Riding like the professionals…

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Sunday, 7th September

London – Tour of Britain 2008 – The TfL London stage

Yesterday was a day off the bike. At the moment, there’s far too many days like yesterday, but every now and again things such as family means that the bike takes the back seat. Not the back seat of the car, which is rapidly becoming the transport for the bike since no-one has bothered to develop a bike rack that fits my car. Or the back seat of my bike which, as only I knew until now, I’d typed in error, subconsciously substituting the word “car” for “bike”. Unless my bike has suddenly become a tandem, there is no back seat on my bike.

Today, the bike was left in the dining room, once again. However, my excuses for not riding today are just. Today was the opening stage of this years Tour of Britain, beginning in nearby London.

We, the non-cycling girlfriend and I, had the usual start to a Sunday morning rudely awoken with an unusual alarm blowing our ears off at a wholly unreasonable hour. Action was due to begin (and I’m sure it did) at 10.30am with the London Grand Prix. Without wanting to seem rude to the riders competing, I had little interest. The real action was due to start at 13.00, when the professional riders in the ToB were to sign on at the podium, and then take to the course and warm up. A chance to see the riders looking relatively relaxed, and going at speeds that could be captured by an inept buffoon with a camera. Sadly, as the results would demonstrate, even a stationary David Millar proved impossible to photograph. I am truly useless.

The race itself started, perhaps unexpectedly considering the state of the nation’s public transport system, on time. The rain relented long enough to allow the peloton to complete the ten laps of exciting and attacking racing, in relatively dry conditions in front of an estimated crowd of over 100,000 spectators.

The race was dominated by an eight-man break that spent over half the race away. With Brits Tom Southam and Krisitian House joined by a duo of Australians in Simon Clarke and Chris Sutton, plus Daryl Impey, Anders Lund, Vicente Reynes and Danilo Di Luca, the break had both the strong riders and requisite mixture of teams present to survive.

Chris Sutton (TSL) and Anders Lund (CSC) sprinting just ahead of Daryl Impey (BAR)

Chris Sutton (TSL) and Anders Lund (CSC) sprinting just ahead of Daryl Impey (BAR)

However while the eight escapees quickly built up a lead, they never established a gap of more than 46 seconds and as the peloton closed them down on the fast, straight roads, Di Luca jumped away for a last gasp solo attack on the eighth ascent of Tower Hill.

The Italian managed to hold off the field for just over a lap, but as Agritubel’s Geoffroy Lequatre tried to cross the gap, a CSC – Saxo Bank led field, pulled them back with a little over a lap to go.

CSC and Garmin-Chipotle battled to control the field on the final lap to set up their respective sprint finishers and as the field entered the final kilometre it was Garmin’s Julian Dean on the front looking to lead out his man Magnus Backstedt. However, there was to be no victory for the Swede, as Petacchi and British Champion Rob Hayles swept past in the final metres.

For the Italian it was an emotional victory, coming on his return to the sport following an anti-doping suspension. Speaking after the stage, Petacchi said:

“I’m very very happy with the win. Today I stayed good and my team raced very well. Now I think I start a new life of cycling, with a new team. My team did very good work in the last 2km, and on the last lap I stayed in the wheels of Backstedt, but I did a good sprint, which is a big relief.”

Thanks to the win, Petacchi leads the race overnight going into Monday’s stage from Milton Keynes to Newbury, while he also takes the Green Jersey, which will be worn by second place finisher Rob Hayles.

After victory in the second and third E.ON King of the Mountains climbs, Rapha-Condor-Recycling.co.uk rider Kristian House takes the E.ON King of the Mountains jersey. House understandably was pleased to pick up the jersey.

“We wanted to attack the race from the gun, particularly being in London where Rapha and Condor are based. There was a bit of a lull, and Tom Southam and me jumped across to the break. It was a good break to be in, everyone was committed and worked, and I think that showed in how quickly the gap grew and how we maintained it.”

Rounding out the jersey wearers is CSC’s Anders Lund, who secured the Sprints Jersey by holding off Sutton and Impey at the second and third Hot Spot Sprints, while Danilo Di Luca took the combativity award.

Alessandro Petacchi (LPR) wins the TfL London stage of the 2008 ToB

Alessandro Petacchi (LPR) wins the TfL London stage of the 2008 ToB

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