Friday’s stage of the Tour of Britain was a 200km jaunt from Bath to Hemel Hempstead. A few categorised climbs along the way, but the conventional opinion was that it would be a day for the sprinters. But, although professional cycling is often predictable, today the cards were turned upside down as a small three man breakaway stayed out in front for nearly the whole day, finishing two minutes ahead of the peleton and putting British Movistar rider Alex Dowsett into the leaders jersey. It was really an epic stage and a privilege to watch – both in the flesh and on TV (BTW: The Eurosport commentary at ToB is really top notch)
I’ve never seen a stage in the Tour of Britain, but with the recent experience of watching the Tour de France in Yorkshire I definitely didn’t want to miss the race go up my local hills. Yesterday I was training up Chinnor Hill – five interval efforts. Hard work, but a completely different kettle of fish to a 200k stage race. Still it was nice to see the pros suffer just as much as anyone else.
There was a good crowd on Chinnor Hill with many spectators around the quaisi hairpin bend. I stood nearby and waited for the race to come.
I’ve never been a particular fan of watching live professional cycling, but my experiences this year have made me change my mind. It really is worth the effort of going out to watch the riders go by.
First up was the news that the breakaway was over 8 minutes up on the peleton. This caused a ripple of excitement as 8 minutes is a lot – especially with not that far to go. I was also pleased to hear there were two British riders in the break – Alex Dowsett and Tom Stewart (Madison Genesis). There were riding with the Austrian Matthias Bramble (IAM) who won the previous stage.
Chinnor hill was a good place to watch. All the riders looked to be digging deep, and some were really grimacing in pain, though Bradley Wiggins looked pretty cool and unmoved,
On Chinnor hill the peleton was already beginning to fragment with riders dropping off the back.
After chatting to a few people I knew on the climb, I cycled home (on TT bike to make the 36 miles as easy as possible. It’s a longer recovery ride than I would normally do.)
Back home, I was mighty relieved to see I had automatically recorded the live TV pictures. In built TV recording really is a good invention. I watched nearly the whole of the last 60km riveted by the unusual spectacle of the breakaway beating the peleton. As an added bonus, the course was all over roads I’ve ridden on. It is rare top World Tour teams makes such a miscalculation – this wasn’t just losing out on a stage, but allowing a good timetriallist to jump into first place. 40 seconds may not be enough for Dowsett on tomorrow’s hilly stage. But, it really makes it interesting.
It was also great to see a young Yorkshire cyclist Tom Stewart hanging on to ride with two world class riders. He missed quite a few turns, but still managed to add a little help. n the end all three members of the breakaway were over the moon. Brandle got a deserved stage win, Dowsett moved into the leaders yellow jersey, and Tom Stewart just looked really happy to have been in such an amazing break and get 3rd in the stage. It was nice to see Stewart and Brandle warmly chatting after the stage.
After the excitement of watching that stage I couldn’t manage the Vuelta – anything else would be an anticlimax.
I think the Tour of Britain has had a new leader nearly everyday. The GC will undoubtedly change again, but it was great to see in person Dowsett riding up Chinnor hill.
Random fact of the day –
In the 2006 National 25 mile time trial. Dowsett rode 54.00 to win the junior title on Sat. The next day I rode 54.00 in the mens event to place 40th. Even then many were marking him down as a future star. But, it’s another thing to actually make it.