As is tradition, the final stage of the Tour of Britain ended with a run into London. A new course for this year took the riders round a circuit of central London for 14 laps before a very slight uphill finish. As if to underline the growing profile of the race in the eyes of the British public and authorities, the organisers were able to shut down Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly completely – an impressive feat for what is still one of cycling’s smaller races. With the photo finishes, the attacks on climbs, the tenacity of the domestic teams (who take home three of the jerseys) and the long, lone solo wins, the riders themselves have done the race proud this year.
Today’s fast stage unfolded as expected with a breakaway lasting for all but one of the laps, and unfortunately for them it was the final lap in which they were caught. Sky, Lotto and Movistar formed their trains and started to jostle for positions on the tight corners of the technical circuit, with the very impressive young Welshman Owain Doull, who must be ecstatic with his overall finish, being led out, much to the delight of the crowds and the commentators, by his team leader Bradley Wiggins. Potentially Wiggins’s final road race on British soil, it remains to be seen if next year’s race can draw such crowds without its unofficial talisman.
Under the 1 kilometre to go marker and Lotto Soudal had formed a very impressive, four-man strong train with a menacing Greipel sat at last man. Looking resplendent in his yellow jersey, Edvald Boasson Hagen was sat amongst his sprint contemporaries, hoping to improve on his two second place finishes and to really cement his position as overall leader.
Round the final corner and, to make up for their missing man Mark Cavendish, ttixx-Quick Step showed themselves with Trentin leading out Mark Renshaw – both men very capable sprinters themselves. However, compared to previous stages, this final sprint of the race played out by the book, and it was Lotto-Soudal’s book being read. With such an impressive lead-out, Greipel was simply in the best position and too strong for anyone else to get near him and he, unlike yesterday, was able to celebrate as he crossed the line, knowing he had taken the win.
Or so he thought. After reviewing the finish the officiators deemed it necessary to relegate Greipel to last place on the stage. In the final metres, he had appeared to see Viviani coming up behind him and swerved (Cavendish style) to block the Sky rider. Viviani was going that much faster than Greipel, and the two came into contact, touching shoulders hard. Viviani lost much of his speed, and Greipel came off the better, hence hitting the line first. But the judgment, that it had been Greipel’s fault and he was to be disqualified from the sprint, meant that it was Viviani who took a third stage win, Sky’s fourth this week. Viviani himself couldn’t quite understand the ruling, saying he was sure there was no malicious intent in it — but judgment had been cast.
With that, the tour came to a close for another year. Growing in popularity and in stature, it is fast becoming the chosen training ground for riders wanting to fit in a last week’s race experience before the World Championships. With Edvald Boasson Hagen taking the yellow, he rounds off a brilliant year for MTN-Qhubeka, if we cast our minds back to tour successes for Steve Cummings and Daniel Teklehaimanot. Best of all, from a British cycling perspective, it is good to be able to watch Britain’s best national-level athletes duke it out with the world tour teams, and very ably. There’s plenty to look forward to in next year’s tour.