The weather for stage seven of the Tour of Britain was more undecided than a room full of politicians, but the general classification remained the same with Lars Boom (Rabobank) holding his lead of 28 seconds. The story of the day, however, was the six-man break that went up the road 3.5 miles after leaving the start in Bury St Edmunds and stayed clear on the longest and flattest stage of this year’s race to the finish in the grounds of Sandringham, well clear of the bunch.
The sextet, which is the only successful breakaway of this year’s race, consisted of Gediminas Bagdonas (An Post-Sean Kelly), Ian Wilkinson (Endura Racing), Mathieu Claude (Team Europcar), Stijn Enrick (Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator), Richard Handley (Team Raleigh) and Wouter Sybrandy (Sigma Sport-Specialized).
The 124-mile journey ended with Bagdonas winning the four-up sprint (Sybrandy and Handley got dropped on the run-in) to secure not only the biggest win of his career but also to become the first Lithuanian to win a stage of Tour of Britain. Bagdonas was being encouraged along the way from the team car by none other than Sean Kelly who was making a brief appearance at the race.
Talking in the grounds of The Sandringham Estate, the country retreat of The Queen, 25-year-old Bagdonas said, "I am very happy today. I win a big race and my team did really well today. It is very important for me to win today and for the people at home in Lithuania. The support today was very good and I am very happy. Tomorrow I will be going for the time trial. Today I had good legs so I will go for it tomorrow."
The honour of being the first Briton riding for a domestic team to win a stage of the reborn national tour was nearly taken by Ian Wilkinson of Endura Racing who finished second. The 32-year-old former builder from Barnoldswick in Lancashire said afterwards, "I saw the gantry but misjudged it and went too soon. I eased up into the headwind and they fought back. I came back at them but it was too late. It’s great to win the combativity prize though."
The straight-talking Lancastrian laughed, "What can I say, I messed it up. A bit more practice and I’ll come back and win next year."
The sprint for seventh place was won by Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) who led the bunch in 1:23 down on the breakaway. Asked if he let the bunch go clear or whether he wanted a sprint finish the race leader Boom said, "At one point HTC started chasing and we tried to help them a bit but my guys were already tired so they stopped, so HTC chased until 30km to go and then they stopped and my guys took over again. But for me it was alright that the break stayed away."
Asked if the overall victory was in the bag, Boom replied: "No, not yet, but I’m confident for the time trial and the crit, so we’ll be alright."
The race concludes on Sunday with a 5.6-mile time trial in the morning and a 55-mile crit in the afternoon, both held on a circuit running along the embankment and round Whitehall in London. The time trial is unlikely to bother Boom, given that he has already won time trials in the Tour of Qatar and the Criterium du Dauphine this year.
This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.