Great Britain track stars Ed Clancy, Steven Burke and Sam Harrison have all called it quits at the Tour of Sardinia.
Team pursuit rider Burke did not finish Wednesday's second stage. "Burkey went off on a big, long climb. He didn't get to the top by the time the cars had gone past him, and that was that," team manager Keith Lambert, deputising from his usual Academy role, said.
It was a similar story for Clancy on today's third stage. "Ed lost them on a big climb, fought back on, but they went up another long one, he got dropped and the cars went past him," Lambert noted.
Academy talent Harrison also lasted three days, throwing in the towel today. However, it is an experience that will stand the 18 year old in good stead for the future.
"He's never experienced anything like this before; he was a junior just last year. There are some real big hitters here," Lambert said.
Topping that list is Slovakian prodigy Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale), who took his second win
of the race on a hill-top finish today to wrestle back the race lead from Damiano Cunego.
With two days to go, the Great Britain team consists of Peter
Kennaugh, Ben Swift, Luke Rowe, Andy Tennant and Geraint Thomas. On the face of things, the team has struggled in Sardinia.
However, it's little surprise after
months of track conditioning. "They've found it hard, but we're not here to win the race. They're getting some strength in their legs and building up towards the world championships [March 23-27 in Apeldoorn, the Netherlands]," Lambert said.
With climbs going up to 1,100 metres - not to mention a minus 10 Celsius morning which froze the bike racks and "literally made everything an ice rink", according to Lambert - it's been an especially punishing workout.
"The first stage was pan-flat in the road book, one for Ben Swift we thought. Well, there wasn't a metre of flat road on it, not what we expected at all," Lambert laughed.
"Three mountain top finishes is a bit much for a five-day race. But tomorrow is a flat stage, and Ben could be up there," he added.
The Tour of Sardinia finishes in Gesturi on Saturday afternoon.
Peter Sagan off to another winning start in SardiniaFinal gold for Great Britain in team pursuit
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