Leigh Howard pulled on the gold leader’s jersey at the Tour of Britain following stage three. The Australian sprinted to second on the stage behind Mark Cavendish (Sky Procycling). Aidis Kruopis, Howard's lead out man, rounded out the stage podium.
“Aidis did a fantastic job as usual,” said Howard. “Cavendish just got the jump on me in the end. I would have liked to win again, but second and third is still a good result for the team.”
Having reviewed the technical guide, Howard knew the race would come down to a hectic finale.
“We realized that it was an extremely fast downhill finish after looking at the book,” he explained. “It was wet today, so that made things even more dangerous. We had to stay at the front at all costs, and we ended up doing that well.”
Peter Hawkins (IG – Sigma Sport) and Wesley Kreder (Vacansoleil DCM) featured in a long breakaway that dominated the early action. Sky controlled the final moments of the chase that saw Sep Vanmarcke (Garmin Sharp) attack from the bunch. Kreder glued himself to Vanmarcke’s wheel, and the duo opened up a small gap that they maintained until the final three kilometers.
The peloton charged towards the finish line with Brett Lancaster and Kruopis protecting Howard at the front of the peloton.
“It was a crazy finish,” said Sports Director Lionel Marie. “There was a lot of attacking in the end, and Aidis and Leigh did a really good job maintaining their position behind Sky. With the wet roads and the technical aspects in the finish, this stage was for a real sprinter.”
Lancaster took a turn on the front before Kruopis and Howard slotted into place behind Sky’s sprint train. The peloton negotiated a bridge crossing, two sweeping turns and a sharp right-hand corner 200 meters ahead of the line.
“I was the fourth wheel out of the final corner,” added Howard. “Luke Rowe led through that last corner. Then it was Cav, Aidis and me. Cav jumped first out of the corner and held us off to take the win.”
Howard’s second place finish today coupled with his win yesterday propelled him into the race lead. He is tied on time with Cavendish, in second overall, four seconds ahead of Boy Van Poppel (UnitedHealthcare) in third.
“I’m happy to lead the race after three stage,” said Howard. “Our goal here was never to ride for the general classification necessarily, but now that we’ve got the jersey, it’s our responsibility to defend. We’ll do the best we can.”