Team Sky took control at the Tour of Britain on Sunday but Dutchman Jonny Hoogerland believes his Vacansoleil team can still secure overall victory before the end of the race on Saturday.
Greg Henderson won the stage in Stoke on Trent and now leads the overall by 14 seconds but like Team Sky, Vacansoleil also had three riders in the decisive 18-rider attack and Hoogerland believes they can use their combined strength to out-manoeuvre Henderson. They could even try to attack him on Constitution Hill, the brutal one-in-three cobbled climb that features in the final two kilometres of today’s stage to Swansea.
Hoogerland won the combativity prize for being the last rider to get across to the key break during stage two to Stoke on Trent on Sunday and then finished eighth, three seconds behind Henderson along side teammates Michael Golas and Borut Bozic. Golas is now sixth overall at 18 seconds, Bozic is eighth at 20 seconds and Hoogerland is 12th at 23 seconds.
“I think it’s very difficult for Henderson to keep the jersey. He is good on the hills, but we are getting to a few hilly stages, so I think it is difficult for him,” Hoogerland predicted.
“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. They are also in very good condition, so I think we can make it pretty hard for Sky.”
Hoogerland seemed to be enjoying his first ever ride at the Tour of Britain. He was overlooked for a place in the Dutch squad for the world championships and Vacansoleil was snubbed for a place in the Vuelta a Espana.
“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,” he said.
“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 really wanted to do the world championship but they passed me by, so I just want to show that I should 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 any more for doing that race, I just want to do a very good Tour of Britain.”