Leigh Howard put in a valiant effort to stay in contention of the overall lead on the sixth stage of Tour of Britain. The overnight race leader challenged himself to stay with the strongest climbers over two laps of the finish circuit that featured the category one Caerphilly Mountain. By race end, Howard had limited his losses to 33 seconds on the stage and now sits second overall.
“I’ve been working very hard to improve my climbing,” said Howard. “I’m surprised with how good I’ve been on the hills. Saying that, I have extra motivation here with the general classification. Normally, when we reach the hills, it’s about getting to the finish as easily as possible. It’s nice to have an additional focus besides the sprints, Now, I’m going as hard as I can and seeing what I can do when I climb.”
The race unfolded as Howard anticipated with an early break gaining a seven minute maximum advantage before ORICA-GreenEDGE combined forces with Endura Racing to reel back the move.
“We brought the break to less than a minute ahead of the circuit,” said Howard. “We knew the difficulties on the circuit would take care of the rest of the gap.”
Jonathon Tiernan-Locke (Endura Racing) jumped away from the field on the first ascent of Caerphilly Mountain. The peloton shattered behind as Leopold Koenig (Team NetApp) bridged across.
“There was nothing I could have done to go harder up the climb when Tiernan-Locke attacked,” said Howard. “He’s a better climber than pretty much everyone at the race, and his attack was expected. All I could do once he made his move was go as hard I could and limit my losses.”
Koenig won the two-up sprint to take the stage, and Tiernan-Locke moved into the race lead, 13 seconds ahead of Howard.
“After what I was able to do today, I’m certainly going to try and get back into the jersey before the end of the race,” Howard said. “It’s going to be a tough ask, but I need to try. The finish of tomorrow’s stage is similar to today although it’s hard to tell by the profile exactly how hard the climbs in the final will be. If I could pick up bonus seconds at the intermediate sprints and on the finish line, it’s certainly possibly to regain the jersey.”