De Maar wins big in Stoke
Cavendish loses overall lead
Last Updated: 13/09/12 4:09pm
Marc De Maar: Held off a strong breakaway to take the win into Stoke-on-Trent
Marc De Maar escaped to victory on a spectacular fifth stage of the Tour of Britain which saw the race blown apart in the Potteries.
The national champion of Curacao (UnitedHealthcare) put in the most impressive of a number of late attacks, pushing on from his fellow escapees with six kilometres to go.
The win was made all the more impressive with De Maar having only just picked himself up off the ground following a crash on the run-in to Stoke-on-Trent.
An elite group of 27 riders had gone clear in the latter third of the stage after the race blew to pieces on the tough, undulating roads around Staffordshire.
Sep Vanmarcke (Garmin-Sharp) won the sprint from the bunch 15 seconds later to take second, while former race leader Boy Van Poppel (UnitedHealthcare) took third to narrow his deficit to the race leader.
That honour went to Leigh Howard (Orica-GreenEDGE), the Australian taking sixth on the line but moving back into the race lead by a slender margin.
Team Sky’s Mark Cavendish had begun the day in the IG Markets gold jersey with an advantage of six seconds, but soon found himself tailed off on the toughest test of the race thus far.
The peloton visited Stoke for the fifth straight year with a 147km loop on the menu over lumpy terrain surrounding the Potteries.
Under brighter skies than the two previous days, the break took a while to stick as the race headed out of the city via the Italian Gardens.
The peloton were all together as the riders arrived at the first bonus sprint of the day, Howard taking three seconds with the win to cut his advantage to Cavendish. Luke Rowe (Team Sky) took second to also move himself closer to the overall lead.
Eventually the combination of Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale), Bartosz Huzarski (Team NetApp) and Bernard Sulzberger (Raleigh) made a move stick, the gap opening out to over two minutes but not much further.
Team Sky controlled things during the day, yet with both of his counterparts eventually dropping away from the breakaway on the undulating terrain it was left to Basso to attack the final 50km of the race solo.
As Basso kicked on the peloton behind began to shatter, the race blowing to pieces and sending Cavendish out the back of the bunch. Bradley Wiggins opted to drop out the lead group to wait for the world champion.
A select group of 27 riders going went clear on the exposed, rolling terrain on the approach to the final categorised climb of the day. The first-category Gun Hill saw Jonathan Tiernan-Locke (Endura) come to the fore, cresting the climb first and staying away briefly before being reeled back in.
With 15km remaining, and a gap of over five minutes to what was left of the peloton, a number of accelerations fired out of the lead group in a bid to further split the race, De Maar making it stick to take the biggest win of his career.