Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tour Of Britain - Cavendish 'Bookends' The Tour, But Boom Wins GC ...

The Tour Of Britain in London
The Tour Of Britain 2011 came back to Westminster on Sunday - after a year out in Docklands, and the two stages 8a and 8b drew massive crowds - and I was pleased to be right on the 50m line to see Mark Cavendish absolutely fly from 5th to 1st in the last straight, winning the last Stage as he won the First in Scotland.

Alex Dowsett
Before that, the Time Trial Stage (8a) had Sky's Alex Dowsett winning with a stunning ride around Whitehall. His time of 10:14.73s put him a comfortable 5 seconds clear of runner up, Lars Boom of Rabobank (the eventual GC winner)
"Yeeee! Blumin love time trialling and london!" - Alex Dowsett on Twitter
Cavendish wins again
But the main event of the day - what most people came to see - was the 10-lap Criterion of the City of Westminster. Mark Cavendish and Mark Renshaw gave HTC yet another one-two as the sprinter and his lead-out man dominated the final sprint. A brave 9-lap break by Ronan McLaughlin and Kristian House was finally snuffed out in the final lap, and for city-centre finishes, would anyone bet against Cavendish?

Lars Boom (Rabobank) finished comfortably in the main pack to claim the overall win and Gold Jersey in impressive fashion. But in London, he was overshadowed by the Manx Missile.

Cavendish wins again
It was a terrific Tour, with top performances by the Brits in a Multi-National field - more non-British riders this year than ever before. Jonathan Tiernan-Locke (Rapha Condor-Sharp) won the KOM Jersey and finishing a noteworthy 6th overall. Welshman and Sky leader Geraint Thomas's strong final day ensured he was able to take home the blue Points Jersey. British Team Sky took the Team Competition. Sky's Steven Cummings rode really well to finish 2nd overall - an excellent result for him.

Pieter Ghyllebert had already sewn up the Sprints Jersey, reward for an impressive showing by the Irish An PGold Jerseyost-Sean Kelly team.

Well, perhaps we all thought British Cycling had reached a peak, with Wiggins and Cavendish, but frankly, with performances this week from Tiernan-Locke, Thomas, Dowsett and Cummings, with Chris Froome coming 2nd in La Vuelta just in front of Wiggins, I feel that this indicates that the next phase of Brits are already in place, just waiting in the wings.

I know I've written about Cavendish before - a lot - but it bears repeating.

The cycling correspondent of L'Equipe christened him "le Mozart du onze-dents". Those words translate into something rather less poetic: the Mozart of the 11-tooth sprocket, that being the smallest sprocket on the cassette of a racer's derailleur gears, and the one which a sprinter uses to mount his final charge to the line.

What Cavendish is doing is as remarkable as anything being achieved by any British sportsman or woman - in any field - and in countries where cycling is woven more deeply into sporting life, his deeds are being looked on with awe. Certainly in Europe, he's bigger than David Beckham.

Cavendish's rightful number
As for this weeks World Championships in Denmark, there is a strong feeling - very strong - that Great Britain are sending their best-ever team and there are medal hopes in most of the events in Copenhagen.

So: Cavendish as World Champion?

It is time.