Leopold Koenig of the NetApp team won the sixth stage of the 2012 Tour of Britain, benefitting from being the only rider to stay with Jonathan Tiernan-Locke as the Endura star launched a blistering attack over the double climb of the Caerphilly Mountain in the last half hour of racing. Koenig sprinted clear in the final few metres, but Tiernan-Locke was happy to concede the stage as he moved into the overall lead.
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The big news at the start of the stage was the withdrawal of Bradley Wiggins - we have more on this in a separate story.
On a hilly and windy stage through the hills and mountains of central and south Wales, the significant break of the day was six strong – House, Backstedt, Ghyllebert, Craven, Bialoblocki and Briggs – an interesting mixed bag of talents. House used his presence to pretty much remove all doubt over his ultimate ascendency in the mountains classification and his relentless involvement in small breaks this week as been such that one has begun to suspect him of misanthropic tendencies.
This break built a good lead which it looked to be stretching before an explosion of action in the peloton near the top of the Brecon Beacons category 1 climb saw them reeled in somewhat. However, the chase then relented as the peloton re-formed between Hirwaun and Aberdare. This gave the break some respite and they held on until the first of two climbs of the Caerphilly Mountain, where they had approximately 40 seconds as the road ramped up.
Behind them, Jonathan Tiernan-Locke launched himself off the front of the main field. Briggs and House were the only two riders from the break to resist the chase of the Endura man for long, but both were caught near the top of the climb.
Briggs held on well and was able to join Tiernan-Locke on the descent. Behind them 19 year old GB rider Josh Edmondson showed well to head the fragmented front end of the main field as they came over the top, with the race leader, Howard, apparently in trouble.
Perhaps a dozen riders survived that first ascent of the Caerphilly Mountain climb to chase the leading duo. Leopold Koenig of the NetApp team bridged to the leaders and Ghyllebert, of the earlier break, also made contact briefly, before fading for good. Briggs soon followed, leaving Tiernan-Locke to go onto the final climb accompanied only by Koenig.
Tiernan-Locke accepted he’d have to do the work alone on the climb, with his unusual fast-spinning out-of-the-saddle style of climbing pressuring but not breaking Koenig. Edmondson continued to show aggression, chasing this duo alone and demonstrating a smooth and comfortable style on what is an awkwardly steep climb.
Tiernan-Locke went over the top of the climb with 43 seconds over the overall race leader, with both the stage win and the overall race lead in his sights. Koenig managed to stay with him and was soon providing useful support as the pair strove to hold off a small group who hoovered up Edmondson with 2km to go.
Going into the final kilometre, Koenig held back briefly before surging clear through the final couple of corners to claim the stage win, but Tiernan-Locke was able to celebrate taking the overall lead as Howard, who had really suffered in the last half hour of racing, kept his head and came in strongly to limit his losses, dropping to second overall but only by 13 seconds.
Two young riders from the GB team made it into the top ten, with Josh Edmondson being joined by Simon Yates: the best showing of the race so far by the under-23 riders of the team.
Rider Feedback - Race leader Jonathan Tiernan-Locke
"Today went as planned, I've played it through my mind over and over last night and through the stage but it didn't mean it was easy in fact we really had to fight to be at the front. There were some dangerous moments on the road today in the cross winds, it was a relief to finish the day off. There were only 2 chances on the race, in my mind, to gain time on G.C. and tomorrow is certainly one of them but you can't waste chances and today was the first day of the climbs so I thought depending how today went I would still have tomorrow. I was hoping for a little bit more help towards the end to maybe get a bit more time on the peloton but Koenig isn't a team mate so he has no obligation to help but he definitely could have done a lot more, thats why I didn't attack him over the climb and just rode tempo because I was counting on a bit more support, maybe if I'd known I would have done it on my own and win the stage as well."
"The team have been fantastic all week, ridden really professionally all week as a team, We are a man down (Zak Dempster retired, suspected broken collarbone) but we should be able to control the race as well as we keep an eye on the riders closest to me, tomorrows finish is very similar to todays so I may have to take some more time just to be sure."
1 Leopold Koenig Team NetApp CZE19871115 APP 4:38:02
2 Jonathan Tiernan-Locke Endura Racing GBR19841226 EDR 4:38:04 at 0:02
3 Nathan Haas Garmin - Sharp AUS19890312 GRS 4:38:21 at 0:19
4 Damiano Caruso Liquigas - Cannondale ITA19871012 LIQ 4:38:21 st
5 Luke Rowe Sky Procycling GBR19900310 SKY 4:38:21 st
6 Paul Voss Endura Racing GER19860326 EDR 4:38:21 st
7 Christopher Jones UnitedHealthcare USA19790806 UHC 4:38:21 st
8 Simon Yates Great Britain GBR19920807 GBR 4:38:21 st
9 Bartosz Huzarski Team NetApp POL19801027 APP 4:38:21 st
10 Liam Holohan Raleigh - GAC GBR19880222 RAL 4:38:21 st
1 Jonathan Tiernan-Locke Endura Racing GBR19841226 EDR 25:16:57
2 Leigh Howard Orica - GreenEDGE AUS19891018 OGE 25:17:10 at 0:13
3 Nathan Haas Garmin - Sharp AUS19890312 GRS 25:17:15 at 0:18
4 Boy Van Poppel UnitedHealthcare NED19880118 UHC 25:17:17 at 0:20
5 Damiano Caruso Liquigas - Cannondale ITA19871012 LIQ 25:17:20 at 0:23
6 Christopher Jones UnitedHealthcare USA19790806 UHC 25:17:30 at 0:33
7 Christian Knees Sky Procycling GER19810305 SKY 25:18:31 at 1:34
8 Bartosz Huzarski Team NetApp POL19801027 APP 25:18:58 at 2:01
9 David Lelay Saur Sojasun FRA19791230 SAU 25:18:58 st
10 Jerome Coppel Saur Sojasun FRA19860806 SAU 25:21:13 at 4:16