Today?s second stage of the Ster Elektrotoer in Holland is like a mini version of the Amstel Gold Race, with a rash of short sharp climbs in the final quarter of the race and a finish on top of the Cauberg.

The Cauberg is the hill in Valkenburg that hosts the finish of the Amstel Classic.

Britain?s Geraint Thomas (Barloworld) goes into the 177-kilometre stage, which starts in Schijndel, in third place overall after an excellent prologue.

Germany?s Tony Martin (High Road) holds the leader?s jersey but Thomas is only three seconds behind.

Mark Cavendish and Roger Hammond are also in the race.


Nicole Cooke finished 14th on the first stage of the six-day Grande Boucle Feminine, which covered 73 kilometres from Ghent in Belgium to Wattrelos.

The flat stage featured just two short hills and was livened up by the main break of the day, made by Karin Thurig (Cervelo Lifeforce), who broke away with 23 kilometres to go and was only reeled in with four to go.

Cooke is making a guest appearance for Swift Racing after British Cycling decided not to enter a Great Britain or Halfords Bikehut team in the event. She was wearing her British national champion?s jersey with Halfords Bikehut logo with Swift Racing?s pink shorts but rode her usual Boardman bike.

Lithuania?s veteran Diana Ziliute, who won this race in 1999, won the sprint. Cooke stayed out of harm?s way and finished 14th. Her Swift team-mate Helen Wyman was at the back of the same group, in 33rd place. The other Brit in the race, Emma Silversides (Lotto-Belisol) finished 40th at 33 seconds.

Today is a split stage with a 59-kilometre leg from Wallers in France back to La Louviere in Belgium in the morning and an 88-kilometre stage returning to Fourmies in France in the afternoon.


Rob Hayles (Halfords Bikehut) won his first Premier Calendar event since the 1997 Girvan when he beat Pinarello?s Peter Williams at the end of Sunday?s Beaumont Trophy ? and admitted it was long overdue.

?It?s definitely time I won one,? he said, ?although having said that, the last number of years I?ve not been racing road events to win them, I?ve been riding them to get the work load I?ve needed for the track.

?I?m coming off the back of two years of massive workload and unfortunately it didn?t pay off this winter. Now, though, I?m winning races. I won a couple of races out in Belgium and got two second places, then I?ve had two wins here.

?It?s nice to race to win and see it come off. I could have sat in [at the Beaumont] and waited to try to nip past Russ [Downing] in the sprint. But I think I won it in style.?

Mechanical problems early on meant he had to chase back to the bunch twice in the opening couple of laps. ?I?d indexed my gears right but I was one stop out, so I had an extra click at the bottom. It didn?t like the 19 or the 17 and I had to stop and sort it out twice,? he said.

Meanwhile, his Halfords team-mate, Tom Southam, was doing his characteristic thing ? getting in the break. ?Tom doesn?t like to hang about. He races like I used to. I would get in breaks and cover everything and then look at my watch and realise we?d only done 20 minutes.?

After hitting his knee on the handlebars when his chain slipped, Hayles finally got his gears sorted on the third lap, got back on and then tried to recover.

?I was riding with Dean [Downing, of Rapha] and Malcolm [Elliott, of Pinarello] doing most of the covering because Plowman Craven and KFS were trying to get away. It was killing me, I was doing a lot of work and I thought, ?if I?m working this hard I may as well be off the front doing it?.?

He chose to wait for the descent. ?I love going downhill so I attacked there ? ?Have some of that lads?. By the time I hit the main road I had 20, 30 seconds.

?On the climb, I was still a bit worried about my gears and chain so I was zig-zagging up in the 17, trying to take the pressure off the chain. Back in the bunch they could see me because it was a straight road and apparently they were having a good laugh and taking the mick.?

From there Hayles picked up the second half of the early break, then joined up to the front, where he linked up with Southam. Both times Hayles attacked, only Pete Williams could go with him. ?He was going really well but when he came with me I knew he wasn?t going to work too much because he had Russ behind. I did the last 4.5k on the front on my own because I thought I?d rather get second than be caught and get nothing.?

As it worked out, Hayles had too much in the sprint for his younger rival.

Hayles is still hoping for a place in the team pursuit squad for the Olympic Games. ?I feel I?m definitely in the frame. There are seven of us going for five places so it?s up to me now to show I can transfer the power and form back onto the track.

?But I know two have to miss out. I?m optimistic ? I have to be.?


Dave Clarke, riding for German club Nordland-Hamburg, was eighth overall in last week?s Tour of Romania. Third place on stage two lifted him into the top ten and he consolidate as the seven-day stage race wore on.


The National Road Race Championships are only 10 days away now (June 28, 29). We have the start lists here


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