

Stage 1: Peebles to Dumfries, 170.3km

In cool, damp conditions about as far removed as it is possible to get from the extreme heat which forced him out of the Vuelta a España, there was to be no raining on Cavendish‘s parade as he headed a convincing one-two for HTC-Highroad.

The strongest ever line-up at the Tour of Britain set off from Peebles boasting both Cavendish, the sport’s dominant big race sprinter, and the world champion’s jersey of Garmin-Cervélo’s Thor Hushovd. Also present in the 95-strong field were fan favourite Jens Voigt (Leopard-Trek) and a strong British contingent led by the Sky trio of Geraint Thomas, Ben Swift and 2008 runner-up Steve Cummings.

Renshaw's lead-out skills set up an easy win for Cavendish (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

The stage through the Borders region took in three third category climbs, including the wonderfully named Devil’s Beef Tub, before a finishing loop into Dumfries. A two-man break of Russell Hampton (Sigma Sport) and Pieter Ghyllebert (An Post) built an early lead of over six minutes before the inevitable chase led by HTC and Sky organised itself, which reeled in the pair with 10km remaining despite a pause after a crash brought down several riders and forced Voigt to abandon with a broken finger.

The charge to the finish was complicated by wet roads, a sharp right-hand corner at 250 metres to go and the fact that six-man teams make it difficult for any one team to have enough numbers to chase down a break and then provide a full lead-out for their sprinter. HTC-Highroad had been prominent in the chase, with Matt Brammeier, Alex Rasmussen and then Lars Bak driving the peloton forwards, with the familiar team of Bernhard Eisel and Mark Renshaw holding back to pilot Cavendish through to the finish. They and Rabobank led the way into the last kilometre, with Cavendish glued to Renshaw’s rear wheel.

The Aussie held back, allowing the Rabobank pair of Lars Boom and Theo Bos to lead into the final corner before hitting the afterburners to move his teammate into position to launch the final sprint, at which point the result was settled. Cavendish won by around three lengths, with Renshaw cruising over the line in second ahead of Bos. Sky’s Thomas and Swift were fifth and seventh respectively.

Cavendish later paid tribute to the large crowds who had lined the route despite the inclement conditions:

We had wicked support today. The amount of cheers and banners along the stage was brilliant. It’s very different to when I last raced here in 2007. It’s very nice. This event is certainly growing.

The win marked the 500th victory for HTC-Highroad’s senior men’s and women’s squads in less than four years. They have won more races than any other team over that period but will disband at the end of the 2011 season. Having delivered so many of those wins himself, it was fitting that Cavendish should register this significant milestone and become the first wearer of the race leader’s gold jersey.

Stage 1 result:

1. Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) 4:41:06

2. Mark Renshaw (HTC-Highroad) same time

3. Theo Bos (Rabobank) s/t

4. Barry Markus (Vacansoleil-DCM) s/t

5. Geraint Thomas (Sky) s/t

Stage 2: Kendal to Blackpool, 137.7km

The stage was cancelled due to concerns over rider safety after heavy winds and rainfall had scattered debris over parts of the day’s route. The riders completed a parade lap around Kendal to reward fans who had shown up to watch the start.

Stage 3: Stoke-on-Trent, 140km

On a difficult windy day, Lars Boom led Rabobank teammate Michael Matthews across the finish line to take both the stage and the gold jersey after a 28-man group had created a decisive split over the rest of the peloton. British riders occupied the next five places as Sky’s Geraint Thomas and Steve Cummings squeezed Mark Cavendish into fifth.

The day’s initial break again included Sigma Sport’s Russell Hampton. He was joined by Andrew Fenn (An Post) and Boy Van Poppel (UnitedHealthcare), as the trio build a lead of 3½ minutes approaching the mid-point of the stage. Shortly after, Sky ramped up the pace to reel in the break which, coupled with stiff crosswinds, caused the peloton to fracture into several groups. The lead chase group of around 25 riders included Boom and Matthews, Cavendish and all six Sky riders. They soon caught the earlier break and were able to maintain a decisive advantage over the rest of the peloton.

Boom profited from Sky's tactics to neutralise Cavendish

With a clear numerical advantage, Sky’s plan for negating Cavendish was to send Alex Dowsett out on an individual attack with 17km remaining. He quickly built a dangerous 25-second lead, forcing others in the group to burn energy leading the chase while the other Sky riders were able to benefit from a free ride. After a draining pursuit, Dowsett was eventually caught with about a kilometre to go. In a scrappy run in to a twisting finish, Sky set up to lead out the sprint but were taken by surprise as Boom – whose normal role is as a time-trialist and a lead-out for others – hit the front into the closing S-bends and led teammate Matthews to take the win.

Boom later confirmed the original plan had been to lead out Matthews, but was delighted to have won anyway as he seemed to be much stronger than his teammate over the long final sprint:

With 200 metres to go I managed to jump over Cummings and Thomas and then the corners started so they couldn’t pass us any more.  My first aim was to pull for Michael (Matthews) and then I felt good so I am happy to win.

We knew that you can’t bring HTC and Cavendish or the Sky boys to the finish.  We knew we would have to surprise them, and we managed to do that. I am going to try and defend the jersey and win the overall, that is the goal now.

It was a somewhat embarrassing finale for Sky, whose force of numbers should have enabled them to set up a decisive lead-out for either Geraint Thomas or Ben Swift having gained the tactical advantage by putting Dowsett out front on his own.

With the main peloton finishing nearly four minutes behind, the overall race winner will now almost certainly come from the group of 25 riders clustered within 39 seconds of overall leader Boom. The next three days’ racing will further shape the general classification, with each day featuring at least one first category climb. Stage four tomorrow takes the race down through Wales, crossing the Brecon Beacons before finishing in Caerphilly. Stage five through Devon features three categorised climbs in succession in the first third of the route. And finally Friday’s sixth stage includes two tough first category climbs in the last 60km before finishing in Wells. By then the field of genuine contenders should have been reduced to a handful.

Stage 3 result:

1. Lars Boom (Rabobank) 3:23:42

2. Michael Matthews (Rabobank) same time

3. Geraint Thomas (Sky) s/t

4. Steve Cummings (Sky) s/t

5. Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) s/t

General classification:

1. Lars Boom (Rabobank) 8:04:35

2. Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) +0:03

3. Geraint Thomas (Sky) +0:06

4. Michael Matthews (Rabobank) +0:07

5. Boy Van Poppel (UnitedHealthcare) +0:08

Link: Tour of Britain official website

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