Stage 7 today covered 106.1 miles between Barnstaple and Dartmouth. The stage took on the heavy and rolling roads of Dartmoor, of which many consider to be the toughest stage of the Tour to date, this follows on from a killer stage yesterday in Wales. The route took in one Cat2 climb and two Cat1 climbs. The toughest being Merrivale after 56 miles followed by Coffin Stone at 65 miles. The undulating roads can only be described as relentless.
Earlier in the stage, Node4-Giordana’s Marcin Bialoblocki formed part of a talented 10 man break, which included both Italy’s Ivan Basso ans Spains Samuel Sanchez. Marcin picked up maximum YODEL Sprint points on two occasions, and in doing so helped team mate Pete Williams retain the lead in the Sprint contest.
The incredibly tough stage took its toll on many including World Champion Mark Cavendish, but the front group worked well and maintained a good gap until the closing stages when it began to split due to the inclines and hard graft of Basso and Sanchez. Marcin lost contact on the final climbs, but Node4′s Dave Clarke once again showed his ability in the hills, to form part of a chasing group which was driven by overall leader Jon Tiernan-Locke on one of the final climbs. They were close to catching the break on the outskirts of Dartmouth, but the stage win went to Sanchez’s team mate, Pablo Urtusan as he beat his fellow escapees on Dartmouth Promenade. The peloton were so fractured, riders were still finishing as the presentations were being made.
The team really are putting on a magnificent show, under the ultra-experienced guidance of team manager, and former winner of the event back in 1988, the legendary Malcolm Elliot.
The 845 mile, 8 stage event got underway last Sunday in Ipswich, and finishes in Guildford on a cobbled climb tomorrow.
More information can be found on www.tourofbritain.com, TV coverage on ITV4 with highlights every evening. Also, follow the team via Twitter @node4procycling