Team Columbia?s Edvald Boasson Hagen won his third stage in this year?s Tour of Britain with another impressive sprint in front of Drumlanrig Castle on Saturday.
The 21-year Norwegian was part of the eight-rider break that formed after a hectic first hour of racing. Race leader Geoffroy Lequatre and his Agritubel team let them go clear as the roads twisted through the barren Scottish countryside and Boasson Hagen won the sprint with a long acceleration.
He was last in line with 500 metres to go after Cameron Meyer (SouthAustralia.com) had attacked but powered past his rivals to take his third stage win in this year?s Tour of Britain. Matt Goss (CSC) finished second, with South Africa?s Daryl Impey (Barloworld) third.
Danilo Di Luca was in the eight-rider move and finished fourth. He won two king of the mountain points and finished second in another during the stage, to take the polka-dot jersey from Ben Swift (Great Britain). The young Brit suffered during the fast start to the stage and didn?t go with Di Luca when he attacked but he hopes to snatch back the polka-dot jersey during Sunday?s final stage from Blackpool to Liverpool.
Boasson Hagen?s third win at the Tour of Britain was his seventh of the season. He also won the time trial at the Criterium International, the GP Denain, the Norwegian national time trial title and a stage at the recent Eneco Tour.
?Julian Dean started the sprint early and I was at the back of the line with 500 metres to go but I started to accelerated and I got a gap, nobody followed and I won,? he explained with a smile.
?It was a hard stage, up and down all day and never really easy. I was hoping to get the points jersey today and so it?s been a good day for me.?
?Everybody in the team is really happy. There was some really good team work early on and Greg was great in the break, he really helped me. I have to say a big thanks to the team again.?
The stage through the Scottish Lowlands again split into two races with the break fighting for the stage win and Geoffroy Lequatre (Agritubel) playing smart to defended his slim overall lead.
Steve Cummings (Barloworld) tried to attack on Mennock Pass, the category one climb, 40km from the finish, but Agritubel cleverly let him hang off the front and then reeled him in on the fast descent to the finish.
Cummings is still just six seconds behind Lequatre and Ireland?s Dan Martin (Garmin) is third at 14 seconds but their chances of overall victory are now slim. Their only hope is to snatch some bonus seconds in the three intermediate sprints on Sunday or in the final sprint for the line in Liverpool. 3, 2 and 1 second are on offer at each of the intermediate sprints and 10, 6 and 4 are available at the finish. However other riders will be trying to breakaway during the stage and Alessandro Petacchi (LPR) and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Columbia) must be favourites to win the stage and so take the precious seconds.
?I don?t know if I?ve won yet, the Tour of Britain ends tomorrow in Liverpool when I cross the line,? Lequatre said modestly.
?We did a great job today and I?d like to thank my team, who are my friends, because they were great all stage. It was difficult to chase all the attacks early on but we were happy when the eight-rider move went clear. I was expecting an attack from Barloworld or Garmin but the hill wasn?t so difficult and the stage finished in a sprint.?
?Steve Cummings is really strong. He?s British and so would really like to win but we controlled his attack with the team. We were confident we could catch him because it was a long way to the finish and he was alone. I was confident in my team because they?re strong. Emilien Berges, Romain Feillu and Nicolas Vogondy were all strong today. Now I hope we can have some good news tomorrow. If I win it?ll be my best win for sure. I?ve been unlucky in my career but I hope things will be okay tomorrow.?
Lequatre?s tactics for Sunday?s final stage are simple.
?We hope the sprinters will control things, perhaps Petacchi?s team will help us and Columbia too. There are a lot of riders who have interest to control the stage and we can play with that. Of course we have to be careful because the race only ends when we cross the line,” said the Frenchman.
The 110.2km final stage of this year?s Tour of Britain starts in Blackpool and ends in Liverpool city centre with six finishing circuits around the Liver building and the Dock. The three intermediate sprints will be hotly contested and the final sprint to the line could decide the overall winner but Petacchi must be favourite to win the sprint and Lequatre is likely to become the second consecutive Agritubel rider to win the Tour of Britain after his French team mate Romain Feillu won last year.
TOUR OF BRITAIN 2008: STAGE SEVEN RESULTS
1. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Columbia
2. Matthew Goss (Aus) CSC-Saxo Bank
3. Daryl Impey (RSA) Barloworld
4. Danilo Di Luca (Ita) LPR Brakes
5. Julian Dean (NZ) Garmin-Chipotle all at same time
6. Fred Rodriguez (USA) Rock Racing at 5secs
7. Cameron Meyer (Aus) SouthAustralia.com-AIS at same time
8. Greg Henderson (NZ) Columbia at 26secs
9. Kristof Goddaert (Bel) Vlaanderen at 2min 18secs
10. Roger Hammond (GB) Columbia at same time.
OVERALL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE SEVEN
1. Geoffroy Lequatre (Fra) Agritubel
2. Steve Cummings (GB) Barloworld at 6secs
3. Daniel Martin (Ire) Garmin-Chipotle at 14secs
4. Gabriele Bosisio (Ita) LPR Brakes at 15secs
5. Ian Stannard (GB) Great Britain at 16secs
6. Daniel Fleeman (GB) An Post at 18secs
7. Benny De Schrooder (Bel) An Post at 19secs
8. Frederik Veuchelen (Bel) Topsport at 28secs
9. Emilien Berges (Fra) Agritubel at 40secs
10. Russell Downing (GB) Pinarello-Canditv at 1min 24secs
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Tour of Britain official website: www.tourofbritain.co.uk.