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Stage 6 Images
Another stage win, another ten second time bonus and with it - quite probably - the Tour of Britain; Lars Boom may have been fortunate to hold off team-mate Michael Matthews in Stoke, but took an emphatic victory in Wells, deposing every other contender in one fell sprint.
Taking the initiative where other teams failed to, Rabobank's orange order started and finished the day on the front, firstly chasing down an early attempts at an escape, then avoiding a crash at the first sprint which sent contender Ian Bibby to hospital with a broken collarbone, Geraint Thomas to the deck and Lars Boom to the bank with a three second bonus for crossing the line in first position.
King of the Mountains, Jonathan Tiernan-Locke was the only man given respect as he continued to hoover up points to clinch the classification, before a group of four was allowed clear.
In reality though, Swift, McNally, Bak and Vos were a piecemeal for the main course and with Cheddar Gorge dispatched the peloton regrouped for the ascent of Old Bristol Hill.
TICK, TICK BOOM
Lars Bak made the early move in an attempt to shake the tree, but only found the crab-apple of Tiernan-Locke who, once taking another quota of maximum points at the summit, sat up and awaited the fallout.
Cresting the climb Boom was part of a twenty-rider group - essentially missing a wounded Geraint Thomas - that had thirty seconds on the chasers and a drag race down into Wells commenced, reaching speeds of over 100km/h.
A crash on the final corner disrupted some of the sprinters, but Boom was already free and unleashed a furious effort to cross the line six bike lengths clear - and while the stage win was nice, a ten second time bonus is the headline figure which leaves Boom as the man with the golden bullet.
Stage 6 Results - Full Stage 6 Results
1 Lars Boom Rabobank 3h 19' 2''
2 Alexandre Pichot Team Europcar st
3 Leopold Koenig Team NetApp st
1 Lars Boom Rabobank 20h 13' 18''
2 Leopold Koenig Team NetApp at 0' 28''
3 Daniel Lloyd Team Garmin - Cervelo at 0' 29''
1 Lars Boom Rabobank 52
2 Geraint Thomas Sky ProCycling 41
3 Mark Cavendish HTC Highroad 40
1 Jonathan Tiernan Locke Rapha Condor - Sharp 71
2 Russell Hampton Sigma Sport-Specialized 48
3 Stephen Cummings Sky ProCycling 30
Three days of sprinting and one opportunity to make a selection for General Classification; the Tour of Britain in 2011 has been kept on a tight leash - but there are still opportunities for an upset on Stage 6 from Taunton to Wells.
The expected pattern, however must be that Sky, HTC and the team of current leader Lars Boom - Rabobank - will continue to compete between themselves, while allowing for anomalies like Ian Bibby and King of the Mountains Jonathan Tiernan-Locke to remain within tantalising reach of a career-defining moment.
A final escapade for the climbers, or a chance for Lars Boom to be challenged - the two ways in which Stage 6 of the Tour could be viewed.
With over 80km of flat riding before two first category ascents organising an early break will be tough, so expect high speeds on the run-in to Cheddar Gorge.
For the first time in the Tour, King of the Mountains Tiernan-Locke will be racing for more than just a jersey, with his card firmly marked on this lumpy finish, while Dan Lloyd's sneaky move into fourth on GC by way of a few bonus seconds in a cannily-timed sprint yesterday, will have also been noted.
Short of the final time trial in London, the final ascent over Old Bristol Hill and drop into Wells for the finish will be the only opportunity for Geraint Thomas to test Lars Boom - but perhaps the best scenario for the armchair fan would be a surprise attack from a domestic rider high on GC, forcing both favourites to risk everything, or face a very nervous showdown in London.
Stage 6 Live Report
Welcome to live coverage of Stage 6 of the Tour of Britain, which travels 146km from Taunton to Wells. Racing is about to start, with weather fair but cloudy. Today's forecast is for very light winds easterly, turning variable and westerly, with sunny spells expected later.
After a brief neutralised section the first challenge of a fairly flat opening 80km is Fivehead Hill; a third category climb 11km in.
Already on Twitter talk is rife about who may make a move today. Oli Beckingsale - three time Olympian mountain biker - tips ex-mountain biker Simon Richardson for a big moment on his local climb. Racing proper is now underway.
As predicted the average start speed is extremely high with many attacks coming to nothing. If the big guns don't want anyone to go away over the first climb, expect alot of riders to get dropped and a select group to form. It's a tactic that could go either way - but even if your team is feeling good and every man makes it into the break, it's no guarantee of success - just ask Team Sky about what happened on Stage 3 into Stoke.
Following the first sprint there is a huge pile-up - it seems Ian Bibby is out of the race with a broken collarbone and Geraint Thomas was also involved.
Bibby - sixth on GC - is out of the race and in the bus with blue lights. Hopefully he can follow in the footsteps of a certain other British rider who had the same accident and went on to hit the podium in the Vuelta.
The race is back on and that crash has allowed a group of six to move clear including Mandri (EDR), Clarke W. (LEO), Holohan (RAL), House (RCS), McLaughlin (SKT) and Gene (EUC) - they will be expected to hold a gap for 50km now, with further action coming on the final two climbs.
It seems Sky have other ideas though and are chasing things down. Their tactics have been interesting all Tour and despite seemingly having the strongest hand on more than one occasion, have failed to finish the job.
With Tiernan-Locke taking the peloton over the first climb, the bunch are all back together - but why did Sky bring everything back together? Perhaps because at the previous sprint, amongst the carnage, Lars Boom picked up a further three seconds on GC. That's cheeky, but he'll be loving the free time ahead of Sunday's test. It's all down to Geraint Thomas to not only score time bonuses on the remainder of the stage, but also at the finish line. Ten seconds and whatever else Sky can find over Boom looks mighty useful right now.
On the run-in to Cheddar Gorge there are several attacks which leave a group of five - including Ben Swift - with 30 seconds on the peloton. Between the two are Bak (RAB) and Clarke (LEO).
Lead group on the road is Swift, McNally, Bak and Vos. The gap is just there for show right now and will be back in time for the sprint and first big climb of the day.
We're now on Cheddar Gorge and while riders have passed the feed zone, Rabobank have been on the front all morning. This really is a wicked little climb, with sections which make the legs cry and the eyes water - the latter from the most wonderful scenery, which you can peruse in our post-race Andy Whitehouse photo galleries, or on the daily ITV4 highlight shows.
Over the Gorge and the lead group is still out there - could this be the day a genuine break succeeds? More than likely, the peloton will give chase on the descent through Wells and onto Old Briston Hill.
Ben Swift is the first to get dropped from the break. The the three riders away pose no GC threat and Sky may want all the bonus seconds to be taken by others. That would mean any time Thomas takes from Boom in the final stages will be real time.
Approaching the final climb of the day it's still Rabobank on the front. The escaped trio look to be good for the podium today, but something needs to be done by the other GC contenders, of which there are 12 on paper. Best bet may be on Tiernan-Locke. If he has anything left in the tank he needs to empty it now and prove he has the daring as well as the legs.
Here we are, the final showdown on Old Bristol Hill. The next time the riders pass this point the winner of the Tour of Britain 2011 could be all but decided.
Lars Bak makes the first move - a team-mate of Boom he will be a useful pawn should his race leader need assistance.
Now Hushovd tries and fails, followed by Tiernan Locke and Konig - could this be the move Rapha-Condor-Sharp have been waiting for?
No. Both escapees sit up after claiming maximum points. Locke could live regret that, as the peloton splits into a select group of 20 riders who will descend into Wells and battle for bonus seconds on the finish line.
With just 20 seconds over the chasers, this lead group will have to work together and want those seconds. It will be interesting to see if Sky or Rabobank take particular interest.
The big news is the lack of Geraint Thomas in the lead group, however Boom is in there. Another stage win for the Rabobank man would almost seal the Tour of Britain.
And Boom takes another stage win, ten seconds in time and surely the 2011 edition of the Tour of Britain.
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