In comparison with what was occurring over in Spain, today’s Tour of Britain stage was always destined to seem unremarkable – a vaguely hilly stage with a flat and straight ending in Ipswich town centre. And indeed, there wasn’t an overabundance of action, as if the peloton knew the cycling world’s eyes would be firmly set on the battle between Aru and Dumoulin up the final climbs in the Vuelta.
Unfortunately, as the route took the peloton through the RAF airbase in Wattisham, uniquely incorporating the runway into the course, there was a touching of wheels in the peloton that brought down Tao Geoghegan Hart and two BMC riders, Floris Gerts and Dylan Teuns. Hart was able to rejoin the peloton, but Gerts and Teuns were not as lucky, both being forced into abandonment. A real blow for Teuns and BMC, as he was sitting 5th on General Classification, only 51 seconds behind the race leader — a probably insurmountable gap, but a top five finish had not been out of the question.
Alex Dowsett (MOV) fought hard in a breakaway that lasted most of the day but was reeled in by Lotto-Soudal and Sky, both working hard for their sprinters Greipel and Viviani, and attempted to set them up for a fast finish. As is Viviani’s tendency he sat behind the Lotto train into the final kilometre, letting Greipel take the reins once he had expended his lead-out train.
With all previous six stages won by either Etixx-QuickStep or Team Sky, Lotto (and perhaps the race organisers) were hoping for a win to prevent such a two-sided display across the week, and maybe it was this that caused an extra impetus in the big German. With Viviani popping out from behind, swinging round and attempting to force himself past, Greipel threw his bike forward over the line to force what was one of the closest sprint finishes we’ve ever seen – taking the win by what can only have been centimetres, if not millimetres. It was a nail-biter across and beyond the line, and it only became clear that Greipel had taken the win once on-the-line photography was consulted.
Another fast and flat final stage round London greets the teams tomorrow, which will certainly favour the sprinters one last time. Will Viviani be able to go the extra millimetre tomorrow, or can Greipel pull off two wins in a row for Lotto-Soudal? Regardless, with a strong finish by Edvald Boasson Hagen today (he finished 5th on the stage), it looks like we’ve got our general classification sewn up. And a very well deserved win, too.