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Having made it into the early break, Stannard did a time trial of more than 40km to claim a solo win on stage 3 of the Tour of Britain; Briggs and House completed the podium and Vermote retained the lead

Photo: Sirotti














06.09.2016 @ 16:49 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Ian Stannard (Sky) showed his impressive strength as he grabbed a rare chance to ride for himself by claiming a solo win on the tough stage 4 of the Tour of Britain. Having made it into the early break, he made a brave solo move with 40km to go and then time trialled to one of the most impressive victories in the British race before Graham Briggs (JLT Condor) beat Kristian House (ONE) in the sprint for second. The GC riders had an easy day and so Julien Vermote (Etixx-QuickStep) retained the lead.


Ian Stannard is known as one of the strongest riders in the peloton but his results don’t reflect how brutally strong he is. For most of the season, the Brit is seen at the front of the peloton shepherding his GC captains through the flat stages in stage races and he rarely gets a chance to go for personal glory. The classics are his highlights where he has slowly established himself as leading contender, with a podium spot in Paris-Roubaix and two victories in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad his most notable results, but apart from those few weeks in the spring, he spends the time working for others,


Stannard was expected to have a similar role in this week’s Tour of Britain. Sky went into the race with a formidable team of sprinters made up of Elia Viviani, Ben Swift and Danny Van Poppel and two GC riders in Wout Poels and Nicolas Roche. Hence, Stannard was left as the only worker in the team and he was expected to spend countless of hours on the front.


However, Sky had a bad day yesterday when Poels dropped out of GC contention, and that prompted the team to change its plans. Knowing that the stages in Britain are very hard to control, they opted to send Stannard on the attack in today’s lumpy third stage and the Brit grabbed the opportunity with both hands. On a day when the sprint teams and GC riders threw in the towel almost immediately, the Brit soloed to what was just the fourth win of his career.


Stannard was aggressive right from the start, joining the four-rider break that escaped after just a few kilometres. When he realized that the peloton had no intention of chasing them down, he made a brave solo move with 40km to go and then did an amazing time trial to take the win.


After yesterday’ big GC stage, the riders faced another hilly affair when they 179.4km between Gongleton and Tatton Park in Knutsford on stage 3. The first 100km were as flat as they can be in Britain but then the terrain got hard. In less than 40km, the riders tackled a category 2 and a category 1 climb in quick succession. The top of the final challenge which is the highest point in the race, came with 45.9km to go and from there it was mainly a long downhill run to the finish. The final three kilometres were flat without any real turns.


Adrien Costa (Etixx-QuickStep) who crashed yesterday was the only non-starter when the peloton gathered on a great sunny day. Unsurprisingly, it was a very fast start numerous attacks but the break was established relatively early. After just a few kilometres, Matt Cronshaw (Madison), Ian Stannard (Sky), Kristian House (ONE), Graham Briggs (JLT) and Jack Bauer (Cannondale) took off and they quickly got a solid advantage. Emiel Wastyn and Damien Shaw (An Post) tried to bridge the gap but they were stuck 1.20 behind the leaders. Shaw soon left Wastyn behind.


Bauer dropped out of the break and so left just four riders to press on as they approached the first sprint. Stannard pulled hard but House came around to take maximum points ahead of the Sky riders and Briggs. The peloton crossed the line 3.10 later after just 9km of racing.


Bauer was losing ground and found himself almost a minute behind when the front quartet led the race by 4.40 at the 13km mark. Meanwhile, the peloton showed no interest in bringing the break back and so the leaders had pushed their advantage of to 5.50 after 5.50km of racing.


While Owain Doull (Wiggins) rejoined the peloton after a crash, the peloton swept Shaw and Bauer up and allowed the gap to reach 6.40 before Etixx-QuickStep kicked into action. Tony Martin and Lukasz Wisniowski hit the front and started to stabilize the situation.


Briggs beat Cronshaw and House in the second intermediate sprint before the peloton crossed the line 6.40 later. Wisniowski and Martin were showing no desire to bring the break back and so the gap remained stable as they entered the final 100km.


Etixx-QuickStep finally got a hand from Amets Txurruka (Orica-BikeExchange) and Bert-Jan Lindeman (LottoNL-Jumbo) but it didn’t have much of an effect. The gap constantly hovered between the 6- and 7-minute marks as they approached the hilly zone. That was the signal for Dimension Data to move up as the South African team asked Jay Thomson and Johann van Zyl to contribute to the pace-setting. However, Martin, Txurruka and Lindeman all disappeared and so it was left to the African pair and Wisniowski to lead the chase.


Cronshaw beat Briggs and House in the final intermediate sprint before they hit the first climb where House took maximum points ahead of Briggs, Stannard and Cronshaw before Xandro Meurisse (Wanty) beat Nicolas Roche (Sky) in the sprint for fifth 6.10 later. It was straight onto the next climb where Cronshaw was left behind on the lower slopes before House beat Stannard and Briggs in the KOM sprint. Thomson and van Zyl paced the peloton to the top before Roche narrowly edged Meurisse out in a close battle for fifth place, with Björn Thurau (Wanty) and Pete Williams (ONE) next across the line.


Bernhard Eisel safely negotiated the descent on the front of the peloton as it was now Dimension Data doing all the work. With 60km to go, the front group hit the Cat & Fiddle climb with an advantage of 6.30. The peloton decided to take it easy on the ascent as Thomson and van Zyl just paced the bunch, bringing Cronshaw back in the process.


As the gap hadn’t come down with 47km to go, Etixx-QuickStep decided to react by putting Martin on the front – the team had been set back by a puncture for race leader Julien Vermote – but the gap hadn’t come down when House led Briggs and Stannard over the top. Martin set the pace until the battle for the KOM points started. Marco Marcato did the lead-out for Meurisse but it was Wout Poels who accelerated past with Roche and Meurisse on his wheel. The trio rode away from the peloton and then Meurisse easily beat Roche in the sprint to take fourth place points ahead of the Irishman, Poels and Williams.


With 41km to go, Stannard surprised everybody by launching a solo bid for victory as he made a strong attack, easily dropping his two companions. During the next 10km, he put 45 seconds into Briggs and House while the peloton didn’t get any much closer. Dimension Data and Etixx-QuickStep were setting the pace but they were not in real chase mode. In fact they were going so slow that Mark Cavendish simply rode off the front on a small climb when he tried to move up and so had to slow down to wait for the peloton.


While Eisel hit the front of the peloton, Stannard motored along, entering the final 30km with advantage of 0.45 and 6.45 respectively, and the peloton was still in no hurry. Dimension Data controlled things with Thomson and Eisel and so Stannard pushed the gaps out to 1.40 and 7.30 during the next 10km. That prompted Etixx-QuickStep to slightly increase the speed and so Wisniowski and Martin came to the fore to keep the strong Brit in check.


Stannard hit the final 10km with an advantage of 1.45 over his chasers and it was evident that no one was going to stop the Brit. The final part of the stage became a bit of a procession for the Brit who rode hard to maintain his gaps while Martin, Wisniowski and Thomson set the pace in the peloton.


Stannard could finally ease up in the final kilometres, using the opportunity to savour the moment, before he crossed the line to take his first win since the 2015 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Briggs easily beat House in the sprint for second before the peloton entered the finishing city. An Post upped the pace before Jasper De Buyst (Lotto Soudal) started to prepare the sprint by riding on the front. Sky also came to the fore before Nicola Boem (Bardiani) launched an attack. However, Dimension Data shut it down and then Giant-Alpecin ked the peloton under the flamme rouge. Sky surged past with Ben Swift doing the lead-out for Danny Van Poppel but it was Paolo Simion who delivered Nicola Ruffoni on the front. The Italian launched his sprint and narrowly held off the Sky sprinter to take fourth, 5.43 behind Stannard.


Race leader Vermote finished safely in the bunch and so retained his six-second lead over Steve Cummings (Dimension Data). He will try to defend his position in tomorrow’s stage 4. At 218km, the course between Denbigh and Builth Wells is very long and includes more than 4000m of climbing. However, there are only three categorized climb on the menu, one of the third and two of the second category. The final top comes with 102.8km to go but that doesn’t mean that the final part is flat. There are several ups and downs in the final 100km until the riders get to the slightly downhill run to the line. The finale is extremely technical with no less than 3 sharp turns inside the final 500m.



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