When Mark Cavendish announced a week before the start of the Tour of Britain that he would be riding his national tour for the first time since 2007 it was probably not the news the other riders wanted to hear. When the opening stage finished in Dumfries, their worst fears were realised as the Manx Missile took the bunch finish with ease, with HTC teammate Mark Renshaw second.
Following his win, and wearing the IG Markets gold leaders' jersey, Cavendish was upbeat about his repeat performance of four years ago when he won the prologue to take the lead in the Tour of Britain.
"Its always incredible to win the first stage because you get also get the leader's jersey. We were up for it today but it was always going to be a hard day, with the weather anyway. If it was nice weather it would have been a lot faster, still probably the same result, but it would have been easier. Its been wicked here, all day. The crowds are spectacular especially considering the weather."
Although the safe money was on Cavendish to take the opening stage of the eighth Tour of Britain, a pair of riders decided they weren't going to make it easy for the rest of the peloton and Cavendish's HTC team in particular on the 106 mile stage.
Soon after the 95 rider field rolled out of the sleepy town of Peebles, Russell Hampton (Sigma Sport) and Pieter Ghyllebert (An Post-Sean Kelly) set off on a breakaway that would stay away until 10 miles before the finish. It was a brave move indeed, given that most of it was into a headwind in the rain.
The break, which earned home rider Hampton the Combativity award and his Belgian counterpart Ghyllebert the Yodel Sprints competition, got a maximum advantage of over six minutes before the bunch slowly, and painfully, dragged it back.
After the race Cavendish paid tribute to his team: "We had to ride with a few of our guys today but we had support from Sky and the guys did an incredible job to control the break. You know, then it was run of the mill stuff to set me up for the finish."
When the race did eventually finish in Dumfries it was 30 minutes down on schedule, testament to the strong winds, but perhaps nothing compared to the hurricane gusts that are predicted to disrupt tomorrow's stage from Kendal to Blackpool.
Asked how long he could keep the leader's jersey Cavendish replied, "Hopefully it will be a sprint again tomorrow. We could keep it for a good few days, but its harder to control with a six man team."
Cavendish, who pulled out of the Vuelta a Espana on stage four, will be using the eight-stage Tour of Britain as preparation for the world championships in Copenhagen, and post-race questions soon turned to the effectiveness of this race in that respect.
"It's actually good preparation because its likely to be raining and cold in Copenhagen - this has been perfect (today) because it favours me. I like this weather - I couldn't handle the Vuelta because it was too hot."
Despite being chuffed with his win today, Cavendish still had time for some straight talking: "Rabobank as usual came with everybody (at the finish line) after doing no work all day and tried to take over the lead out. But like I always say the best thing for me is having the whole team ride for me because it puts the pressure on me and I don't want to let them down."
Watch a video of the highlights from stage 1 below:
Watch the video from pre-race press conference below:
This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com