This year’s Tour of Britain was a stormer. Racing was hard from the flag, all the way through to the iconic finish stretch near Piccadilly Circus in London.
Quick-Step Floors’ Julian Alaphilippe took the overall win, holding off Team Sky’s Wout Poels and usurping race leader Primož Roglič, picking up a stage win in Bristol on the way.
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But we learnt much more than just who can tackle Britain’s unpredictable terrain over an eight-day stage race.
Here are talking points from the biggest elite men’s road race in Britain:
Stannard’s still got it
It’s been a while since we’ve seen the best of the strongest workhorse in British cycling, Ian Stannard.
But in this year’s Tour of Britain we saw one of the most impressive performances from the 31-year-0ld since his Omloop Het Nieuwsblad win in 2015.
Stannard took a gladiatorial solo win on stage seven from West Bridgford to Mansfield in weather perfect for the British Classics specialist.
After making it into the five-man breakaway, Stannard was able to whittle down the competition until only Katusha’s German rouleur Nils Politt remained.
Stannard attacked Politt still with 16km left on the 215km stage, grasping a 10 second lead for the next 10km.
But the relentless Brit snapped his opponent’s will and extended the gap to 59 seconds by the finish.
The emphatic win showed a return to the form of 2015, when Stannard found himself racing towards the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad finish outnumbered by three Etixx – Quick-Step riders.
On that occasion, once again Stannard showed superior form and rode away from the trio in a memorable cycling moment.
The Tour of Britain is back
Britain’s biggest elite men’s bike race can be a bit hit and miss.
While the UK certainly has the terrain for fantastic flag-to-line racing, the routes often fall short of the expectation.
The 2017 edition showed how the eight-day race can be scuppered by the strength of sprint teams and make for repetitive racing. Last year, seven of the eight stages were taken by the fast men.
But the 2018 race was a return to form for the race itself, as well as some of the big names.
Frantic racing and unpredictable finishes characterised the race.
From the breakaway escape on the winding Devon stage and the unpredictable reduced-bunch finish in Bristol, to the rapid laps of London on the final day – this year’s race was end-to-end excitement.
The ‘Gorilla’ swings again
It seemed like the best of German sprinting sensation André Greipel might be behind us, but this year’s Tour of Britain put that theory to rest.
The 36-year-old underlined the announcement he was stepping down from the WorldTour by picking up two sprint victories in stages one and four.
Greipel announced last month he will be leaving Lotto-Soudal to ride for Professional Continental team Fortuneo-Samsic on a two-year deal.
But the move may have worked wonders for the German’s morale, after he beat some of the fastest sprinters in the world last week.
Froome and Thomas need a rest
The Tour de France-winning duo announced they will not be riding the World Championships in Austria next month.
Team Sky’s headliners blamed a gruelling season, which included both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France, for their planned absence.
The pair rode in support of their Dutch team-mate Wout Poels and were relatively anonymous over the eight days – certainly a change from their usual front and centre roles.
But the fans weren’t to be dissuaded by their backseat positions, with huge crowds gathering outside the Team Sky bus to catch a glimpse of their British heroes.
Alaphilippe on the rise… still
Now this isn’t the most insightful bit of punditry, but the inexorable rise of Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe cannot be ignored.
The Quick-Step Floors climber has picked up a catalogue of memorable wins this season.
Victory at Ardennes Classic, La Flèche Wallone was followed up by a string of stage wins.
But the 26-year-old’s biggest achievement came in the biggest arena, with two stage wins and the mountains classification at the Tour de France.
Alaphilippe then went on to take the win on stage three of the Tour of Britain and seize control of the overall from Primož Roglič.
A stellar year puts Alaphilippe firmly on the front line of favourites for the World Championships later this month.