Hello and welcome stage 3 of the Tour of Britain 2016. Today’s stage will take the peloton 179.4km from Congleton to Tatton Park.
We're about ten minutes until the start of today's stage that's taking place in Cheshire East.
You can read about Julien Vermote's victory yesterday here. It was a dramatic day of racing that gave some shape to the GC.
The weather looks more amenable today: light clouds and highs of 23C. There's a very light south-westerly wind as well.
As the riders leave Congleton, we get news at Adrien Costa, Etixx-Quick Step's promising stagiaire isn't starting. He suffered a hard crash yesterday.
Looking ahead, today is a stage of to halves. The first relatively flat 96km will be livened up by three intermediate sprints. The first is just 9.5km after the flag drops and there’s a second is at 51.5km. At 78km, riders pass through the finish at Tatton Park before beginning a large loop that takes them out into the western part of the Peak District National Park. Before they get there there’s the third and final sprint at Alderley Edge at 96km.
And a small group has gone clear the moment the flag dropped.
those riders are: Matt Cronshaw (MGT), Ian Stannard (SKY), Kristian House (ONE), Graham Briggs (JLT), Jack Bauer (CDT) and an unidentified chaser.
Lot's of action. Two AN Post Riders follow the chasers. Emiel Wastyn and Damien Shaw.
Cannondale's Jack Bauer is 49 seconds behind the four leaders as they bear down on the first sprint.
Ian Stannard is pulling hard, but Kristian House takes the sprint.
Full update of the Alsager sprint: 1st Kristian House (ONE) 2nd Ian Stannard (SKY) 3rd Graham Briggs (JLT)
It's a blistering start today: the leading quartet are averaging around 55km/h.
The gap is now at around 5:30. Bauer is continuing to chase - must be lonely - and Wastyn and Damien Shaw of AN Post are being swept up by the peloton.
That was a brisk start, but back to what we can look forward to in the second half of the stage.
Alderley Edge is where the stage changes character. Immediately out of the town the race hits the first categorised climb of the day. It’s only 1.8km long nudges 10 per cent near its foot. The race enters the Peak District National Park and the second climb of the day, Brickworks hoves into view. The Category 1 climb up Bakestonedale Road is through open heathland and hits its toughest gradient near the top.
A steep descent into Macclesfield delivers the race to the foot of the Cat and Fiddle. The climb tops out at 515m, is the high-point of the whole race and comes 45km from the line. The steep technical descent is interrupted by a stiff-looking uncategorised climb up Dark Lane before the gradual flattening out for the finish in Tatton Park.
We're hearing that Owain Doull (Wiggins) crashed but he's back on his bike.
Talking of Doull, you can read all about him and his Team Wiggins squad here. To sweeten the deal, there's an exclusive Q&A with Bradley Wiggins too.
We're approaching a feedzone at Sandbach, where incidentally there's a big motorway services on the M6. Doubt the riders will be getting a Costa coffee though.
Meanwhile, AN-Post's Damien Shaw the lone chaser has sat up and awaits the peloton.
Talking before the stage, Julien Vermote, yesterday's stage winner said it provided a "special moment" in his caree. Etixx-Quick Step would aim to keep the jersey he added.
"It’s a really special race…it’s the first time in my career I can wear a yellow jersey," he said. "It’s a special moment for me in my. We will try to keep it, there’s always a bit of pressure but I have a strong team around me."
And sure enough, Etixx-Quick Step have taken charge at the front of the peloton.
Here are the results from the second intermediate sprint:1st: Graham Briggs (JLT) 2nd: Matt Cronshaw (MGT) 3rd: Kristian House (ONE).
The riders should soon be making their way through Tatton Park for the first passage. They'll still have 100km to go, however, and the terrain gets tougher.
The gap is holding steady at 6.40 with around 108km left to ride.
Earlier, Mark Cavendish explained the reason for stopping to 'have a word' with someone on the Struggle yesterday. It was a teenager "shouting abuse" at the riders and trying to impress his friends, said Cavendish. The Manxman said he offered him his bike and suggested he do the climb. "There was no aggression," added Cavendish.
I should say Cavendish was talking to ITV.
Just to recap on the race as we dip under 100km to go. We've got four leaders: Ian Stannard (Sky), Graham Briggs (JLT-Condor), Matt Cronshaw (Madison-Genesis) and Kristian House (One Pro Cycling).
They've got a gap on the peloton which is being led by Etixx-Quick Step as they protect Julien Vermote's yellow jersey.
The gap between the leaders and the peloton is more than six minutes.
We've had the final intermediate sprint. the order over the line was Cronshaw, Briggs, House. They're on the first climb of the day now, Alderley Edge.
Stannard comes to the front, taking over from House.
House takes maximum points on the climb. That gives One Pro Cycling options in the KoM competition, as Peter Williams is fourth in that competition at the moment.
Our four leaders are still working smoothly together and there only a couple of kilometres until they start the Brickworks climb.
Xandro Meurisse picked up a KoM point over Alderley Edge to give him a single point lead in that competition.
The leaders have just got onto the Brickworks climb
Dimension Data, who have Stephen Cummings in second on GC and Mark Cavendish for the sprint are now leading the peloton.
And then there were three: Cronshaw is tailed off in the break.
With the gap a solid 6:30 it looks like the leaders will stay away until after the Cat and Fiddle
House took the maximum ten points over Brickworks putting him in fourth in the KOM competition and looks good for another ten at the top of the Cat and Fiddle. It's up to Meurisse now to mop up what's left when the peloton comes through.
And indeed Meurisse had to battle with Roche over the Brickworks
That pair are level now and it should be a battle between those two for the jersey today.
The gap is sticking above six minutes. Every time it looks like dropping below that threshold, Stannard gives it a push.
Stannard narrowly avoids a motorbike as he squeezes yet again. It's all House and Briggs can do to hang on.
And Team Sky's Elia Viviani has a back wheel puncture.
The peloton are risking giving too much rope to the three leaders. The gap is now north of 6:30.
There's a bit more urgency in the peloton as Dimension Data crank up the pace.
Stannard is taking long turns on the front, but just comes back to have a word on the radio.
We're in open country now and the leaders are on a slight descent as they close in on the summit.
Julien Vermote, our race leader, comes back through the convoy after a wheel change - puncture.
Cronshaw who couldn't live with the pace in the lead group is swept up by the peloton.
House takes another ten point in the KoM competition. as the trio crest the Cat and Fiddle outside the derelict pub of the same name.
From the top of the climb there's 46km to the finish and then a long steep descent that will neutralise a good 15-20km of the course. with the gap at 6.44, it's looking very good for the three leaders to go on for the stage win as there's not much chasing going on, just a steady tempo by Di-Data (and Tony Martin).
Wanty Group set up a three man train to help Meurisse to the points. And he gets them, in spite of a counterattack from Wout Poels and Nicolas Roche
41km remaining from 182km
And he has a gap immediately. The stark gulf between WorldTour riders and the rest is exposed.
So... a 40km solo effort for Stannard now as he pushes on hard.
The peloton has flared as the speed drops. Meanwhile Stannard in bombing the descent.
The gap is currently at 6:20 between Stannard and the peloton, with our two chasers at 45 seconds. He's more than 13 minutes back on GC so not a threat.
28km remaining from 182km
We're inside the 30km to go now and Stannard is rock solid and pushing a big gear. He looks very comfortable.
Etixx and Dimension Data are reserving themselves for a bigger prize, clearly - the GC - but the other sprinters teams, notably Orica Bike Exchange, Trek Segafredo and LottoNL-Jumbo, Lotto-Soudal should probably count this a wasted opportunity.
The gap between Stannard and Briggs and House is now at 1:40.
Unless anything untoward happens, this will be Stannard's first victory since he outfoxed three Etixx-Quick Step riders in the final at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in 2015.
His last victory before that was Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in 201. Before that, the national road race championship in Ampleforth in 2012. He took that solo.
Inside 10km now. Stannard leads, Briggs and House chase at 1:40 and the peloton dawdles at more than 7:00 back.
Stannard is now inside 5km to go. Still looking smooth.
Etixx just keep tapping out the pace back in the peloton.
Stannard arrives in Tatton Park. Just 2km to the line. Looks a bit like Ampleforth actually.
The Flamme Rouge comes and goes for Stannard.
Big - make that huge - crowds at the barriers in the final 500m.
Stannard takes it with a modest celebration.
Now... Briggs and House: House leads at 500m
House on the left barrier watching
House starts the sprint
Briggs comes around and takes it
Now the peloton is inside the grounds, Sky and Bardiani lead it
Giant Alpecin have numbers up for Sinkeldam
Close finish between Ruffoni (Bardiani) and Van Poppel of Sky.
We'll await the confirmation of who was fourth.
Ruffoni edged out Van Poppel there in the muted sprint for fourth.
We'll bring you the top 10 on Stage and GC as soon as we have them.
Here's the stage top 10:
1 Ian Stannard (GBr) Team Sky
2 Graham Briggs (GBr) JTL Condor presented by Mavic
3 Kristian House (GBr) ONE Pro Cycling
4 Nicola Ruffoni (Ita) Bardiani CSF
5 Danny Van Poppel (Ned) Team Sky
6 Ramon Sinkeldam (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin
7 Christopher Latham (GBr) Team WIGGINS
8 Rick Zabel (Ger) BMC Racing Team
9 Dylan Van Baarle (Ned) Cannondale-Drapac
10 Luka Mezgec (Slo) Orica-BikeExchange
And the GC after stage 3:
1 Julien Vermote (Bel) Etixx - Quick-Step 13:53:15
2 Stephen Cummings (GBr) Dimension Data 0:00:06
3 Daniel Martin (Irl) Etixx - Quick-Step 0:01:04
4 Ben Swift (GBr) Team Sky 0:01:08
5 Xandro Meurisse (Wanty-Groupe Gobert)
6 Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Soudal
7 Dylan Van Baarle (Ned) Cannondale Pro Cycling 0:01:12
8 Guillaume Martin (Fra) Wanty - Groupe Gobert
9 Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin
10 Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Sky 0:01:16
Join us tomorrow as we cross over the border into Wales for the longest stage of the race, 218km between Denbigh and the Royal Welsh Showground, Builth Wells.
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