Mark Cavendish and Mark Renshaw gave HTC yet another one-two as the sprinter and his lead-out man dominated the final sprint of the final stage of the 2011 Tour of Britain. A brave nine-lap break by Ronan McLaughlin and Kristian House was finally snuffed out in the final lap, leaving the field to contest a bunch sprint on wet roads.
Following on from the morning's Time Trial, the final stage of the 2011 Tour of Britain saw riders tackling a 10 lap circuit race in central London.
Almost from the start gun, Ronan McLaughlin (An Post - Sean Kelly) launched himself off the front of the pack and was soon disappearing into the distance. Rapha Condor Sharp's Kristian House went after him and by then end of the fist 8.8km lap this pair of riders was working together and had a 16 second gap to the main bunch.
By the end of the second lap, the duo were over 30 seconds clear, with Rene Mandri (Endura Racing) in the gap, trying to bridge across. However, Mandri's chase didn't succeed and he was re-asorbed by the pack, who seemed content to maintain a gap of just over half a minute, which was confirmed when the leaders went through 33 seconds up at the end of lap 3.
That was the way it remained for the next two laps, taking the stage to half-distance, with HTC and Rabobank ensuring that the gap didn't grow.
Into the second half of the stage, Sky became more involved with the chase and the leaders began to find their gap was being whittled away, dropping to just 17 seconds by the end of the sixth lap.
Behind them, with all the major prizes pretty much settled, except the blue points jersey, there was little for the main peloton to think about, except the stage win itself, though third placed Jan Barta grabbed a bonus second in in a Yodel sprint to shore up his previously flimsy 1 second lead over Linus Gerdemann on GC.
With three laps to go, the signs were looking increasingly ominous for the leaders: Rabobank continued to police the gap and effectively leave them dangling, there to be picked off at will; whilst even more ominously, Mark Cavendish began his customary move up the pack in preparation for the final sprint.
With three laps to go, the elements threw a late spanner in the works as rain began to fall around the circuit, perhaps fittingly for this habitually weather-beaten race.
At two laps to go, the catch still hadn't been made, but with McLoughlin and House attacking each other, their chances of keeping a baying pack off their heels seemed remote. However, as McLoughlin buckled, House seemed to find new energy and, with rain falling ever-harder, re-doubled his efforts to stay clear, with HTC chasing with real urgency.
At the bell, the gap was 17 seconds and the Rapha Condor Sharp rider still had a chance, but suddenly the gap evaporated and the former National Champion was swept up as Rabobank and HTC drove the pack towards the finish.
And in the end it was a trademark Cavendish sprint which gave the Manxman his second win of the Tour and another one-two with Mark Renshaw - anything they can do in Paris (Tour de france final stage 2009) they can clearly repeat in London.
Lars Boom finished comfortably in the main pack to claim the overall win in impressive fashion. He also took the points competition, with Jonathan Tiernan Locke winning the mountains jersey and finishing a noteworthy 6th overall. Geraint Thomas's strong final day ensured he was able to take home the blue points jersey. Pieter Ghyllebert had already sewn up the sprints jersey, reward for an impressive showing by the An Post - Sean Kelly team. Sky took the team competition.
POST STAGE TWITTER REACTION
There was a distinct end-of-term feel to the Tweets coming out of the race after the final stage. Ben Swift, who has looked less than 100% all week summed things up: "Well that is 2011 season finished can't help but feel a little deflated that it's over now. Been a great year though roll on 2012."
Cycling Weekly had a more positive spin, on what has been an historic season for riders from this country: "Alex Dowsett & Mark Cavendish's wins at the Tour of Britain today bring Brits' total of pro road wins to 43 this year"
Jonathan Tiernan Locke, who was one of the faces of the race and who will have impressed a lot of people didn't forget to say thanks to the many supporters backing him and the pother riders on our "domestic" teams, who fought so well against the big hitters of the Pro Tour teams: "TOB: done. Thanks for all the support...what a great week!"
And one of those big hitters, who will be facing a very different 2012 season also took time to reflect on the race and on his status as an adopted Brit whenever he has led-out Mark Cavendish. Sadly it's a sight we will probably never see again - Mark Renshaw "So 2011 season done and dusted. Glad to see the finish line today, now some rest and relax to wind down after a huge year!" - to which he then added "Thanks to everyone for the kind words here in the Tour of Britain. Great to see so many people out watching us this week. See you next year!"
Meanwhile, Tobyn Horton of Motorpoint clearly enjoyed his close encounters with some of the world's leading riders: "Last stage, bunch sprint, tried to help johnny. ended up on cavs wheel 2 corners to go....ended up 5th or 6th. I can confirm he can sprint!"
Whilst Raleigh's Liam Holohan sounded glad to have survived: "Well, that's it, season over. Was a struggle to get through the last 4 days (of ToB) with a virus but I have till Feb 2012 to rest up!"
Mark McNally was also winding down, though there was one race he was unhappy to be missing: "Tour of britain done for me just a few belgian races left now... Disappointing to be left out of the worlds squad though!"
Which prompted a lovely reply from Ian Wilkinson "@ @markmcnally89 worlds! Didn't know Crosby RC had a team in? Fun week eh."
But, let's leave the final words to Geraint Thomas, who always seems to keep things in perspective: "Been a Great week with the lads, will miss them over the winter!! Stand out man of the tour... Cobo aka JTL"
"Also Congrats to @lars_boom too strong!!"
"Also from the whole team, A big thanks for all the support!! #nothinglikehomefans"
Results (Full Stage Results)
Stage 8b Result
1 Mark Cavendish HTC Highroad 1h 59' 13''
2 Mark Renshaw HTC Highroad st
3 Robert Förster UnitedHealthcare st
4 Geraint Thomas Sky ProCycling st
5 Ben Swift Sky ProCycling st
6 Giacomo Nizzolo** Leopard Trek st
7 Tobyn Horton Motorpoint st
8 Andrew Fenn** An Post - Sean Kelly st
9 Dan Craven Rapha Condor - Sharp st
10 Stijn Neirynck Topsport Vlaanderen st
11 Cesare Benedetti Team NetApp st
12 Michael Matthews** Rabobank st
13 Jonathan McEvoy** Motorpoint st
14 Iker Camano Endura Racing st
15 Linus Gerdemann Leopard Trek at 0' 5''
16 Roger Hammond Team Garmin - Cervelo st
17 Boy Van Poppel UnitedHealthcare st
18 Marcin Bialoblocki Motorpoint st
19 Daniel Lloyd Team Garmin - Cervelo st
20 Jelle Wallays** Topsport Vlaanderen st
Final General Classification
1 Lars Boom Rabobank 2h 57' 35''
2 Stephen Cummings Sky ProCycling at 0' 36''
3 Jan Barta Team NetApp at 0' 55''
4 Linus Gerdemann Leopard Trek at 0' 57''
5 Jonathan Tiernan Locke Rapha Condor - Sharp at 1' 3''
6 Iker Camano Endura Racing at 1' 7''
7 Jelle Wallays** Topsport Vlaanderen at 1' 12''
8 Joost Posthuma Leopard Trek at 1' 13''
9 Leopold Koenig Team NetApp at 1' 19''
10 Daniel Lloyd Team Garmin - Cervelo at 1' 25''
11 Michael Rogers Sky ProCycling at 1' 30''
12 Geraint Thomas Sky ProCycling at 1' 55''
13 Mark Cavendish HTC Highroad at 2' 23''
14 Boy Van Poppel UnitedHealthcare at 2' 52''
15 Andrew Fenn** An Post - Sean Kelly at 2' 53''
16 Dominic Klemme Leopard Trek at 3' 2''
17 Jan-Bert Lindeman** Vacansoleil - DCM at 3' 10''
18 Dan Craven Rapha Condor - Sharp at 3' 18''
19 Bram Tankink Rabobank at 3' 39''
20 Rory Sutherland UnitedHealthcare at 3' 52''
1 Geraint Thomas Sky ProCycling 70
2 Mark Cavendish HTC Highroad 67
3 Lars Boom Rabobank 66
4 Mark Renshaw HTC Highroad 43
5 Robert Förster UnitedHealthcare 39
6 Stijn Neirynck Topsport Vlaanderen 36
7 Stephen Cummings Sky ProCycling 35
8 Andrew Fenn** An Post - Sean Kelly 33
9 Leopold Koenig Team NetApp 25
10 Jan Barta Team NetApp 24
1 Pieter Ghyllebert An Post - Sean Kelly 36
2 Gediminas Bagdonas An Post - Sean Kelly 20
3 Ronan McLaughlin An Post - Sean Kelly 15
4 Kristian House Rapha Condor - Sharp 15
5 Russell Hampton Sigma Sport-Specialized 13
6 Mark McNally** An Post - Sean Kelly 11
7 Lars Boom Rabobank 11
8 Andrew Fenn** An Post - Sean Kelly 10
9 Jack Bauer Endura Racing 9
10 Boy Van Poppel UnitedHealthcare 8
King of the Mountains Competition
1 Jonathan Tiernan Locke Rapha Condor - Sharp 71
2 Russell Hampton Sigma Sport-Specialized 48
3 Stephen Cummings Sky ProCycling 30
4 Linus Gerdemann Leopard Trek 28
5 Jack Bauer Endura Racing 20
6 Pieter Ghyllebert An Post - Sean Kelly 19
7 Leopold Koenig Team NetApp 17
8 Bartosz Huzarski Team NetApp 16
9 Michael Rogers Sky ProCycling 13
10 Lars Bak HTC Highroad 12
Teams' General Classification
1 Sky ProCycling 8h 56' 12''
2 Leopard Trek at 1' 33''
3 Rabobank at 4' 12''
4 Team NetApp at 7' 41''
5 Rapha Condor - Sharp at 8' 10''