Edvald Boasson Hagen gave Team Columbia-HTC a third consecutive stage win at the Tour of Britain on Wednesday and pulled on the yellow jersey in Stoke on Trent after another dominant ride by the boys in yellow and white.
Boasson Hagen has now won six stages in two editions at the Tour of Britain. Each of his wins is further confirmation that Team Sky has signed one of the biggest talents in cycling.
In the overall standings Boasson Hagen leads Kai Reus (Rabobank) by nine seconds. That is not much but his obvious superiority and that of his Columbia team mates, means he is now the big favourite for overall victory in London on Saturday.
He won the sprint in Stoke on Trent last year with a powerful late surge on the uphill finish. He admitted he had studied his win on YouTube to memorise the finish and he got it perfect this year too.
Team mate Maxime Monfort lead him to the roundabout at 400 metres to go and then Boasson Hagen accelerated away. Ben Swift tried to set up his Katusha leader Filippo Pozzato but he could not match Boasson Hagen and even lost his back wheel before the line.
Pozzato finished second with Russell Downing (CandiTV-Marshalls Pasta) third. Downing was disappointed not to win but confirmed that he can compete with some of the biggest talents in the sport.
Despite having several stitches in his elbow, Ian Wilkinson (Halfords) started the stage and finished just 46 seconds behind Boasson Hagen. He really is one of the hardmen of British cycling.
Short, sharp loop around Staffordshire
The 134km stage was a short but also sharp loop around Staffordshire. The strong cross winds and climbs of Wootton Hill and Gun Hill had the peloton worried before the start and there was a flurry of attacks.
Darren Lapthorne (Rapha-Condor), local hero Dan Fleeman (Cervelo) and Alan Maragoni (CSF Group) went clear, with Nicolas Vogondy (Agritubel) eventually getting across after a painful 30km chase. They opened a six-minute lead but Columbia lead the chase and even tried to split the bunch on the exposed summits mid-stage.
It didn’t work but their efforts did close the gap and thanks to a strong chase, the four breakaways were eventually swept up five kilometres from the finish. After that is was all Katusha and Columbia, with Boasson Hagen fastest to the centre of Stoke on Trent.
“It’s good to win today after the really hard work the team did for the whole stage,” Boasson Hagen said after pulling on the yellow jersey.
“We tried to split the group in the crosswind but it came together again and so we then tried to keep it together and leave it for sprint.
“It’s nice to win three stages again like last year but I could never do it without my team. The stage was really hard with the wind and it was up and down all day. But I like the finish, it’s a little bit tricky with corners but after the final corner I went full gas.
“My favourite win of my six is here last year. Nobody expected me to win so that was really fun. I remembered the finish and also saw it on YouTube, so I knew how it was.”
It was EBH’s 12th win of the season. He is closing in on team mate Mark Cavendish but played down his chances of beating him in numbers and in sprints when they perhaps clash next year because of his move to Team Sky. However, he is confident of overall success in London on Saturday.
“I can’t take as many wins as Mark. When we have such a good team, it’s hard to beat us in a sprint but he’s the fastest sprinter and I think it’s not possible to beat him. Next year…? We’ll see.”
“We are a strong team so I hope we can defend it all the way. But we did a lot of work today. Now Wiggins has retired, Garmin they are not helping. Yesterday he was riding really fast and it was hard, but today we had to ride hard.”
Tour of Britain 2009: Stage five, Britannia Stadium-Stoke on Trent, 134km
1. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Columbia-HTC in 3-15-57
2. Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Katusha
3. Russell Downing (GB) CandiTV-Marshalls Pasta
4. Aitor Galdos (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
5. Simon Clarke (Aus) ISD-Neri
6. Reinier Honig (Ned) Vacansoleil
7. Peirpaolo De Negri (Ita) ISD-Neri
8. Carlo Sconamiglio (Ita) Barloworld
9. Chris Sutton (Aus) Garmin-Slipstream
10. Mauro Finetto (Ita) CSF Navigare all same time.
Overall classification after stage five
1. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Columbia-HTC in 18-12-07
2. Kai Reus (Ned) Rabobank at 9sec
3. Chris Sutton (Aus) Garmin-Slipstream at 14sec
4. Martin Reimer (Ger) Cervelo at 17sec
5. Russell Downing (GB) CandiTV-Marshalls Pasta at 29sec
6. Simon Clarke (Aus) ISD-Neri at 30sec
7. Geoffroy Lequatre (Fra) Agritubel at 30sec
8. Reinier Honig (Ned) Vacansoleil at 32sec
9. Rob Ruygh (Ned) Vacansoleil at 32sec
10. Federico Canuti (Ita) CSF Navigare at 34sec
Tour of Britain 2009: Related links
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Guide and info
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Tour of Britain official website