The final weekend: a look back

The peloton on Regent Street, London (SweetSpot)
The peloton race up Regent Street, London (SweetSpot)

André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) and Elia Viviani (Team Sky) shared the spoils on the final weekend of the 2015 Tour of Britain. Edvald Boasson Hagen (MTN-Qhubeka) successfully defended his yellow jersey to take his second overall win at the race – the first man to win two editions of the modern race.

Fakenham – Ipswich

The East Anglia stage saw Greipel take his sixteenth win of the season, his first at the Tour of Britain, in a photo finish. The German started his sprint early, holding off a resurgent Elia Viviani to just shade it on the line.

Earlier in the day the Brit trio of Alex Dowsett (Movistar), Gabriel Cullaigh (Great Britain) and Graham Briggs (JLT-Condor) were in the break, though with such a flat stage on the menu they were never going to make it to finish.

Greipel shades it in Fakenham (SweetSpot)
Greipel shades it in Fakenham (SweetSpot)

The trio were duly caught thanks mainly to the work of Lotto-Soudal, while a late bid for glory from Zdeněk Štybar also proved fruitless as the Belgian squad were determined to deliver the Gorilla to the win.

stage result
1 André Greipel (Ger) Lotto – Soudal 5:14:42
2 Elia Viviani (Ita) Team Sky
3 Sondre Holst Enger (Nor) IAM Cycling
4 Mark Renshaw (Aus) Etixx – Quick Step
5 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) MTN – Qhubeka
6 Owain Doull (GBr) Team WIGGINS
7 Rasmus Guldhammer Pedersen (Den) Cult Energy Pro Cycling
8 Jonas Van Genechten (Bel) IAM Cycling
9 Dylan van Baarle (Ned) Team Cannondale – Garmin
10 Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto – Soudal

London

Elia Viviani triumphed on the final stage of the race, though he had to wait for race judges to confirm his win after Greipel, the first man over the line, was relegated due to irregular sprinting.

The big German moved across Viviani’s path as he stormed past, a move which saw the Sky rider protest and meant that Greipel would end up in 39th on the day.

“I had good speed in the legs after this really hard week,” said Viviani. “The guys have done amazing work for Wout [Poels] and myself this week. I’m disappointed because it would’ve been better to win without this, but we won in London and that’s the main thing.”

Greipel leads the peloton home in London (SweetSpot)
Greipel leads the peloton home in London (SweetSpot)

For the most part, the circuit race around Central London was a victory parade for Boasson Hagen, though the day did see Owain Doull move up onto the final podium thanks to bonus seconds claimed at the intermediate sprint.

It capped a strong race for the 22-year-old Welshman, who also took home the points jersey. One Pro Cycling, who are looking to move up to the ProContinental level for 2016, took the mountains and sprints jerseys thanks to a strong performance from Peter Williams.

The big plaudits, however, go to Boasson Hagen, who outperformed everybody’s expectations to take the overall win. His surprise performance on the summit finish of Hartside Fell will be seen as the defining moment of his second Tour of Britain victory.

The final podium (SweetSpot)
The final podium (SweetSpot)
stage result
1 Elia Viviani (Ita) Team Sky 1:50:16
2 Juan Jose Lobato Del Valle (Esp) Movistar Team
3 Matteo Trentin (Ita) Etixx – Quick Step
4 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) MTN – Qhubeka
5 Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto – Soudal
6 Sondre Holst Enger (Nor) IAM Cycling
7 Mark Renshaw (Aus) Etixx – Quick Step
8 Graham Briggs (GBr) JLT Condor
9 Ruben Zepuntke (Ger) Team Cannondale – Garmin
10 Owain Doull (GBr) Team WIGGINS
general classification
1 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) MTN – Qhubeka 34:52:52  
2 Wouter Poels (Ned) Team Sky 0:00:13  
3 Owain Doull (GBr) Team WIGGINS 0:00:42  
4 Rasmus Guldhammer Pedersen (Den) Cult Energy Pro Cycling 0:00:43  
5 Zdenek _tybar (Cze) Etixx – Quick Step 0:00:51  
6 Rubén Fernandez Andujar (Esp) Movistar Team    
7 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo    
8 Dylan van Baarle (Ned) Team Cannondale – Garmin 0:00:53  
9 Chris Anker Sørensen (Den) Tinkoff – Saxo 0:00:59  
10 Xandro Meurisse (Bel) An Post – Chainreaction 0:01:02
mountains classification
1 Peter Williams (GBr) One Pro Cycling 36  pts
2 Thomas Stewart (GBr) Madison Genesis 34  
3 Mark McNally (GBr) Madison Genesis 29  
points classification
1 Owain Doull (GBr) Team Wiggins 78  pts
2 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) MTN – Qhubeka 77  
3 Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto – Soudal 59  

 

sprints classification
1 Peter Williams (GBr) One Pro Cycling 18  pts
2 Conor Dunne (Irl) An Post – Chainreaction 11  
3 Danilo Wyss (Sui) BMC Racing Team 10  

Stoke-on-Trent – Nottingham: a look back

Boasson Hagen extends his lead (SweetSpot)
Boasson Hagen extends his lead (SweetSpot)

Race leader Edvald Boasson Hagen took charge of the Tour of Britain today, chasing the breakaway alone and asserting his authority on the race. Etixx-QuickStep’s Matteo Trentin may have taken the win on the day but the Norwegian stretched his lead out to thirteen seconds, a gap which looks to be unassailable over the final two – largely flat – days.

The MTN-Qhubeka man was more concerned with extending his lead than taking the stage, leading out Trentin, who had been in the break of the day, as he looked to maximise his advantage.

“When Edvald arrived we had a good gap but everyone was on the limit because that was probably the hardest race we’d ever done,” said Trentin. “It was full gas from the start. I sat for a moment in his wheel and took a chance to breathe for the first time in 100 kilometre. Then I just jumped past him for the win.”

On paper the stage was one of the hardest of the race, and so it proved on the road, with the peloton fracturing early on as Boasson Hagen sprinted for bonus seconds.

The peloton on the road to Nottingham (SweetSpot)
The peloton on the road to Nottingham (SweetSpot)

A strong group containing Trentin, Stefan Küng (BMC), Jens Debuscherre (Lotto-Soudal), Gorka Izagirre (Movistar), Sebastian Langeveld (Cannondale-Garmin) and Bram Tankink (LottoNL-Jumbo) made up the breakaway, though by the time they reached the outskirts of Nottingham they were already attacking each other.

Back in the peloton, Sky were doing much of the work, though dislodging the yellow jersey proved to be an impossibility. With the men in black worn out after a day of work, Poels was isolated in the final kilometres, and that was Boasson Hagen’s time to strike, attacking with three kilometres to go.

Trentin leads  the yellow jersey home (SweetSpot)
Trentin leads the yellow jersey home (SweetSpot)

 

stage result
1 Matteo Trentin (Ita) Etixx – Quick Step 4:45:27
2 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) MTN – Qhubeka
3 Owain Doull (GBr) Team WIGGINS 0:00:04
4 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Etixx – Quick Step
5 Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto – Soudal
6 Alberto Bettiol (Ita) Team Cannondale – Garmin
7 Alex Peters (GBr) Great Britain
8 Dylan Teuns (Bel) BMC Racing Team
9 Xandro Meurisse (Bel) An Post – Chainreaction
10 Wouter Poels (Ned) Team Sky
11 Rasmus Guldhammer Pedersen (Den) Cult Energy Pro Cycling
12 Rubén Fernandez Andujar (Esp) Movistar Team
13 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo
14 Taylor Phinney (USA) BMC Racing Team
15 Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Great Britain
16 Stef Clement (Ned) IAM Cycling
17 Chris Anker Sørensen (Den) Tinkoff – Saxo
18 Dylan van Baarle (Ned) Team Cannondale – Garmin
19 Stefan Denifl (Aut) IAM Cycling
20 Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Tinkoff – Saxo
general classification
1 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) MTN – Qhubeka 27:47:54
2 Wouter Poels (Ned) Team Sky 0:00:13
3 Rasmus Guldhammer Pedersen (Den) Cult Energy Pro Cycling 0:00:43
4 Owain Doull (GBr) Team WIGGINS 0:00:44
5 Dylan Teuns (Bel) BMC Racing Team 0:00:51
6 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Etixx – Quick Step
7 Rubén Fernandez Andujar (Esp) Movistar Team
8 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo
9 Xandro Meurisse (Bel) An Post – Chainreaction
10 Chris Anker Sørensen (Den) Tinkoff – Saxo
mountains classification
1 Peter Williams (GBr) One Pro Cycling 32  pts
2 Mark McNally (GBr) Madison Genesis 29
3 Thomas Stewart (GBr) Madison Genesis 29
POINTS CLASSIFICATION
1 Owain Doull (GBr) Team WIGGINS 62  pts
2 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) MTN – Qhubeka 54
3 Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto – Soudal 42
sprints classification
1 Peter Williams (GBr) One Pro Cycling 18  pts
2 Conor Dunne (Irl) An Post – Chainreaction 11
3 Pim Ligthart (Ned) Lotto – Soudal 8

Prudhoe – Hartside Fell: a look back

Wout Poels crept past Edvald Boasson Hagen within metres of the line (Sweetspot)
Wout Poels crept past Edvald Boasson Hagen within metres of the line (Sweetspot)

Wout Poels (Team Sky) took the win on the hardest stage of the Tour of Britain, with a last-gasp push to the line on Hartside Fell.

MTN-Qhubeka’s Edvald Boasson Hagen looked set to take a surprise victory, with few expecting the sprinter to be in contention on the race’s only summit finish. His late attack was thwarted by Poels, with the Dutchman’s second wind pushing him past with metres to spare.

“It’s always nice to win because I don’t win a lot of races,” Poels said. “It was pretty close in the final 500 metres. I thought that I would finish second but then Boasson Hagen slowed down a bit and I knew that I had to take that chance for the win.”

The Cumbrian terrain was lumpy all day, and One Pro Cycling’s Peter Williams took full advantage. The Lancastrian was out in the break for the third time in five days, with his efforts rewarded with both the mountain and sprint jerseys.

Breakmate and last year’s KOM winner Mark McNally (Madison-Genesis) beat Williams to the top of each hill, meaning there should be a grand battle for the polka-dot jersey over the coming days.

The break didn’t make it to the final climb though, as the combined work of MTN-Qhubeka, Team Sky and Tinkoff-Saxo ensured that the day would be decided by the GC men.

The peloton on the road to Hartside Fell (Sweetspot)
The peloton on the road to Hartside Fell (Sweetspot)

Race leader Juan José Lobato was one of the first to drop from the peloton on the climb, and it wasn’t long before the first attacks came. Cannondale-Garmin’s Ruben Zepuntke tried to break free with 7km remaining, but his move was soon usurped by a more committed effort from Peter Kennaugh (Team Sky) and Chris Anker Sørensen (Tinkoff-Saxo).

LottoNL-Jumbo’s Steven Kruijswijk and Poels were next to go, in a move that saw what was remaining of the peloton fall apart. With 3km to go it looked as though the Dutch duo would be contesting the finish, but Boasson Hagen had other ideas.

As Great Britain’s Tao Geoghegan Hart and Alex Peters touched wheels and fell out of contention in the group, the Norwegian rode across to Poels and Kruijswijk. The Sky man tried again and again to get away, but the strong headwind in the final kilometres meant that he made no progress.

The final kilometre loomed as Boasson Hagen made his final bid for victory, powering away from the small group of leaders. He made it a further 900 metres in the lead before he was caught, but is still in yellow tonight, his lead over Poels a miniscule second.

It’s the third win of the race for Sky, with the British team sharing every stage with Etixx-QuickStep thus far. With the final weekend made up of two sprint stages, tomorrow’s stage from Stoke-on-Trent to Nottingham looks to be the only chance for Poels to overhaul Boasson Hagen for the overall win.

Boasson Hagen lost out on the day but took the yellow jersey (Sweetspot)
Boasson Hagen lost out on the day but took the yellow jersey (Sweetspot)

 

stage result
1 Wout Poels (Ned) Team Sky 4:12:22
2 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) MTN – Qhubeka 0:00:02
3 Benat Intxausti Elorriaga (Esp) Movistar Team 0:00:17
4 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Etixx – Quick Step 0:00:18
5 Rasmus Guldhammer Pedersen (Den) Cult Energy Pro Cycling
6 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo
7 Xandro Meurisse (Bel) An Post – Chainreaction
8 Chris Anker Sørensen (Den) Tinkoff – Saxo
9 Rubén Fernandez Andujar (Esp) Movistar Team
10 Dylan Teuns (Bel) BMC Racing Team
11 Owain Doull (GBr) Team WIGGINS 0:00:25
12 Alex Peters (GBr) Great Britain
13 Rasmus Christian Quaade (Den) Cult Energy Pro Cycling 0:00:31
14 Graham Briggs (GBr) JLT Condor
15 Gorka Izaguirre Insausti (Esp) Movistar Team
16 Dylan van Baarle (Ned) Team Cannondale – Garmin 0:00:35
17 Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Tinkoff – Saxo
18 Alberto Bettiol (Ita) Team Cannondale – Garmin
19 Peter Kennaugh (GBr) Team Sky 0:01:00
20 Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto – Soudal
general classification
1 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) MTN – Qhubeka 23:02:36
2 Wouter Poels (Ned) Team Sky 0:00:01
3 Rasmus Guldhammer Pedersen (Den) Cult Energy Pro Cycling 0:00:30
4 Benat Intxausti Elorriaga (Esp) Movistar Team 0:00:33
5 Owain Doull (GBr) Team WIGGINS 0:00:37
6 Dylan Teuns (Bel) BMC Racing Team 0:00:38
7 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Etixx – Quick Step
8 Rubén Fernandez Andujar (Esp) Movistar Team
9 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo
10 Chris Anker Sørensen (Den) Tinkoff – Saxo
mountains classification
1 Peter Williams (GBr) One Pro Cycling 32  pts
2 Mark McNally (GBr) Madison Genesis 29
3 Thomas Stewart (GBr) Madison Genesis 29
points classification
1 Owain Doull (GBr) Team WIGGINS 49  pts
2 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) MTN – Qhubeka 40
3 Juan Jose Lobato Del Valle (Esp) Movistar Team 40
sprints classification
1 Peter Williams (GBr) One Pro Cycling 18  pts
2 Conor Dunne (Irl) An Post – Chainreaction 11
3 Pim Ligthart (Ned) Lotto – Soudal 8

The rebuilds

Cofidis 2015 (equipe-cofidis.com)
Cofidis 2015 (equipe-cofidis.com)

Rebuild is not a word we hear often in cycling. The system of riders only leaving a team once their contract expires does not lend itself to teams being able to make wholesale changes and revamp their squad, unlike sports such as football. However, this season we will see two teams who have been totally made-over during the winter.

The ProContinental outfits Cofidis and MTN-Qhubeka are the teams in question. Here’s a look at what they’ve done and what we can expect from them in 2015.

Cofidis

The French squad have spent big (around €1.7m) to bring in star sprinter Nacer Bouhanni from FDJ. The ex-boxer publicly fell-out with FDJ team manager Marc Madiot last season when Arnaud Démare was picked for the Tour de France instead of him. He has dropped down a level for 2015 but now has a team built around him and him alone.

A string of capable leadout riders have signed on for the ride, with Dominique Rollin returning to the sport after a fruitless contract search in 2013 saw him sit out last season. Swedish leadout man Jonas Ahlstrand joins from Giant-Shimano while Geoffrey Soupe has followed Bouhanni from FDJ.

The train in training (@TeamCofidis)
The train in training (@TeamCofidis)

The team showed off this train in a series of tweets two days ago – Lemoine-Rollin-Ahlstrand-Petit-Soupe-Bouhanni will be the order. Cofidis may have put all their eggs in one basket, but it is a very good basket with Bouhanni certainly possessing the ability to challenge for Tour stages, as well as racking up wins elsewhere.

Back to the signings and Belgians Michael Van Staeyen and Kenneth Van Bilsen have joined from Topsport – the pair are useful classics men. So too is Steve Chainel who has also joined the team and will be the leader for the cobbled season. The 31 year-old will also be a valuable tutor for promising youngster Florian Senechal.

The list of outgoing names include well-known riders such as Rein Taaramäe, Christophe Le Mével and Jérôme Coppel. Le Mével has retired while the underperforming Taaramäe and Coppel have moved on to Astana and IAM repectively. Dani Navarro looks to be the only GC man remaining, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him take a Grand Tour stage win or sneak into the Vuelta top ten once again.

Navarro also tasted success at the Vuelta (Cor Vos)
Navarro also tasted success at the Vuelta (Cor Vos)

 

MTN-Qhubeka

The African squad have also focused on sprinters in the off-season. The team, run since mid-2014 by Brian Smith, have big ambitions and have brought in a number of high profile riders. First up a look at their three pure sprinters – Theo Bos (Belkin), Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) and Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp).

The latter duo haven’t exactly been notable for prolific win rates in recent years – Goss hasn’t stood on the top step of a podium since Tirreno-Adriatico in 2013, while Farrar’s stage at the Tour of Beijing was his first WorldTour level victory since 2011. Bos on the other hand, racked up eight wins last season, including a stage of the Tour de Pologne.

MTN-Qhubeka will be hoping for more of this in 2015 (©Tour de Pologne)

The biggest name to join the project is Edvald Boasson Hagen, from Sky. A hot prospect in his early years as a pro, he has never really fulfilled the potential he showed with his win at Gent-Wevelgen back in 2009. He will be aiming for the cobbles again, with the team invited to the Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix thanks to his signing.

Steve Cummings, Matt Brammeier and Serge Pauwels are the three other new faces at MTN in 2015. They are all good workers, with Cummings and Brammeier strong in the TT and Pauwels a decent climber. Ex-BMC rider Cummings has already won his first race in his new colours – yesterday’s Trofeo Andratx, part of the Challenge Mallorca.

The team’s strategy has been to invest in a group of riders who are big enough in name to get them invites to the big races. The first part of the gamble has worked with the team able to ride wherever they please (Sanremo, Tirreno, Ronde, Roubaix, Dauphiné and the Tour) without having to pay the UCI for a WorldTour license. Whether they can enact part two and deliver victories at that level is another question entirely.

In Mallorca (teammtnqhubeka.com)
In Mallorca (teammtnqhubeka.com)

 

Conclusion

Cofidis and MTN-Qhubeka have invested in fastmen for 2015 but both in very different ways. It is, however, a lot easier to picture the Cofidis train delivering Bouhanni to victory in July as opposed to one of the disparate group of good-but-not-good-enough sprinters MTN have assembled. Put bluntly, Farrar, Bos and Goss simply aren’t fast enough to beat the top sprinters like Cavendish or Kittel. Their recruitment strategy was a big risk and I have my doubt about whether it will pay off.

Lack of a plan b seems to be the main risk involved in Bouhanni’s addition, while another question to ponder is how long will it take the team to perfect the art of the leadout? They have five months before the biggest challenge of their season in the form of the Giant-Alpecin train, and management will be expecting Bouhanni & co to be up to speed.

A final question that has to be raised about MTN’s additions is regarding the team’s policy of promoting African cyclists. You could almost fill up a Tour squad with the new arrivals, and we have to hope that the team doesn’t ignore talents like Merhawi Kudus, Daniel Teklehaimanot and Natnael Berhane in the pursuit of glory with their big-name signings.