Sunday, 20 September 2009

Tour of Britain, Stage 8 London

I was lucky enough to get a VIP invite to the ToB this year. Usually on such occasions the only difference from what everyone else can see and you is nothing, just that you are on the same side as the podium. It means that you can get a little closer to the riders and that's about it. 

This year Andy from Saddleback had arranged for me to ride shotgun in the Neutral Service Car 2. Driving the car on the day would be Sid Barras, a UK cycling legend. He's a previous National Road & Critrium champion and father of Tom who's a pretty fine roadie in his own right. A warm Yorkshire voice would be the narrator for todays events. 

You can see why the organisers ask ex-pros to drive, as they can feel the tempo of the race. Knowing the difference between when the peloton is 'tickling the balls' of an escape group and when they are on the rivet chasing was the instant information that they are able to give, and are quicker to pick up on it than most commentators. 

One lap around the circuit it became clear that no breakaway was going to succeed today. I think the biggest time gap of an escaping group was around the 21 second mark (when Nicolas Roche was on the front), but with the peloton rolling at 40mph in some sections this could have been brought back quickly when required (of course not without some effort).

The time seemed to whizz by and it was three laps to go. The call came out over the radio, 'Neutral Service 2 please come up to the peloton'. I wasn't expecting to get so close to the riders.  The thing you don't appreciate on TV is how effortless they are on the bike, the synergy between man and machine complete, a modern version of the centaur.

So the final lap was upon us, Sid's palms sweaty just as if he was in the bunch today. We had to turn off at the 150 to go point, hoping for a home win under the power of Russ Downing. A name was announced over the radio, we failed to hear it until the second time 'Merlo, Barloworld'. Who, was our collective response. So the finishing top three were:


1: Merlo,Michele (Barloworld)
2: Fernandez,Koldo (Euskatel Euskadi)
3: Sutton,Chris (Garmin-Slipstream)

1: Boasson Hagen,Edvald (Team Columbia-HTC)
2: Sutton,Chris (Garmin-Slipstream)
3: Reimer,Martin (Cervelo Test Team)

1: Boasson Hagen,Edvald (Team Columbia-HTC)
2: Sutton,Chris (Garmin-Slipstream)
3: Downing,Russell (Candi-TV-Marshalls Pasta)

Mountains Competition:
1: De Gendt,Thomas (Topsport Vlaanderen)
2: Mortensen,Martin (Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team)
3: Canuti,Federico (CSF Navigare)

Sprints Competition:
1: De Gendt,Thomas (Topsport Vlaanderen)
2: Reimer,Martin (Cervelo Test Team)
3: Thomas,Geraint (Barloworld)

Looking down the results it bodes well for Team Sky next year with three riders showing a strong finishing.

Again a big thank you to Andy and the Saddleback Team. Visit their site to see some of the pimpest brands in all cycledom (trust me Zipp, Felt and Catelli are awesome stuff)

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