Mark Cavendish was denied victory in the first stage of the Tour of Britain yesterday after being pipped on the line by Team Sky’s Elia Viviani.
Cavendish (Etixx–Quick-Step) looked in prime position to win the sprint at the end of the stage from Beaumaris to Wrexham as he led Lotto Soudal’s Andre Greipel round the final bend.
But in seeking to hold off Greipel, Cavendish left space for the Italian to nip through on his left side and take victory by the narrowest of margins.
The sprint trio were part of a main bunch who hauled in a four-rider breakaway with two kilometres remaining to set up the thrilling finish.
Viviani said: “On the last turn I took Greipel’s wheel and when he did not start his sprint I thought he had left it too late.
“But when Cavendish went I saw a space on the left and I went for the line. I thought maybe I had won but I didn’t know until a few metres after.”
Viviani, who benefited from some excellent team-work on the 177.7km run from Beaumaris, also took control of the points and gold leader’s jersey, opening up a ten-second lead at the top of the general classification.
Afterwards he paid tribute to his team and in particular Sky’s Scottish rider, Andrew Fenn.
He added: “It was a technical finish and really close at the line. We worked hard all day, and Andy Fenn was fantastic taking such a huge turn on the front. Etixx–Quick-Step gave us a little bit of help, but Andy was unbelievable.
“With only six riders per team, it’s difficult to control the race, and we only caught the breakaway in the last 2km.
“Ben [Swift], Pete [Kennaugh] and Ian [Stannard] then did more fantastic work in the final to put me in the perfect position.”
Meanwhile, Joaquin Rodriguez powered up the final ascent of the mountainous 15th stage of the Vuelta a Espana to reduce Fabio Aru’s overall lead to just one second yesterday.
Rodriguez attacked over the last two kilometres, riding high off his seat and breaking into a smile as Nairo Quintana faded and Aru also dropped behind, leaving the Spaniard alone to crest the gruelling peak.
He finished the 175.8km ride, culminating at the Sotres category-one summit, in four hours, 33 minutes, 31 seconds.
Aru was fifth across the line, 15 seconds behind. Adding the ten-second bonus for Rodriguez’s stage win, the Italian just saved the leader’s red jersey for today’s third consecutive stage with a summit finish in the northern mountains.
It was the 36-year-old Rodriguez’s first stage win of this Vuelta and his ninth career stage win at the three-week Grand Tour. “I had been looking for this during the entire Vuelta,” said the Katusha leader, who also won two stages at this summer’s Tour de France.
“We are in a perfect position only one second behind Aru. The strongest rider will win this. My feelings are good.”
Dutchman Tom Dumoulin fell from third overall to fourth, now one minute, 25 seconds back. Rafal Majka of Poland finished the stage second to move into third place in the general classification, one second in front of Dumoulin.
Dumoulin has so far stayed in contention in the mountains, with one more tough stage to go before a rest day. Dumoulin, the time-trial bronze medallist at the 2014 world championships, could make a grab for the red jersey in the 17th stage individual time trial.
Rodriguez previously said Dumoulin had become the favourite after Chris Froome withdrew due to injury, and he stuck by that prediction yesterday.
“I think he is doing it on purpose, marking his own pace,” Rodriguez said about Dumoulin.
Aru agreed, saying: “Dumoulin is dangerous.”