The opening stage of Tour of Britain will be remembered for its crash-marred finale. Team Sky controlled the race from start to finish with the intention of setting up the sprint for Mark Cavendish. Slightly more than one kilometer from the line, Cavendish crashed – the third of three significant crashes in the last 20 kilometers – and brought down several other top sprinters with him.
Luke Rowe (Sky) went on to win stage one ahead of a shattered peloton. Leigh Howard was the top finisher for ORICA-GreenEDGE in 20th place. Brett Lancaster, Howard’s lead out, describes the day.
The race was pretty controlled until the finish. Sky has clear objectives with Cav and [Bradley] Wiggins. Coming off the Tour de France and the Olympics, they want to put on a show at their home race. The crowds today were absolutely unbelievable. I’ve never seen anything like that in Britain.
An early break of four riders established an advantage shortly after the start in Ipswich. Sky took control immediately, and Garmin Sharp jumped in to help them a little bit. We didn’t contribute to the work because things were clearly under control. Also, we’re not at full strength at the moment.
We started the race with only five riders. Tomas Vaitkus was originally part our line-up, but he’s out with a shoulder injury. Jack [Bobridge] hasn’t raced on the road since the Giro because of his track program and Heppy [Michael Hepburn] is in a similar boat. I’m still nursing an injury stemming from my crashes at the Tour, and Aidis [Kruopis} comes in feeling under the weather. Howard it the only one here that’s fully fit as of today.
Anyway, Sky controlled the race, and the field caught the break inside the final 10 kilometers. Before the catch, two crashes disrupted the pace of the bunch. Jack and Heppy were caught behind one of the crashes. Aidis managed to avoid both crashes, but then looked around to survey the damage and ended up taking himself out. He fell off his bike and into a thorn bush.
Leigh and I stayed safe through the initial crashes, and I was able to help position Leigh in the run in towards the finish. My work was completed by the time Cav crashed. The crash blocked the road, and I was stuck behind, and I ended up rolling across the line.
It was an anti-climatic finish to an otherwise straightforward stage.
Tomorrow will likely involve similar tactics as those seen today with the weather the largest unknown factor. The route tomorrow includes a few little climbs before a fast, flat 60 kilometers to conclude the stage. In Britain much of the racing depends on the weather. Today it was sunny and hot. Tomorrow it can be cold, windy and wet. We’ll go day by day and keep an eye on the forecast as we make our plans.