Wiggins and Cavendish out of luck, but one Brit has a chance
Tiernan-Locke is just 24 seconds behind race leader Howard and he’s a mountain specialist
UPDATE, 15:00: After this item was published, Team Sky announced that Bradley Wiggins was pulling out of the Tour of Britain because of a stomach bug.
BRADLEY WIGGINS is mortal. He may have won the Tour de France this year but he won’t be repeating the feat in his own backyard, and nor will Mark Cavendish after a tough day in the saddle on the fifth stage of the Tour of Britain cost him the leader’s gold jersey.
The Isle of Man rider is a sprinter not a climber and his failings were cruelly exposed on the 92-mile loop stage that included several sharp ascents over Cannock Chase in Staffordshire.
Cavendish, who won stages three and four of the eight-stage Tour of Britain, began the day in Stoke protecting a slender six-second lead from Australian Leigh Howard. The Olympic silver medallist in the team pursuit was one of 27 riders who made an early break that left Cavendish floundering.
Team Sky team-mate Bradley Wiggins did his best to pull Cavendish back into contention but the Manxman had nothing to left to give.
Meanwhile there was drama at the front of the race as Dutchman Marc de Maar was involved in a crash with three other riders 10km from the finish line. De Maar was back on his bike in an instant and within 2km he had caught the leaders.
The Dutch rider than outsprinted his rivals to the finish to claim his first stage victory of the Tour in a time of 3 hours and 30 minutes. “I had a rough start to the Tour, I was involved in two crashes,” de Maar said afterwards. “I lost motivation, but it looks like I have found it again."
Howard crossed the line 15 seconds behind his Dutch rival to claim the leader’s gold jersey and Cavendish followed nearly 12 minutes later as his dreams of winning the Tour vanished. "I knew Cavendish was struggling with the climbs early in the stage, so when the crunch came I knew he wasn't going to go,” said Howard. “When the break happened, I just made sure I went with them."
For Team Sky it was a forgettable day in what has otherwise been a memorable year. “We were riding for Cav today to keep the gold jersey and that cost us a lot of energy,” said Sky sporting director Servais Knaven. “It’s been a hard week and he has had to work a lot.”
Despite the fact neither Cavendish nor Wiggins will challenge for the title when the Tour reaches its climax on Sunday there could yet be a homegrown winner. Jonathan Tiernan-Locke of the Endura Racing team lies sixth overall, just 24 seconds behind race leader Howard.
The 27-year-old Englishman, a mountain specialist, is expected to thrive in today’s 118-mile stage through Wales that includes several steep climbs over the Brecon Beacons.
The Tour continues on Saturday from Barnstaple to Darmouth, before ending in Guildford on Sunday.