Tiernan-Locke edges closer
Brit on the brink heading into final stage
Last Updated: 15/09/12 3:44pm
Jonathan Tiernan-Locke: Returned to the podium after a strong defence of the lead
Pablo Urtasun timed his sprint perfectly to claim victory on stage seven at the Tour of Britain as Jonathan Tiernan-Locke extended his race lead.
Basque rider Urtasun (Euskaltel-Euskadi) made up part of a strong 10-man breakaway which went clear in the early going and combined well to hold off the chasing pack.
Winner into Stoke on Thursday, Marc De Maar (UnitedHealthcare) continued his strong race with second on the day, while stage race stars Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Urtasun’s team-mate Samuel Sanchez were next home into sunny Dartmouth.
On an undulating finale it was Tiernan-Locke (Endura Racing) who once again stamped his authority on the race, the Brit firing clear as soon as the road ramped uphill to distance nearest rival Leigh Howard (Orica-GreenEDGE) on home roads in Devon.
The Brit helped drive a chase group which arrived 47 seconds later, meaning with one stage remaining Tiernan-Locke holds an 18-second lead over Nathan Haas (Garmin-Sharp) heading into Sunday’s decider.
Stunning scenery and tough climbs were always going to be the order of the day as the race headed south for Dartmouth on a bright Saturday morning.
The penultimate stage got off to a frenetic start as the race left Barnstaple, early moves splitting the bunch to pieces en route to the first categorised climb of the day at South Hill.
Despite groups firing clear Howard was still able to trim three seconds off Tiernan-Locke’s lead mid-stage by claiming the first intermediate sprint of the day in Great Torrington.
Things came back together and five riders eventually went clear initially before another five joined a move including the likes of Basso, Sanchez and Jerome Coppel (Saur-Sojasun).
Back in the peloton it was Tiernan-Locke’s Endura Racing squad on the front in a bid to defend the gold leader’s jersey, the local rider beginning the day with an advantage of 13 seconds.
Heading into the final 30km the gap began to drop but with Endura not interested in bringing the move all the way back - the 10 men holding a useful advantage of 1:34 heading into the final climbs.
As soon as the road ramped upwards it was Tiernan-Locke who hit out, only a select number of riders able to follow in his wheel as he showed his form once again to move one step closer to victory.