This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.
Simon Yates (Great Britain) continued his recent run of sparkling form with victory atop Haytor on stage 6 of the Tour of Britain. On the first summit finish in the race’s history, Yates surged clear of the gold jersey group on the final ramp to the line with 200 metres to go, while Bradley Wiggins (Sky) retains the overall lead.
Still only 21 years of age, Yates began his season with a gold medal in the points race at the world track championships and showcased his repertoire on the road with two stage victories at the recent Tour de l’Avenir, where his twin brother Adam finished second overall.
At Haytor, Yates gave a further indication of his considerable potential by jumping clear of a strong group that included Wiggins and Nairo Quintana (Movistar), and claiming stage victory, two seconds clear of Martin Elmiger (IAM Cycling) and David Lopez (Sky).
“It’s one of my best victories. To win a stage of your nation tour in that company, you can’t get much better,” Yates said afterwards. “I know I have a good kick but I didn’t really believe until we got closer to the line.”
On the six-kilometre climb to the finish, Simon Yates wisely followed the rhythm of the Sky duo of Lopez and Wiggins in the gold jersey group rather than trying to match the successive accelerations of Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox), Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar).
“When people attack, it goes hard for a few minutes here and there, and you grit your teeth for bit and hang in,” Yates said. “I was just hoping for a good position at the foot of the climb and then people started whittling away as we went up.”
That paring down process was aided by a combination of the climb’s irregular gradient and the pressing of Martin and Quintana. The gold jersey group was rattled every time the road pointed skywards, and on each occasion, another clutch of riders was shaken loose. By the time Wiggins brought order to proceedings by imposing a brisk tempo inside the final two kilometres, only nine riders remained at the head of the race.
Sergio Pardilla (MTN-Qhubeka) twice tried to punch his way clear of the leader in the closing 800 metres, but he was pegged back by a determined Lopez, who then launched a move of his own 250 metres from home. Just as the road kicked up for the last time, however, Yates unfurled a crisp attack that took him past Lopez and clear of the gold jersey group to take a fine stage victory.
Martin Elmiger (IAM Cycling) attempted to get back on terms, but had to settle for beating Lopez to second place on the stage, while Wiggins and Quintana came home ten second down. With Ian Stannard (Sky) dropped from the leading group, Elmiger moves up to second overall, 32 seconds down on Wiggins, while Yates is now in third place, 1:06 back.
How it unfolded
By this point, it seems, the Tour of Britain has settled into a familiar routine. Another day, another early breakaway, and – inevitably – another Angel Madrazo (Movistar) cameo. The Spaniard was part of a five-man move that went clear in the opening kilometres and he duly sealed victory in the king of mountains competition by claiming maximum points atop the climbs of Stoke Hill, Mamhead and Six Mile Hill.
Madrazo was joined in his endeavour on the front by Martin Velits (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Liam Holohan (Madison Genesis), Kristian House (Rapha Condor) and Ian Wilkinson (UK Youth), but their lead was never allowed to stretch much beyond 3:30.
On the run-in to the base of Haytor, only Madrazo, Holohan and Velits were left at the front of the race, but with Francesco Bongiorno’s Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox team helping Sky to chase, they were caught just as the final haul to the line began.
Bongiorno’s teammate Stefano Pirazzi was the first man to attack on the climb, pedalling clear with 4.5 kilometres to go. The Italian never succeeded in opening a substantial gap, but Sky’s measured pursuit behind saw the peloton reduced to just thirty riders by the time Dan Martin launched the first of his accelerations a kilometre later.
Marcel Wyss (IAM Cycling) managed to bridge across to Martin, but with Sky reluctant to allow the Irishman too much leeway, they were pegged back with three kilometres to go. Martin made another probing effort soon afterwards, although this time his move did little other than lay the groundwork for Nairo Quintana to jump away, bringing Wyss and Bongiorno with him.
After Lopez swung over, it was Wiggins himself who took up the reins of the chase and the gold jersey looked comfortable as he closed the gap to Quintana with two kilometres to go, reducing the leading group to just nine riders.
With Garmin-Sharp’s pair of Martin and Jack Bauer further behind, Wiggins knew, too, that he was in the process of placing a significant down payment on overall victory. Although Elmiger gained eight seconds in the final kick to the line (and a further six in time bonuses), Wiggins carries a 32-second lead out of the hills of Devon and into the more weekend’s more benign concluding stages.