Tour of Britain (st. 6)
Prodigious break by Essex boy from Movistar Team alongside Brändle (IAM), Stewart (MGT) turns GC upside down, puts him into yellow with two days from race’s end
Pictures (c): British Cycling
He started the day 1’25” down in the GC after struggling in the terrain suiting him worst, the mountains embodied by Tuesday’s hilltop finish in The Tumble. Yet Alex Dowsett, a powerful rouleur always persistent on every goal he chases, bounced things back after a double puncture while into Wednesday’s break and moved into the lead of the Tour of Britain with a brilliant ride on day six, over 201 kilometers from Bath to Hemel Hempstead in the East of England.
After making it into a numerous break formed after 20km, with several of the top GC contenders in, Dowsett went with a three-man group together with Brändle (IAM) and Stewart (MGT), setting a not-so-fast pace that still earned him a nine-minute advantage with 85km remaining. The power by the three escapees, Brändle and him especially talented TT specialists, and miscalculation by the main squads chasing allowed him to get through the three rated climbs of the day still holding a 4-minute gap with 20km remaining. Then, Dowsett started giving everything in search a yellow jersey that would eventually become real.
Dowsett came across the line 1’50” before the peloton; combined with bonus seconds after his 2nd place and the first place in an intermediate sprint, Alex is 34″ ahead of Kwiatkowski (OPQ) with three stages to go, including an 8.8km ITT in London on Sunday. Before that, stage seven on Saturday will take the riders through a tough 226km to Brighton, including the Cat-1 ascents of Ditchling Beacon and Bear Road near the end.
Alex Dowsett: “It was the hardest day in my life. I got in the break and I thought, ‘I need a big headwind all day’. I just thought it’d be let us out, bring us back, and that’ll be that. I also thought I could have a good time trial, maybe, and I was leaving a lot out on the road there, I thought I might be giving too much, but when I saw the gap went to like 7 minutes, I thought: ‘That’s quite big’. Then, eight minutes, nine minutes, nine-fiteen, which I think was the biggest – that’s where I began to think more about the yellow, less about the stage win, and really started digging in.
“I made an agreement with Matthias later on, because he’s a great timetriallist – he’d win the stage because I had a good chance to take the yellow. He gave me everything, I couldn’t have done it without him. It was probably the hardest day of his life for Tom from Madison, too – he also gave everything. The team was fantastic in the car behind as well, Juan Pablo – they were always there when I needed them. I gave everything I’ve got. With Ditchling Beacon tomorrow, obviously Kwiatkowski going like a train – I’ll try to rest up as much as I can today and give it my all tomorrow. I still have got a lot to do in the time trial – far from over, but I’m in a nice position for it.
“It completely surprised me, to have my whole family there. I wasn’t expecting to see them till tomorrow in Brighton. Thanks to the Tour of Britain for looking after them, too. I got my sister working on the race for television – it’s pretty special.”