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For the second day in a row, Brändle won a stage from a breakaway when he beat Dowsett and Stewart in a three-rider sprint on stage 6; Dowsett dug deep to hold off the peloton and take a surprise overall lead

Photo: IAM Cycling

ALEX DOWSETT

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IAM CYCLING

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MATTHIAS BRÄNDLE

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MOVISTAR TEAM

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TOUR OF BRITAIN

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12.09.2014 @ 18:21 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Matthias Brändle (IAM) became a very rare double breakaway winner in the Tour of Britain when he added the victory in stage 6 to the one he took yesterday in stage 5. The Austrian was part of a very strong three-rider group that managed to hold off the hard chase from the peloton with such a big margin that Alex Dowsett (Movistar) who finished second, took the overall lead.

 

Yesterday Matthias Brändle was finally rewarded for his many attacks when he became a surprise winner of stage 5 of the Tour of Britain. Today he surprised even more when he repeated that achievement in stage 6.

 

After a frantic start, Brändle, Alex Dowsett and Thomas Stewart (Madison) got a gap and surprisingly the peloton showed no interest in the chase. The gap reached more than 9 minutes before Omega Pharma-Quick Step and later also BMC and Sky started to work hard in the peloton.

 

With Dowsett sitting just 1.25 behind Michal Kwiatkowski in the GC, the overall victory was very much in danger for the Pole and even sprinters like Mark Cavendish and Ben Swift sacrificed their own chances in the chase. In the finale, Kwiatkowski himself worked hard but it was all too late.

 

Brändle easily won the sprint to take the win for the second day in a row while Dowsett had emptied himself completely on the finished straight and had to settle for second. As they gained more than two minutes on the peloton, however, he took the leader’s jersey off Kwiatkowski’s shoulders.

 

After yesterday’s hilly stage, the Tour of Britain continued with stage 6 which was a lot flatter but had a pretty tricky finale. The riders travelled over 205.6km from Bath to Hemel Hempstead. The first part was rolling with no categorized climbs but inside the final 50km, the riders tackled three hard ascents, two of the second and one of the third category. The latter summited just 14.5km from the line and from there, the roads were rolling before they descended to the finish.

 

With a breakaway prevailing in yesterday’s stage, it was no surprise that the riders were off to a very fast start. Again they headed out under a beautiful sunny sky and there were no overnight withdrawals.

 

The many attacks and the rolling terrain created a major split in the peloton and at one point, the gap between the two groups was 1.18. All the majot GC riders were in the first group from which attacks were constantly launched.

 

Manuele Boaro (Tinkoff) and Alex Peters (Madison) were the first riders to get a significant gap but they were quickly brought back. The first group was now 1.46 ahead of the second group and 8 riders, including Jack Bauer (Garmin), tried to bridge across.

 

Michal Kwiatkowski (OPQS) beat Bradley Wiggins (Sky) and Nicolas Roche (Tinkoff-Saxo) in the first intermediate sprint as the GC riders were battling for bonus seconds. As the gap between the groups had come up to 2.15, Matthias Brändle (IAM), Alex Dowsett (Movistar) and Thomas Stewart (Madison) attacked and now the peloton finally slowed down.

 

Sebastian Lander (BMC) tried to bridge the gap but he never made it across. Meanwhile, the two big groups merged and the escapees’ advantage started to grow.

 

Mark Renshaw and Niki Terpstra started to work on the front of the peloton for OPQS but they had no interest in catching the break. After the feed zone, the peloton was 7.45 behind and with 86km to go, the advantage was a massive 9.10.

 

Dowsett beat Brandle and Stewart in the second intermediate sprint and now OPQS had slightly upped the pace. Michal Golas and Julien Vermote were riding on the front and they gradually started to reel the break in.

 

With 70km to go, BMC joined the fun when Martin Kohler and Peter Velits started to work with Vermote and Golas and now the gap was coming down. With 55km to go, the escapees were 7.30 ahead and now Sky had also started to chase with Bernhard Eisel.

 

Terpstra also joined the chase and the gap was slowly coming down. However, Dowsett was going really fast in the front group and the many climbs in the finale made it hard to organize a chase.

 

Dowsett led Brändle and Stewart over the top of the first climb while Mark McNally (An Post) sprinted ahead to pick up a few more points. At this point, Velits, Eisel, Terpstra, Vermote and Golas were still working hard and lots of riders were getting dropped.

 

On the second climb with 35km to go, the gap was still five minutes and again Dowsett was first over the top. Like on the previous climb, McNally sprinted ahead to score more points but now the GC teams had hit the panic button.

 

Over the top, Bradley Wiggins (Sky) took a huge turn on the front before Swift started to work with Velits, Vermote, Terpstra and Golas who were the only riders left from the original chasers. While Marcel Kittel (Giant) was dropped, even Cavendish started to work.

 

With 15km to go, the gap was still 3.30 and 5km further up the road, it had come down to 2.55. Dowsett led Brändle and Stewart across the line in the final intermediate sprint while Brändle led Stewart and Dowsett over the top of the final climb, with McNally again picking up the final points.

 

With 10km to go, Bardiani joined forces with Swift, Vermote, Golas and Cavendish on the front but it was clearly too late. With 5km to go, Kwiatkowski had to hit the front himself and he set the pace for most of the final part of the stage, with occasional assistance from Vermote, Cavendish, Swift and Terpstra.

 

Passing the flamme rouge, Dowsett rode hard on the front and Brändle had no trouble beating the Brit and Stewart in the final sprint. 1.51 later, Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani) beat his teammate Nicola Ruffoni and Swift in the sprint for fourth.

 

Dowsett now leads Kwiatkowski by 34 seconds as he goes into stage 7 which is the final hilly stage in the race. After a mostly flat first part, the riders will tackle one category 2 and two category 1 climbs in the finale. The final ascent summits 6km from the line and they are all downhill to a finish in Brighton.

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