Team Sky took control of the Tour of Britain, with their Kiwi rider Greg Henderson benefiting from the sterling work of his team-mates Bradley Wiggins and Geraint Thomas to win the second stage in Stoke-on-Trent.
The three Team Sky riders got into an 18-man break that shaped the 160-kilometre stage, and proved decisive for the overall classification.
Andre Greipel, the winner of Saturday’s opening stage in Blackpool, missed the split and lost the yellow jersey to Henderson.
The break gained a lead of nine minutes and still had a commanding lead over the bunch at the finish.
Escaping after just 12 kilometres during a very fast opening passage of racing, Henderson, Thomas and Wiggins were joined by Tony Martin and Michael Albasini of HTC-Columbia, Richie Porte and Jaroslav Marycz of Saxo Bank, Dan Craven (Rapha Condor Sharp), Christian Meier and Travis Meyer (Garmin-Transitions), Gianluca Brambilla and Federico Canuti (Colnago-CSF), Patrik Sinkewitz (ISD), Heinrich Haussler (Cervélo), Borut Bozic (Vacansoleil) Koen De Kort (Skil-Shimano), Borut Bozic and Michael Golas (Vacansoleil) and Rob Partridge of Endura Racing. Johnny Hoogerland of Vacansoleil later rode across.
Tony Martin and two others were dropped on Gun Hill, so 15 riders were left to fight it out. The group split, with Porte trying to go for a solo win but was recaptured and it came back together.
With 12 kilometres left, Haussler and Golas atacked and clung onto a ten-second lead, but they too were chased down.
It was largely down to the work done by Britain’s national road race champion, Geraint Thomas, who pulled the gap down before easing up with a couple of kilometres to go.
Wiggins did a huge turn to set up Henderson for the win, before also dropping off the pace.
With so few sprinters in the lead group, Henderson is now a good bet for the overall victory. Certainly Team Sky’s directeur sportif Steven De Jongh said they would be defending the lead.
The bunch came in more than 10 minutes down.
But the coming days will be decisive. Monday’s third stage finishes just over the top of Constitution Hill, a narrow, cobbled hill in Swansea. The bunch is likely to break up on Black Mountain earlier in the day but Constitution Hill will sort things out. Then come two very difficult days in the west country. If Henderson can follow the moves, he will be in a strong position come the last three stages, which all favour sprinters and offer time bonuses.
Henderson now leads Albasini, Haussler and Porte by 14 seconds but only 12 riders are within a minute of the lead. Rob Partridge is the best-placed British rider, 13th at 23 seconds. Wiggins is 14th at 1-36 with Thomas 15th at 2-08, so a British overall victory is looking a little unlikely.
Team Sky did not send Henderson to the post-race press conference to reflect on his victory and the yellow jersey, and Bradley Wiggins does not talk to Cycling Weekly.
Stage two: Stoke-on-Trent – Stoke-on-Trent
1. Greg Henderson (NZ) Team Sky 160km in 3-59-52
2. Michael Albasini (Swi) HTC-Columbia
3. Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Cervélo
4. Koen De Kort (Ned) Skil-Shimano
5. Patrick Sinkewitz (Ger) ISD-Neri all same time
6. Travis Meyer (Aus) Garmin-Transitions at 3sec
7. Michael Golas (Ned) Vacansoleil
8. Johnny Hoogerland (Ned) Vacansoleil
9. Borut Bozic (Slo) Vacansoleil
10. Dan Craven (Nam) Rapha Condor Sharp all same time
1. Greg Henderson (NZ) Team Sky in 7-16-23
2. Michael Albasini (Swi) HTC-Columbia at 14sec
3. Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Cervélo
4. Richie Porte (Aus) Saxo Bank both same time
5. Koen De Kort (Ned) Skil-Shimano at 17sec
6. Michal Golas (Pol) Vacansoleil at 18sec
7. Patrick Sinkewitz (Ger) ISD same time
8. Borut Bozic (Slo) Vacansoleil at 20sec
9. Travis Meyer (Aus) Garmin-Transitions at 23sec
10. Dan Craven (Nam) Rapha Condor Sharp same time
The Prostate Cancer Charity points competition Henderson
King of the mountains Porte
Sprints competition Porte
Bradley Wiggins heads the break
Greg Henderson takes the stage two win, and race lead
The classification leaders
Tour of Britain 2010: Related links
Stage one: Greipel sprints to Tour of Britain opener
Thomas takes positives from race opener
Tour of Britain 2010: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index