Despite putting all six of their riders in the 27-strong leading group, Team Sky couldn’t capitalise and take the stage win in Stoke-on-Trent this afternoon on stage three of the Tour of Britain.
Geraint Thomas and Steve Cummings had led the group with two hundred metres to go, but they finished third and fourth as Rabobank pair Lars Boom and Michael Matthew ambushed them with 200 metres to go before the crucial final corner.
Team Sky had forged the pivotal split on the exposed ridge after Ramshorn at the 70km mark and was sitting pretty.
Alex Dowsett attacked with eighteen kilometres to go, at one point gaining a lead of 25 seconds. But he was dragged back on the outskirts of Stoke and dropped, losing time alongside Ben Swift and Matt Hayman.
Team Sky appeared more pre-occupied with neutralising the threat of Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad), who originally had two teammates with him.
“We isolated Cav completely in the final and didn’t win, and therefore pick up the bonus seconds, but neither did Cav. Lars and Bling [Michael Matthews], what can you do about that?” Sky directeur sportif Sean Yates asked. “As it happens, the Rabos didn’t want to ride.”
Yates hinted to CW that his riders could have ridden more intelligently in the finale. “We’re not used to racing without race radios. I wanted to tell them ‘if you put one guy out there, they’re going to just leave him there to dry,” he said, in a nod to Dowsett’s solo effort.
“You’ve got to soften them up – you need to maybe say ‘with five kilometres to go, come back and launch another one’ and hopefully there’ll be more than one guy [that goes with him].”
Motos in the middle
Yates also slammed the presence of race motorbikes in between the chasing group between Dowsett and the chasing group.
“Four, five police and camera bikes, they were always in between the bunch and the breakaway for no reason whatsoever,” he said. “The commissaires were telling them to get out the way, they weren’t moving.”
Sky made a retrospective error into Stoke on this race last year: again, they split the race and had the numerical advantage but burned out Geraint Thomas and Bradley Wiggins in a succesful bid to get Greg Henderson the stage win, who went on to finish third overall.
Yates said that winning the GC here was the goal, and with designated leader Thomas lying third, Team Sky remains in a strong position to strike back on tomorrow’s tough fourth stage to Caerphilly.
“It’ll be a burn up. We’ll try everything to win this race,” Yates vowed.