Pablo Urtasan (Euskaltel-Euskadi) has won the seventh stage of the 2012 Tour of Britain.
The Spaniard was first home at the end of a grueling 170.7km stage from Barnstaple to Dartmouth.
Marc De Maar (UnitedHealthcare), winner of stage five, was second, while Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale), twice winner of the Giro d’Italia, was third.
Race leader, Jon Tiernan-Locke (Endura Racing), strengthened his position, and will start tomorrow’s final stage from Reigate to Guildford in the IG Markets gold jersey.
The Devonian worked hard on home territory, accelarating whenever the road went upwards and by his efforts effectively ending the challenge of Australia’s Leigh Howard (Orica-GreenEDGE) who is now fourth, more than a minute back.
Another Australian, Nathan Haas (Garmin-Sharp), perhaps represents the biggest threat to the crowning of the first British winner of the national since Chris Lilliwhite won the Milk Race in 1992.
This year’s Tour of Britain had attracted some of the biggest names in cycling, and in the absence of Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky), who abandoned yesterday with a stomach bug, it fell to another Grand Tour champion in the form of double Giro d’Italia winner, Ivan Basso, and another Olympic champion, in the form of Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), to show their class.
Basso and Sanchez were part of a 10-strong group that went away on the day’s first King of the Mountains climb; an ascent that had world road race champion, Mark Cavendish (Team Sky), briefly struggling to maintain contact with the peloton.
The decorated duo were joined by Marcin Bialoblocki (Node4-Giordana) and Team Raleigh-GAC’s Bernie Sulzberger, who continued a trend in which Britain’s domestic teams have proved an equal match for the stars of the WorldTour peloton on every stage.
Marc de Maar (UnitedHealthcare), searching for a second stage victory, was a relentlessly attacking force, but failed to distance Sanchez, Basso, and Sanchez’ teammate, Urtasan, who, ominously for his rivals, never looked troubled.
At the denoument, he was led out by Sanchez and duly rewarded his team leader’s faith by recording a close but comfortable victory over de Maar. His celebrations were muted compared to those of a delighted Sanchez who said afterwards he had been keen to reward Urtasan’s loyalty in previous races.
Tour of Britain stage seven – result
1) Pablo Urtasun (SPA) – Euskaltel-Euskadi – 4.20.31
2) Marc De Maar (AHO) – UnitedHealthcare – ST
3) Ivan Basso (ITA) – Liquigas-Cannondale
4) Samuel Sanchez (SPA) – Euskaltel-Euskadi +2”
5) Leopold Koenig (CZE) – Team NetApp +38”
6) Nathan Haas (AUS) – Garmin-Sharp +46”
7) Bernard Sulzberger (AUS) – Raleigh-GAC
8) Jonathan Tiernan-Locke (GBR) – Endura Racing
9) Bartosz Huzarski (POL) – Team NetApp
10) Damiano Caruso (ITA) – Liquigas-Cannondale
1) Jonathan Tiernan-Locke (GBR) – Endura Racing – 5.38.14
2) Nathan Haas (AUS) – Garmin-Sharp +18”
3) Damiano Caruso (ITA) – Liquigas-Cannondale +23”
4) Leigh Howard (AUS) – Orica-GreenEdge +1.02
5) Christopher Jones (USA) – UnitedHealthcare +1.12
6) Bartosz Huzarski (POL) – Team NetApp +2.01
7) David Le Lay (FRA) – Saur-Sojasun
8) Boy Van Poppel (NED) – UnitedHealthcare +2.23
9) Christian Knees (GER) – Team Sky +2.26
10) Jerome Coppel (FRA) – Saur-Sojasun +4.21