Greg Henderson taking the win on stage 2 of The Tour of Britain (image courtesy of The Tour of Britain)
By Peter Hodges
Greg Henderson wins in Stoke-on-Trent to move into the Yellow Jersey
Team Sky picked up their first win of The Tour of Britain, as Greg Henderson sprinted to victory on the tough uphill finish in Stoke-on-Trent, as the day’s racing was shaped by an 18 rider break that shook up the overall standings.
Henderson headed home breakaway companions Michael Albasini and Heinrich Haussler, to move into the Yellow Jersey presented by Bikeability, as well as taking early control of The Prostate Cancer Charity Points Jersey thanks to his third placed finish on Saturday’s stage.
A frantic start to the 100 mile stage, that helped to celebrate the centenary of Stoke-on-Trent, saw a number of repeated attacks going away from the peloton, only to be brought back by the speeding bunch as it passed through the Staffordshire countryside.
The Tour of Britain peloton making their way through the beautiful Staffordshire Moorlands (image courtesy of The Tour of Britain)
Among the teams most active in trying to put riders up the road were AN Post and Topsport Vlaanderen – Mercator, but despite several small groups pulling away before being reeled in, neither team had a rider in the break when it eventually formed after around ten kilometres of racing.
With the peloton chasing hard to counter a two-rider move, the front group split leaving a high-quality group out in front, including Henderson, Albasini and Haussler, plus the likes of Sprints Jersey holder Richie Porte, Welshman Rob Partridge, Vacansoleil duo Borut Bozic and Michal Golas and most crucially for the eventual winner, his Sky teammates Bradley Wiggins and Geraint Thomas.
The peloton was always going to find it hard to bring back such a strong break, and so it proved as the gap immediately went out to around the 40 second mark as Endura’s Iker Camano tried to bridge across.
The Spaniard’s attempt failed, but after 29 kilometres of racing and heading towards Millwich the gap was down to just 22 seconds, persuading Darren Lapthorne and Johnny Hoogerland to set off in pursuit.
The pair soon caught Jaroslav Marycz who was dropped from the front bunch, but Rapha – Condor – Sharp’s Australian couldn’t hold the wheel of the Dutchman, and found himself heading back to the peloton after around forty kilometres of racing.
Hoogerland continued alone, with his impressive solo ride paying off as he made contact with the leading riders, while the peloton was headed by the Sigma Sport – Specialized team.
With the third Vacansoleil rider now at the front the gap stretched out, particularly after Thomas drove hard on the opening King of the Mountains climb at Ramshorn, sending the gap up to the three and a half minute mark.
Behind AN Post and Topsport Vlaanderen chased, but to no avail as the gap soared past six minutes by the time the peloton was negotiating the huge crowds in the village of Longnor in the Peak District National Park.
With the 18 strong rider group working well together they extended their lead to just shy of eight minutes by the top of the Hollinsclough Moor King of the Mountains climb, as the wind on the exposed tops near to Flash seemed to hamper the chase of the peloton, who by this time realised they were racing for the minor placings.
Stage One escapee Porte then tried his hand alone from the group, jumping away on the road to Gun Hill and pulling out a 16 second lead. Behind a chasing group consisting of Albasini, Wiggins, Hoogerland, Patrik Sinkewitz, Travis Meyer, Dan Craven and Koen de Kort formed, with Porte being caught on the descent to Leek and the front group reforming. Sinkewitz was next to try his hand off the front, but the ISD rider’s advantage was short lived.
Heading in the opposite direction from the front group were ENECO Tour winner Tony Martin and Federico Canuti, both of whom were dropped as the pace rose after Leek.
At the front Team Sky began driving, sensing the potential to set Henderson up for the win, so when Haussler and Golas escaped nearing Stoke-on-Trent and built a 13 second lead, it fell to Wiggins and Thomas to ride the duo down, with both riders pulling massive turns before dropping off the back to finish 1 minute 16 seconds and 1 minute 48 seconds down respectively at the finish on Albion Street.
With Haussler and Golas caught, it set things up for an exciting 13 rider sprint up the 500 metre drag to the line, with New Zealander Henderson heading home Albasini, and preventing the HTC – Columbia team from taking a third successive victory in the city of Stoke-on-Trent.
More crucially the time bonus on the line, along with that gained in Blackpool, helped Henderson into yellow, with a 14 second lead over the second placed Swiss rider. In each of the previous three Tours of Britain, such a lead has proved enough to win the race overall, but with a trio of tougher stages to come and six days of the race still to go, Henderson will be looking over his shoulder at the twelve riders placed within 23 seconds of his race lead.
Winner of the Honda Combativity Award for his impressive ride across to the break Johnny Hoogerland certainly believes the Sky man’s lead isn’t insurmountable, saying at the post-stage press conference, “I think it’s very difficult for Henderson to keep the jersey. He is good on the hills, but we are getting a few hilly stages, so I think it is difficult for him.
“We are not satisfied with sixth place on the General Classification, so we are going to try and win the Overall. We had three in the first group and we have Wout (Poels) and (Matteo) Carrara in the peloton, but they are also in very good condition, so I think we can make it pretty hard for Sky.”
The Dutchman was also full of praise for the route, saying, “It was not what I expected. I spoke to Daniel Martin yesterday and he said tomorrow is not a heavy stage, and then I just wanted to take it easy until stages four and five, as I know these are the heavy stages of The Tour of Britain.
“I’ve never been to England before, I was only one night in Heathrow, but that’s all. The mountains are steep; it’s totally different to Belgium or France. It’s steep, a little bit flat, steep and a lot of corners. It’s a beautiful landscape. Today it was perfect with like twenty riders, but with the whole peloton and then on the top of the climbs with a little bit of wind from the side it’s difficult.”
Hoogerland also revealed his future motivation for the rest of the race was not just one, but two snubs he, and his team had received.
“Not just for the Vuelta a Espana, but also for the World Championship. I also really wanted to do the World Championship but they passed me by, so I just want to show that I have to be there. I am always good in September and October, so it is the same this year.
“Maybe when someone is injured I can go, but maybe I am not really motivated anymore for doing that race, I just want to do a very good Tour of Britain.”
Stage Three sees The Tour of Britain return to Wales for the first time since 2004, as The Tour races through mid-Wales from Newtown to Swansea, via the King of the Mountains climb of Black Mountain. Also on the route is Constitution Hill in Swansea, a brutal one-in-three cobbled climb that features in the final two kilometres, and will surely see the General Classification of The Tour of Britain shaken up once again.
Stage 2 podium presentation: Johnny Hoogerland (left), Richie Porter (middle), Greg Henderson (right) (image courtesy of The Tour of Britain)
Stage Two Results
1) Greg Henderson Sky Professional Cycling Team 3:59:52
2) Michael Albasini Team HTC – Columbia @ same time
3) Heinrich Haussler Cervelo Test Team @ same time
Honda Combativity Award Winner: Johnny Hoogerland, Vacansoleil Professional Cycling Team
General Classification standings (after two stages)
1) Greg Henderson Sky Professional Cycling Team 7:16:23
2) Michael Albasini Team HTC – Columbia @ 14”
3) Heinrich Haussler Cervelo Test Team @ same time
The Prostate Cancer Charity Points Jersey standings (after two stages)
1) Greg Henderson Sky Professional Cycling Team 28 points
2) Andre Greipel Team HTC – Columbia 15 points
3) Michael Albasini Team HTC – Columbia 15 points
The King of the Mountains Jersey standings (after two stages)
1) Richie Porte Team Saxo Bank 35 points
2) Johnny Hoogerland Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team 24 points
3) Wout Poels Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team 16 points
The Sprints Jersey standings (after two stages)
1) Richie Porte Team Saxo Bank 15 points
2) Michal Golas Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team 8 points
3) Koen De Kort Skil – Shimano 8 points
The Tour of Britain is proud to be partnered with The Prostate Cancer Charity. Don’t forget this September your chance to follow in the wheel tracks of the professionals and ride three stages from The Tour of Britain. Go to www.tourride.co.uk to find out more!