Belfast man Peter Hawkins, riding for the British-based Sigma Sport team, was best placed Irish rider on a dramatic opening stage of the Tour of Britain yesterday, WRITES Gerard Cromwell.
a large crash wiped out world champion Mark Cavendish and An Post duo Ronan McLaughlin and Gediminas Bagdonas inside the final kilometre of racing. Team Sky managed to salvage the stage win even as Cavendish sat in the middle of the road surrounded by bikes and riders when youngster Luke Rowe -- led out by Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins -- outsprinted Holland's Boy van Poppel of UnitedHealthcare and Russell Downing of Endura Racing to take victory and leadership of the eight-day Tour.
"It was pretty incredible to win today, to be honest," said the Welshman. "It was quite unexpected. This is my biggest win to date so I am rather happy. Coming towards the end of the race, we had Brad (Wiggins) on the front, I was behind him and Cav was sitting third because we were lining the stage up for him, but I looked round when he went down and shouted to Brad, 'It's for me', so we went full gas. I think I can maybe hold the jersey for a few days but we'll see what happens."
Despite their misfortunes in the final sprint, Sean Kelly's An Post team featured heavily in the day's racing, with Belgian rider Neils Wytink spending much of the 200km stage in a four-man break and earning the most combative rider award for the day, while sprinter Sam Bennett finished 18th on the stage.