Matthias Brandle (IAM Cycling) won his second stage in as many days at the Tour of Britain.
The Austrian claimed stage 6, sprinting from a breakaway after a 205.6km stage from Bath to Hemel Hempstead.
“I never imagined this scenario. We took our chance and took time little by little,” said Brandle. “When I heard that we had almost 10 minutes advantage, I could not believe my ears. And then the peloton was never able to catch up. With Dowsett, we really rode like a time trial those last 40 kilometers. I’m really so happy to get this win just 24 hours after what was the most important win of my career.”
But his breakaway companion, Alex Dowsett (Movistar) was perhaps the day’s biggest winner.
Dowsett, 25, took advantage of a complacent peloton and jumped into the overall lead.
Despite the best efforts by Michal Kwiatkowski and his Omega Pharma-Quick Step teammates, the break stayed away in the final third of the race. Perhaps they underestimated the break’s firepower. Or, the peloton may not have realized the difficulty that the last three categorized climbs at the end of a long day.
Regardless, at the end of stage 6, Movistar’s young Briton seized the yellow leader’s jersey, finishing 1:51 ahead of the field.
Dowsett is now 34 seconds ahead of Kwiatkowski on GC. Zardini sits third, 40 seconds back.
“It was the hardest day of my life,” Dowsett said. “I just thought they were letting us out to bring us back, and I was a bit hacked off with myself because I thought I could have a good time trial [in Sunday’s stage 8], but I was leaving a lot out on the road, and I might have given too much.
“Once the gap went up to seven minutes I thought, that’s quite big, then it was eight, nine, and I really started digging in.”
The peloton underestimates the breakaway
After the day’s first intermediate sprint, three riders got away: Matthias Brandle (IAM Cycling), Alex Dowsett (Movistar), and Tom Stewart (Madison Genesis).
The three soon had a very large gap — over nine minutes.
Alarm bells began to ring in the peloton as the break reached the 30km-to-go mark with a 4:32 advantage.
The gap continued to hold, and with 12 kilometers left, the lead trio was 3:04 up the road.
With four kilometers left, Kwiatkowski took to the front to help drive the pace. The gap was still a formidable 2:15. Omega Pharma-Quick Step and Bardiani also lent their support, but it would prove futile.
Dowsett was the top-placed rider in the break, poised to take the overall lead. The breakaway continued to cooperate.
Inside of the final kilometer, Dowsett drove the pace, happy to lead out the trio with GC time on the line.
Brandle obliged, and jumped around the Movistar rider in the finish straight to claim his second stage win in as many days. Stewart followed Dowsett in for third place.
“I spoke to Matthias [Brandle] and we made an agreement he would go for the stage because I knew there was a good chance I would take yellow, and it was a risk I was willing to take,” said Dowsett.
Back in the peloton, Omega Pharma-Quick Step knew that the overall lead was slipping away, and they drove the pace mercilessly through the final kilometer. However, their efforts were not enough, and Kwiatkowski lost the overall lead to Dowsett.