By Owen Rogers
After a troubled year, Caleb Ewan won the final stage of the Tour of Britain in London on Sunday, repeating his victory on the same stage in 2016. After his Mitchelton-Scott team came to front late in the stage, the Australian was perfectly positioned in the final bend, opening a gap ahead of the rest.
Quick-Step Floors had dominated the final two kilometres, with Bob Jungels leading the peloton, but when Iljo Keisse lost his wheel, the team’s lead out splintered, leaving Fernando Gaviria too far back.
The Colombian finished a disappointing second place, with André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) unable to repeat his two stage victories, placing third.
Despite the mistakes of that final kilometre Gaviria’s Belgian team will be satisfied after Julian Alaphilippe finished 13th, enough to take the general classification.
Though Alaphilippe won the race’s third stage in Bristol, the Frenchman's victory was built on Friday’s second place performance on the Whinlatter Pass and Quick-Step’s abilities in the team time trial the previous day.
It’s been a stellar season for both Alaphilippe and Quick-Step Floors. The Belgian team have notched up 61 wins this year, with Alaphilippe taking nine of those to go with the polka-dot jersey at July’s Tour de France.
How it happened
The stage began as a battle for the sprint classification, led by Alex Paton (Canyon-Eisberg), though his advantage was far from secure, with Matt Holmes and British champion Connor Swift (both Madison-Genesis) among a number within striking distance.
Inside the first kilometre Paton and Swift managed to make the race’s first break with Taylor Phinney (EF Education First-Drapac), the trio having little trouble establishing a gap.
When Paton was dropped, Saturday’s breakaway effort apparently taking its toll, it seemed Swift had the advantage. However, the Canyon-Eisberg squad soon brought the race back together as the second of 14 5.5km laps began, the race settling momentarily.
Having held the sprint classification until Saturday, Matt Holmes was led out by his Madison-Genesis team, and managed to bag one point in the first of three intermediate sprints, leaving him still three points behind Paton.
The race was fast becoming an exhibition of attacking and, as it reached one third distance, with two scoring sprints remaining, Holmes and Swift found themselves in a further break, this time with Chris Froome (Sky) and Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie).
Once again, however, they were brought back, only for Latvian, Emils Liepenš (One Pro Cycling) and Vasil Kiryenka (Sky) to go clear with 45km remaining.
Kiryenka led the bunch for the next sprint, and Paton’s defensive job was made even easier by BMC’s Paddy Bevin looking to use the bonus seconds to ensure his general classification position, scuppering Madison-Genesis’ hard work.
At the front meanwhile, with Liepenš dropped, Kiryenka battled on alone, his lead hovering between 20 and 30 seconds as the race entered its closing stages. It was only now the peloton - and viewing public - found time to catch their breath, the race steadying itself.
Unwilling to accept his fate Holmes once again tried his luck for the final intermediate sprint, though when he saw Paton on his shoulder metres from the line, he conceded defeat, the Canyon-Eisberg rider winning the sprint and with it the classification.
The final two laps were all about the stage win, the sprinters’ teams taking over at the front. Team GB took up the cudgels early on, but it was the more established teams who led into the final three kilometres.
Tour of Britain 2018, stage eight: London (77km)
1. Caleb Ewan (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott, in 1-38-33
2. Fernando Gaviria (Col) Quick-Step Floors
3. André Greipel (Ger) Lotto-Soudal
4. Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
5. Ethan Hayter (Gbr) Team GB
6. Dion Smith (NZ) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
7. Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) BMC Racing
8. Nils Eekhoff (Ned) Sunweb
9. Paaolo Simioni (Ita) Bardiani-CSF
10. Patrick Bevin (Aus) BMC Racing, all at same time
Final general classification
1. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Floors, in 26-25-58
2. Wout Poels (Ned) Team Sky, at 17 seconds
3. Primož Roglič (Slo) LottoNL-Jumbo, at 33 seconds
4. Patrick Bevin (Aus) BMC Racing, at 42 seconds
5. Bob Jungels (Lux) Quick-Step Floors, at 51 seconds
6. Jascha Sütterlin (Ger) Movistar, at 58 seconds
7. Nielson Powless (USA) LottoNL-Jumbo, at 1-10
8. Dmitri Strakhov (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin, at 1-24
9. Chris Hamilton (Aus) Sunweb, at 1-28
10. Pascal Eenkhoorn (Ned), at 1-34 nbsp;
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