What a difference a day makes. Just 24 hours after taking a seemingly tight grip on the Tour of Britain, placing three men in the eighteen-man break to Stoke and setting up the finish for Greg Henderson, Team Sky saw their chances of winning their home tour effectively torpedoed on a rain-soaked and hilly Welsh stage on Monday.
They were left to rue the decision to sacrifice Bradley Wiggins and Geraint Thomas on the run-in to Stoke on Sunday. Although the British riders’ efforts helped Henderson win the stage and claim the race lead, they also contributed to the fact that both riders lost contact with the lead group in the final 2km, with both conceding over a minute.
That left Henderson exposed as the only Team Sky rider who could win the race. But the New Zealander began to struggle on Black Mountain, 70 miles into Monday’s third stage, as Michael Albasini (HTC-Columbia), who had also been in the previous day’s 18-man break, piled on the pressure, eventually going clear on the descent.
Ironically, Wiggins was the only Sky rider able to stay with Albasini, who was later joined by teammate Tony Martin as HTC-Columbia sensed that the race could swing back in their favour.
“Bradley was up front but the others stayed with Greg, because Greg was on the limit,” explained Team Sky sports director Steven de Jongh at the finish in Swansea. “They went really hard on the climb and Greg didn’t have anything left.
“Then Bradley made the call to wait to help Greg,” continued de Jongh. “And then they did everything they could to chase, but they couldn’t bring it back. We weren’t getting time gaps, and there were some mix-ups [on race radio] with names, but it was forty seconds, fifty seconds, a minute - they were losing time.
“It was Bradley’s call to wait,” added de Jongh. “It didn’t change much in general classification because he also lost time on Sunday. [After that] if you want to go for the win, you have to try and help Greg.”
De Jongh admitted that the stage had effectively ended Team Sky’s hopes of the outright win. “With the gap now, I don’t think GC is possible, so we’re going to try for some more stage wins,” said de Jongh. “Albasini is really strong, and there’d have to be a strange situation with groups going away, but I don’t think that’s going to happen now.”
Richard Moore is a freelance journalist and author. His first book, In Search of Robert Millar (HarperSport), won Best Biography at the 2008 British Sports Book Awards. His second book, Heroes, Villains & Velodromes (HarperSport), was long-listed for the 2008 William Hill Sports Book of the Year.
He writes on sport, specialising in cycling, and is a regular contributor to Cyclingnews, the Guardian, skyports.com, the Scotsman and Procycling magazine.
He is also a former racing cyclist who represented Scotland at the 1998 Commonwealth Games and Great Britain at the 1998 Tour de Langkawi
His next book, Slaying the Badger: LeMond, Hinault and the Greatest Ever Tour de France, will be published by Yellow Jersey in May 2011.
Another book, Sky’s the Limit: British Cycling’s Quest to Conquer the Tour de France, will also be published by HarperSport in June 2011.
Thank you for signing up to Cycling News. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.