The Rainbow Jersey flies past the fans on Whitehall in the final stage of 2011′s Tour of Britain
From my vantage point at the 200m to go point I only saw the blur of a NetApp rider fly past. It wasn’t until watching the highlights later that evening that I actually saw Cavendish’s incredible sprint. Gapped by as much as 20 metres at the final corner in slippery wet conditions, and separated from his lead out man Renshaw, a home win looked unlikely; but the burst of speed that took Cav past everyone and across the line first was phenomenal.
With just a week to go until the World’s in Copenhagen, if Cav gets to the finish with the leading bunch, it’s hard to see who could possibly stop him from taking the Rainbow jersey.
For most of us, the Tour of Britain is experienced through the prism of television, and what a painful experience it can sometimes be. Within the opening five minutes of the first stage coverage, Hugh Porter was already rummaging through his suitcase of clichés. The rhythm was already being tapped out, the screw had already turned, and we’d all finally discovered exactly what that strange elbow flicking gesture was that the riders were constantly doing.
Porter also possesses a peculiar talent for choosing the least appropriate clichés to the accompanying TV pictures; the so-called ‘massive crowds’ when the bunch is filing grimly through a desserted industrial area on the outskirts of Stoke. The so-called tapped out rhythm displayed by a bunch cruising along after allowing the day’s token breakaway to build up it’s requisite lead. Every now and again Yanto Barker would pop-up in order to state-the-bleedin’-obvious, but in a slightly posher voice.
But fortunately the racing in this year’s edition of the Tour of Britain made up for the sometimes lacklustre coverage. The stunning scenery of Cheddar Gorge, the sight of a peloton streaming along London’s Embankment. There were bona fide stars, including reigning World Champ Thor Hushovd taking a quite masterful stage finish into Caerphilly.
The Brits were out in force, despite missing out on the overall to a very complete ride by Lars Boom. The domestic squads of Sigma and Endura were not shy to show their faces, and Jonathan Tiernan Locke of Rapha-Condor-Sharp showed real climbing ability by comfortably taking the King of the Mountains jersey and finishing 5th overall.
The Tour of Britain may also have been the last time we’ll see the prolific pairing of the two Marks, Renshaw and Cavendish – possibly the greatest sprinter and leadout pairing the sport has seen. Was Renshaw’s stage win in Exmouth a gift from Cav in recognition of his years of faithful service, or was it at indication that there’ll be a new sprinting rivalry come next season?
But the real highlight of the weeks racing was Bernie Eisel of HTC showing great sportsmanship in offering his encouragement – and a helping hand – to the riders of Team Sky. Pure class.
Curious fans check out the HTC-Highroad merchandise. Keep an eye out on eBay for ex-team issue S-Works at the end of the season.
Crowds gather outside the Sky bus hoping to catch a glimpse of their idols.
Surely the thoughts running through Kristian House’s mind as he fought to hold off the chasing pack on the final lap of the stage.
You could follow all the action on the big screen…
…and on the small screen too.