Jonathan Tiernan-Locke first Brit to win Tour for 19 years
Mark Cavendish puts himself in great position for world championships road race in Netherlands
THE final stage of the Tour of Britain belonged to Mark Cavendish but it was Jonathan Tiernan-Locke who had most to celebrate as the race reached its climax in Guildford. The 27-year-old Tiernan-Locke became the first British rider to win the Tour of Britain for 19 years, further confirmation that the state of British cycling has never been healthier.
The Endura Racing rider began Sunday's final stage between Reigate and Guilford protecting an 18-second lead and though Cavendish sprinted clear at the finish to win his third stage of the race the day belonged to Tiernan-Locke. "It's fantastic," he said later. "It has not really sunk in yet. It was a tough day, a lot tougher than we thought. So I feel relief more than anything."
The last homegrown winner of the Tour of Britain was Chris Lillywhite, back in 1993, and prior to this year's race it was either Bradley Wiggins or Cavendish who was expected to put an end to that unwanted statistic.
But with Wiggins forced out on Friday with a stomach bug, and Cavendish suffering during the midweek ascents in Wales and the Midlands, it was left to Tiernan-Locke to keep up the British end.
He rode a safe if unspectacular final stage, content to keep out of trouble as he safeguarded his 18-second lead. Instead it was Australia's Jack Bobridge who broke clear with 30 miles left of the stage but he was reeled in by the peloton eight miles from the finish in Guildford.
Team Sky pulled together to control the peloton, ensuring that Cavendish was ideally placed to sprint for the line in the closing stages of the 91-mile loop stage.
Cheered on by thousands of supporters, Cavendish crossed the line first to set himself up well for next Sunday's world championships road race. "It was absolutely incredible," he said of the support. "The amount of people out on the road has been like the Olympic Games."
Then in a playful dig at Team Sky teammate Wiggins, Cavendish added: "I thought I'd been forgotten about and everyone was about sideburns now."
Though Cavendish has been living in the shadow of Wiggins since he became the first British winner of the Tour de France, the Isle of Man rider has the chance to re-establish his credentials at the world champs.
In winning the title last year Cavendish became the first Briton to be crowned world champion since the legendary Tom Simpson in 1965, and victory in the Netherlands next Sunday would go a long way to erasing memories of his failure to make the podium in the Olympic Road Race.
Britain is sending a strong team to the world championships, including Tiernan-Locke and Chris Froome, who finished second behind Wiggins in the Tour de France.