Live coverage of stage 3 of the Tour of Britain, a 16-kilometre individual time trial at Knowsley.
It's a rainy afternoon at Knowsley Safari Park near Liverpool, where the Tour of Britain peloton faces a typically British facet of the sport - a ten-mile (16km) time trial.
As we pick up the action, 45 of 104 riders have started, and Joshua Edmondson (Sky) has the best time so far. He clocked a fine 21:38, 18 seconds quicker than the previous best of Anthony Delaplace (Sojasun).
Race leader Gerald Ciolek (MTN-Qhubeka) is the last man down the start ramp at 13:54 local time, while Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) sets off at 13:34 and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) is in action at 13:09. Home eyes will be on Bradley Wiggins (Sky), however, who is off at 13:33. By that point, he might well be chasing the intermediate times of his former Sky teammate Alex Dowsett (Movistar), who sets out at 13:25.
Laura Fletcher caught up with Alex Dowsett for Cyclingnews ahead of the stage, and you can see a video of that interview
. For Dowsett, today's time trial is also a final tune-up for the world championships in Florence next week, where he is aiming to better his 8th place of last year.
Iljo Keisse (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) comes through with a new quickest time of 21:34, four seconds quicker than Edmondson.
After two rainswept days to date, the overall picture coming into today's stage:
1 Gerald Ciolek (Ger) MTN-Qhubeka 11:05:30
2 Simon Yates (GBr) Great Britain 0:00:20
3 Michal Golas (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
4 Marco Coledan (Ita) Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox 0:00:23
5 Sergio Pardilla Bellon (Spa) MTN-Qhubeka
6 Julien Vermote (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
7 Martin Elmiger (Swi) IAM Cycling
8 Sacha Modolo (Ita) Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox
9 Scott Thwaites (GBr) Team NetApp-Endura 0:00:26
10 Francesco Manuel Bongiorno (Ita) Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox
11 Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Sharp
12 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:00:30
13 Evaldas Siskevicius (Ltu) Sojasun 0:00:31
14 Ian Stannard (GBr) Sky Procycling
15 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar Team
Sam Bennett (An Post-Chain Reaction) was a fine second yesterday and the Irish youngster has put in a fine performance to set the new best time, clocking 21:31. Bennett scorched around the course, catching and passing both Will Stephenson (Rapha Condor JLT) and Christophe Laborie (Sojasun) in the second half of the parcours.
Impressive as Bennett's performance was, the Carrick-on-Suir man has just been beaten by Owain Doull (Great Britain), who clocked a time of 21:27 for the 16km test.
Meanwhile, Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) is out on the course, while Nairo Quintana (Movistar) has just begun his effort.
Tutti pazzi per Pirazzi. He's not renowned as a time triallist, but Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani-CSF Inox) pulls out the new quickest time, all of eleven seconds quicker than Doull.
Meanwhile, Alexander Wetterhall (NetApp-Endura) almost comes a cropper on the course's one sharp, 180-degree turn, but he manages to stay upright without losing too much momentum.
Seven kilometres to go for Nairo Quintana, who climbs out of the saddle as he attacks a short uphill drag and then carefully negotiates the turn over the top.
Mark Cavendish stops the clock in 21:20 with the day's second best time to date. A fine effort from the Manxman.
Alex Dowsett (Movistar) has started his time trial. He took no risks on the early corners immediately after rolling down the start ramp, but once he reaches the open road, Dowsett is quickly into the tuck position and is riding very smoothly indeed.
Dowsett comes through the course's hairpin bend with appropriate care but quickly picks up the pace again once the road straightens out. Rather than take risks to gain fractions of seconds, Dowsett appears to be placing his trust in his straight-line speed.
This isn't a bad time from Nairo Quintana. The Colombian takes the 5th best time to date (21:29) at the finish line. Quintana was on the offensive yesterday and has arrived in Britain with the aim of building his form for next week's world championships road race.
Not surpringly, the loudest cheer of the day so far at the start line is for Bradley Wiggins (Sky). Weaned on the 10-mile time trial, Wiggins is the clear favourite for stage victory.
Like Dowsett, Wiggins does not take any undue risks through the first chicances and he quickly settles into his familiar time trialling position.
Wiggins comes gingerly through the hairpin bend but he is typically smooth on the straight sections. Meanwhile, Alex Dowsett is through the narrowest section of the course and closing in on the finish, where Jack Bauer (Garmin-Sharp) and Alexander Wetterhall (NetApp-Endura) have now posted the two quickest times.
Five kilometres to go for Dowsett, who will have to produce something special given that Jack Bauer has lowered the best time to 20:36.
Bauer has been the class of the field so far, some 38 seconds clear of Wetterhall and 40 ahead of Pirazzi.
Alex Dowsett is about to catch his former Sky teammate Mathew Hayman, but it's another Sky man, Ian Stannard, who reportedly has posted the quickest time over the first half of the course.
Wiggins is through the 8km point in a rapid time of 9:17, while up ahead Dowsett catches and passes Hayman.
Dowsett crosses the line with the second-best time, recording 20:50, 14 seconds down on the hugely impressive Jack Bauer.
Wiggins passes his minute man Evaldas Siskevicius (Sojasun) as he zips through Knowsley Park. Wiggins had the quickest time at the midway point, just ahead of Stannard.
Ian Stannard is into the final kilometre, but his two-minute man, Bradley Wiggins, does appear to be too far behind.
Stannard hits the line in 20:26 to clock the new fastest time, but Wiggins is already in the final kilometre...
Wiggins is the first man to break the 20-minute barrier. He cruises across the line in 19:54,32 seconds up on his teammate Stannard.
That's surely the stage win for Wiggins, as he averages 48.5kph over the rain-soaked course, and he might well take over the gold jersey to boot. The current holder and last man off Gerald Ciolek (MTN-Qhubeka) has just rolled down the start ramp.
Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) crosses the line in 20th place, over a minute down on Wiggins but he has done enough to keep his overall aspirations alive with some tough stages in Wales still to come.
Wiggins began the day just 30 seconds off Ciolek's gold jersey and it's hard to imagine that Ciolek will be able to defend that kind of lead over this course, particurly given that nobody has yet finished within half a minute of Wiggins.
Of the riders still to finish, perhaps only Martin Elmiger (IAM Cycling) can come close to Wiggins' time, but in reality, it's hard to imagine that anyone will better his mark.
Elmiger crosses the line with the 4th best time, but his time of 20:48 is still 54 seconds down on Wiggins.
Fresh from a fine Tour de l'Avenir, Simon Yates (Great Britain) was the second-last starter today and it will be interesting to see how the young talent performs this afternoon.
There are five riders still to finish, including the MTN-Qhubeka duo of Ciolek and Sergio Pardilla.
Pardilla finishes his effort in the provisional top ten, recording a solid time of 21:19.
Marco Coledan (Bardiani) reaches the finish in 14th position. There are just three riders left to finish and it's hard to see anyone denying Wiggins a spell in the gold jersey.
Michal Golas (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) finishes with a decent 21:22 but that isn't enough to prevent Wiggins from leapfrogging him on the general classification.
Without taking any undue risk, Simon Yates has negotiated the corners on this course with some fluency and he is still looking very fluid as he races towards the finish.
17th place for Simon Yates, who clocks a finishing time of 21:27. Gold jersey Gerald Ciolek is the only man left to finish and the only man who could deny Wiggins the overall lead, although it seems very unlikely indeed.
Philip Deignan (UnitedHealthcare) was a faller on the greasy course earlier this afternoon, apparently during his pre-stage warm-up. Contrary to earlie reports, he did not take the start of today's stage as a result.
Ciolek will not beat Wiggins' time and will not save the gold jersey.
34th place for Ciolek, all of 1:54 down on Bradley Wiggins, who claims stage victory and the overall lead.
1 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky 19:54
2 Ian Stannard (GBr) Sky 00:32
3 Jack Bauer (NZl) Garmin-Sharp 00:42
1 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky 11:25:54
2 Ian Stannard (GBr) Sky 00:00;33
3 Martin Elmiger (Swi) 00:00:47
Wiggins tested and re-tested the corners on this course during his pre-stage warm-up, something he feels made all the difference. "I think the committment was obvious in those roundabouts in the rain," says Wiggins. "Admittedly it’s not been a great season up to now but the Tour of Britain and this time trial have been on my mind since I missed the Tour [de France]. I’m not a great climber like Quintana and Dan Martin, so I just had to take every second I could today."
Thanks for joining us for our live coverage of today's stage of the Tour of Britain on Cyclingnews. We'll be back with more tomorrow, but in the meantime, you will be able to see a full report, results and pictures here from a day that saw Bradley Wiggins seize command of the overall standings and show off his credentials for next week's Worlds time trial.
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