The penultimate stage of the Tour of Britain started off badly for the race organization and left the riders in a far from positive mood after they got lost only minutes after leaving the safety of Rochester castle.
After only a couple of miles of riding (while still in the neutralized section) along Rochester's historic quayside, the lead police car went the wrong way, and soon after the riders caught up with it and were left to circle a roundabout while the correct route was decided. This process took over 15 minutes while the riders tried to keep warm in increasingly inclement weather conditions.
The riders generally took it all very well with Tom Boonen acting as court jester, sitting in the middle of the roundabout and suggesting possible roads to take out of town, to keep the others amused. Some riders, however, were not amused and it was clear by the general banter that they were going to boycott this stage and ride it 'tempo.'
Britain's Roger Hammond did his best to act as peacemaker, explaining that it wasn't the fault of the organization; the other riders seemed to understand this but the damage was done.
The 95 mile stage was subsequently ridden like a club and those who tried to make a race of it were told by the Pro Tour teams in no uncertain terms that this wasn't going to be allowed. One rider who tried to break away was allegedly pulled back by his seat post.
Many of the press corps thought that this go-slow would lead to the bunch rolling over the line and not sprinting for the win, as a show of defiance. Fortunately, for the very large crowd lining the finishing straight in Canterbury, a sprint was organized in the final few kilometres which was won by Francesco Chicchi who had to work hard to stave off the powerful British rider Mark Cavendish.
Ironically, the Italian Chicchi rides for Quick-Step, one of the Pro Tour teams who weren't 'racing' today. The second place by Cavendish took the green points jersey from fellow Brit Russell Downing, and he now leads this competition by two points, meaning that these two will have a lot to play for in the final stage of the Tour of Britain, from Greenwich to The Mall, in London. The overall classification was, not surprisingly, unchanged after today's 'stage' and the yellow jersey, CSC rider Martin Pedersen, retains his 51 second lead over Luis Pasamontes.Today's stage
1 Francesco Chicchi - QuickStep-Innergetic 4h24'42"
2 Mark Cavendish - T-Mobile 4h24'42"
3 Aart Vierhouten - Skil-Shimano 4h24'42"
4 James Vanlandschoot - Landbouwkrediet-Colnago 4h24'42"
5 Russell Downing - DFL-Cycling News-Litespeed 4h24'42"
General Classification after stage 5
1 Martin Pedersen - CSC 19h50'43"
2 Luis Pasamontes - Unibet.com @ 51"
3 Filippo Pozzato - QuickStep-Innergetic @ 02'11"
4 Michael Rogers - T-Mobile @ 02'46"
5 Nick Nuyens - QuickStep-Innergetic @ 02'47"