Mark Cavendish (Team Sky) made it third time lucky with victory on stage three of the Tour of Britain.
Cavendish enjoyed a perfect leadout from his Sky team-mates before comfortably outsprinting Orica-GreenEDGE duo Leigh Howard and Aidis Kruopis.
The 27-year-old’s ten second time bonus moved him up to second overall, on the same time as new race leader Howard.
“I’m delighted,” said Cavendish. “We tried a few different things [on stage two] which didn’t quite work out, so Servais [Knaven, directeur sportif] told us to keep things simple and go for the sprint. We’ve got the team here who can do a brilliant leadout and it was pretty straightforward in the end.”
The race moved to Scotland for stage three and five riders went away early on the 161km stage to Dumfries but that quintet was reduced to two when Wesley Kreder (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Peter Hawkins (IG-Sigma Sport) moved clear with 25km to go.
Sep Vanmarcke (Garmin-Sharp) bridged the gap to the duo before Hawkins was dropped with 10km remaining, while Kreder and Vanmarcke were caught by the peloton with 2.5km remaining.
Team Sky’s Bernhard Eisel then moved to the front of the bunch as Cavendish’s leadout began to take shape before Rowe took over in the final kilometre, with Cavendish launching his sprint from the neo-pro’s wheel to claim victory.
Cavendish added: “We didn’t have to control because we didn’t have the jersey and that was in our favour because it meant we could use everybody up at the end.
“We always had those breakaway riders in our sights. Christian, Brad and Jez all did massive pulls and were able to line it out and bring everything back together at just the right time. It was great for me to be able to sit on the wheel while they were doing all the work.
“There’s only six riders per team here so the guys had to do long pulls. Bernie did almost a one-kilometre turn and then Luke went with just under 1km to go – which is far longer than the usual 400m for a lead-out man – and he rode it perfectly into the last corner.
“I knew the finish, that it would have a tailwind going downhill, so that meant I could go early, and I’m really happy to get the win.”
Tour of Britain stage three – result
1) Mark Cavendish (GBR) – Team Sky – 3:54:31 hours
2) Leigh Howard (AUS) – Orica-GreenEDGE – same time
3) Aidis Kruopis (LTU) – Orica-GreenEDGE
4) Luke Rowe (GBR) – Team Sky
5) Sam Bennett (IRL) – An Post-Sean Kelly
6) Russell Downing (GBR) – Endura Racing
7) Boy Van Poppel (NED) – UnitedHealthcare
8) Jonathan McEvoy (GBR) – Endura Racing
9) Barry Markus (NED) – Vacansoleil-DCM
10) Yanto Barker (GBR) – Team UK Youth
1) Leigh Howard (AUS) – Orica-GreenEDGE – 13:16:28 hours
2) Mark Cavendish (GBR) – Team Sky – same time
3) Boy Van Poppel (NED) – UnitedHealthcare +4″
4) Luke Rowe (GBR) – Team Sky – same time
5) Rony Martias (FRA) – Saur-Sojasun +10″
6) Russell Downing (GBR) – Endura Racing +12″
7) Steele Von Hoff (AUS) – Garmin-Sharp +16″
8) Nathan Haas (AUS) – Garmin-Sharp – same time
9) Sep Vanmarcke (BEL) – Garmin-Sharp
10) Sam Bennett (IRL) – An Post-Sean Kelly