Today’s fifth stage of the 2012 Tour of Britain was ‘much tougher’ than any of the previous stages, according to Team Youth’s road captain, Magnus Backstedt.
The Swedish sprinter, seventh on yesterday’s fourth stage to Blackpool, delivered a solid performance today, finishing in a group of 35 riders, some 6.34 down on stage winner, Marc de Maar (UnitedHealthcare).
Backstedt joked that today’s 146.9km was “not my preferred choice of terrain”. Three categorised climbs offered opportunities for the GC and King of the Mountains contenders, but a challenge for sprinters like Backstedt.
The Swede, winner in 2004 of cycling’s hardest one day race, the Paris-Roubaix, made an early attempt to infliltrate a breakaway, but having failed to do so, climbed steadily in the second group on the road behind an elite escape group containing Liquigas-Cannondale’s Ivan Basso.
“It was pretty full on from the first kilometre. The way the race was ridden, with Basso in the breakaway, no one wanted to let him go too far. It was quite a nervous stage,” said Backstedt.
“Everyone knew there was going to be a selection at some point. There was quite a lot of wind out there today which meant you had to pay more attention to what was going on around you. It was definitely set for the GC boys to have a go at it.”
Those with ambitions for overall victory showed their hands today, with Endura Racing’s Jon Tiernan-Locke the most successful of them, finsihgin the stage just 15 seconds behind de Maar, to climb to sixth on GC, with the five men ahead of him sprinters likely to suffer on tomorrow’s queen stage in the Welsh mountains.
Backstedt told RoadCyclingUK that the pattern of tomorrow’s 189.8km stage from Welshpool to Caerphilly, one with four first category climbs, was difficult to predict. The peloton could be prepared to let an early break go, he suggested, trusting that two circuits of Caerphilly Mountain will bring the race back together at the denoument of the stage.
Today’s ascent of Gun Hill was the toughest of the three categorised climbs, said Backstedt. “The pace was on by then.” On the approach to Gun Hill, the split between the leaders and the second group on the road was made, aided by cross winds. “A couple of teams saw the opportunity to put it on the gutter and attack up there,” said Backstedt.
Team UK Youth’s Yanto Barker will race on home soil tomorrow, and while Backstedt conceded that the Welshman’s ambitions for the general classification had suffered a serious setback today, he backed Barker to bounce back on two stages before Sunday’s closing effort from Reigate to Guildford.
Magnus Backstedt is a Maxifuel ambassador. Maxifuel is used by each member of the Team UK Youth squad.