The Tour of Britain continues September’s run of addictive cycling action after the Vuelta a Espana’s conclusion. With Stage 2 heading from Carlisle to Kendal, could leader Elia Viviani continue to dominate with a strong performance?
The answer was no.
Having finished third during the Scottish border route of Stage 1, Gerald Ciolek took the overall lead with a dramatic sprint-finish victory.
Let’s take a look at the Stage 2 results and overall classification before Tuesday’s route through Knowsley Safari Park.
British hopes of a local winner were dented when Mark Cavendish's solo attempt to break forward saw him dragged into the peloton. As reported by Lawrence Tobin of The Independent, the 28-year-old made his move with seven miles to go before wincing over the finish line 47 seconds behind Ciolek in the lead.
Olympic hero Sir Bradley Wiggins also faced a tough day after crashing during the Lake District route. Last year's Tour de France winner has continued to struggle for consistent form this season and needs a strong Stage 3 in order to push for glory.
As commented by Ian Chadband of The Telegraph, he is just the man to mount a challenge at this stage:
When he whizzes for 10 miles around Knowsley Safari Park, where the normal attractions are the lions and elephants, Wiggins will today be in the mood to demonstrate he is still one of the big beasts of world cycling – albeit one only rarely spotted this year – with a time trial tour de force which he hopes will take him into the lead of the race on Tuesday night.
Unless one of the monkeys has a fancy for shiny time-trial bikes, though,Wiggins is unlikely to be in the same peril as during yesterday’s testing 116-mile second stage from Carlisle to Kendal when he got caught up behind a crash outside Cockermouth and caused a sharp intake of breath from Team Sky officials.
Despite their best efforts, neither Brit matched Ciolek's excellently controlled pace. The German threatened victory throughout Stage 1 and made good on his promise with an impressive sprint finish up the final hill.
Ciolek managed to take advantage of Thomas Lovkvist's sudden fatigue and was pushed all the way by Sam Bennett. The Irish youngster should be extremely pleased with his efforts, but it is Ciolek who deserves to be feared at this point in the race.
Tuesday's individual time trial will ensure the general classification takes shape and should give onlookers insight into who should be taken seriously for the prize. If Monday's ascent did enough to separate the pack, Stage 3 will clarify those with the speed to challenge.
Six days remain along the route that concludes in London. British fans need a significant showing from either Cavendish or Wiggins in Stage 3 to ensure a decent shot at victory come Sept. 22.
As the route gets closer to the capital and crowds begin to swell, the support for the home favourites can make all the difference. Will Ciolek spoil the party and emerge victorious on English soil?
Stage 3's journey through Knowsley Safari Park will give us an idea.