Tour of Britain 2012 stage 2: Howard pips Cavendish

Orica sprinter lands win in Knowsley

This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.

Leigh Howard (Orica-GreenEDGE) won stage two of the Tour of Britain, beating Mark Cavendish (Sky Pro Cycling) in a bunch sprint, with Boy Van Poppel (UnitedHealthcare) Pro Cycling Team) taking third place on the stage from Nottingham to Knowsley Safari Park in Liverpool.

After some confusion, including a podium ceremony where Luke Rowe (Sky) was awarded the race leaders gold jersey, it was determined that the general classification lead actually went to Boy Van Poppel. The UnitedHealthcare rider took second on stage 1, and with 10 seconds of time bonuses, he drew equal with Howard but got the gold jersey on countback. Rowe finished the stage in a group one second behind, and dropped to third overall.

On the morning of stage two of the Tour of Britain some British newspapers carried a front page warning that a hurricane was heading this way. As it turned out there was no repeat of the strong winds which led to the cancellation of stage two of last year’s Tour of Britain. Last year Mark Cavendish was favourite to win that stage and this year, assuming he got over the three first category climbs, he was favourite to win the slight downhill finish into Knowsley Safari Park in Liverpool.

Cavendish seemingly had no trouble, following his crash yesterday, of cresting the days ‘mountains’ with his Sky teammates taking care of business as they did yesterday. But, while Cavendish was delivered perfectly for the last 500 metres, Australian Leigh Howard proved too canny for the Manxman as he sat on his wheel before unleashing a powerful sprint, joking afterwards, "I had the best lead out man in the world!"

Apart from being thankful for the wheel of the World Champion, 22 year old Howard was full of praise for his team mates.

"I got a lot of help from my team mate Aidis Kroupis. I’ve taken him to a few wins in the lead out in the last three races and I could see he was working really hard today to pay me back."

"Coming into the final kilometre we entered the park with one and half kilometres to go and knew we had to be top 5 or 6 going onto the park. I had Cavendish’s wheel which was handy (laughs), and he played an interesting tactic by dropping off Luke Rowe’s wheel with 600m to go and fortunately I came round fourth wheel with 250m to go and from there it was a formality, and fortunately I had enough on him (Cavendish) in the end. To do it on his (Cavendish’s) home soil is extra special."

It was a good day all round for Aussies and their Orica-GreenEDGE team, as Jack Bobridge won the Combativity Award after being active in a day long break on the 180 kilometre (112 mile) stage that traversed the beautiful Peak District of Derbyshire.

The six man break set off soon after the start proper and while the peloton was admiring the gothic splendour of Wollaton Hall (used in the filming of Batman – The Dark Knight Rises) the sextet gained time. The break consisted of: Matthias Krizek (Liquigas-Cannondale), Jack Bobridge (Orica-GreenEDGE), Pete Williams (Node4-Giordana Racing), Richard Handley (Rapha Condor), Russell Hampton (Team Raleigh-GAC) and Pablo Urtasun (Euskaltel Euskadi).

When they got to the top of Morridge, the final first category climb of the day the lead group had a lead of over three minutes but that got eaten into as the race headed to its conclusion, leaving Bobridge and Williams to vainly tough it out to the finish.

Howard concluded the press conference by saying, ‘We had Jack Bobridge in the breakaway, so we could sit on the back all day and let Sky sit on the front."

Talking of his team mate Bobridge, the rider from Geelong, Australia, concluded, "I thought he might stay away but I knew it was going to be tough because they (Sky) were never going to the let the break get far. I knew it was going to be tough but I thought if there’s one person who can pull off a miracle its Jack Bobridge!"

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