Leigh Howard (Orica-GreenEdge) got the better of Mark Cavendish to win stage two of this year’s Tour of Britain at Knowsley Safari Park.
On a slightly-uphill drag to the line, Cavendish wasn’t able to recover from a lack of a full lead-out train in time to overhaul his former HTC-Highroad team-mate.
Sky also lost the overall lead of the race, as UnitedHealthcare’s Boy Van Poppel dislodged overnight leader Luke Rowe at the top of the standings.
This was a good day for GreenEdge, which began when Jack Bobridge instigated the day’s long-standing breakaway. There was a presence from the home-grown riders, with Russell Hampton (Raleigh-GAC), Pete Williams (Node4-Giordana) and Richard Handley (Rapha-Condor) all making it into the six-man move. Pablo Urtasun (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Liquigas-Cannondale stagiaire Matthias Krizek also made the break.
Urtasun took maximum points on the stage’s three categorised climbs to take the lead in the Skoda King of the Mountains competition, while Williams focused on the Yodel Sprints classification, and he too did enough to take ownership of that jersey for stage three.
Williams and Bobridge were the last of the breakaway to be caught, some 23km from the finish, and although another Node4 rider – Marcin Bialoblocki – made a speculative solo attempt within the final 10km, Team Sky marshalled the race exactly as you would expect.
However, despite good work from Bernie Eisel, Christian Knees and Bradley Wiggins, Cavendish found himself in second wheel behind Rowe with 600m remaining. He deliberately eased off, rejoining the line in sixth, and looked handily placed. Howard jumped early, capitalising on the world champions’ misfortune when he was boxed in momentarily and held off the onrushing Manxman to take the victory.
The drama didn’t end there as, despite being presented with the leader’s jersey on the podium, Rowe was actually replaced at the top of the GC by Dutchman Van Poppel, who finished third on the stage.
Tour of Britain 2012, stage two: Nottingham to Knowsley Safari Park
1. Leigh Howard (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge in 4-31-09
2. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Sky
3. Boy Van Poppel (Ned) UnitedHealthcare
4. Steele Von Hoff (Aus) Garmin-Sharp
5. Russell Downing (GBr) Endura
6. Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Garmin-Sharp
7. Wesley Kreder (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM
8. Nathan Haas (Aus) Garmin-Sharp at same time
9. Sam Bennett (Irl) An Post Sean Kelly at 1 sec
10. Luke Rowe (GBr) Sky at same time
General classification after stage two
1. Boy Van Poppel (Ned) UnitedHealthcare
2. Leigh Howard (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
3. Luke Rowe (GBr) Sky at 1 sec
4. Rony Martias (Fra) Saur-Sojasun at 4 secs
5. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Sky at same time
6. Russell Downing (GBr) Endura at 6 secs
7. Steele Von Hoff (Aus) Garmin-Sharp at 10 secs
8. Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Garmin-Sharp at 10 secs
9. Nathan Haas (Aus) Garmin-Sharp at 10 secs
10. Peter Hawkins (Irl) IG-Sigma Sport at 11 secs
First climb at Cross o’ the’ Hands
Jack Bobridge in the escape
Leigh Howard takes the win
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Stage one gallery by Andy Jones
Tour of Britain 2012 pre-race gallery by Andy Jones