Sir Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) sealed overall victory and Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) sprinted to stage success in London as the home crowd’s heroes ended the tenth Tour of Britain in style.
Wiggins finished safely in the peloton, maintaining his overall lead over Switzerland’s Martin Elmiger (IAM Cycling), while the Manxman powered to his third stage victory of the week – equalling the number he achieved in last year’s national tour.
For pre-Tour favourite Wiggins the overall victory is his first major success since winning last summer’s Olympic Time Trial, and ensures he puts a difficult, injury-hit campaign behind him ahead of next week’s World Road Championships.
Cavendish meanwhile outgunned Elia Viviani (Cannondale) and Sam Bennett (AN Post Chain Reaction) to add victory in the capital to his win in Llanberris and made it two wins in as many days after also winning Saturday’s sprint into Guildford.
After the criticism his Omega Pharma-Quickstep train have received this year, Italian sprint legend, Alessandro Petacchi, once again highlighted his value to the team with a perfect lead out for the Manx Missile.
And in signature style, crouched low on the bike, Cavendish powered past his rivals and over the line to the delight of the huge crowds lining the streets of Westminster.
The same fans had been treated to a phenomenally fast stage as the peloton raced around the ten-lap Thames-side circuit and through Whitehall.
With the teams of the fast men keen to ensure the stage ended in a bunch sprint, and Wiggins’ Team Sky team-mates also working tirelessly to ensure no surprise breakaways were allowed to succeed, the bunch regularly exceeded 60kmh on the flat roads.
The domestic riders also showed their mettle on the criterium circuit, and James Williamson (Node 4-Giordana Racing) led a strung-out peloton through the first lap.
With Yodel Direct sprint points available on laps two, six and eight Pete Williams (IG-Sigma Sport) and Angel Madrazo (Movistar) ensured their battle for the jersey went to the wire.
Williams led through the second lap to cut Madrazo’s lead to two points after the Spaniard finished third.
The two found themselves in a six-man break, joined by Sergio Padilla (MTN-Qhubeka), Shane Archbold (AN Post Chain Reaction), Jack Bauer (Garmin-Sharp) and Andreas Schillinger (Team Net App Endura).
Pardilla and Bauer’s presence in the break caused some minor concern for Wiggins and Sky, who joined the sprint teams at the front of the strung-out bunch.
Up the road, Madrazo appeared to be struggling to stay on the back of the six-man break at times but remained in contention come the second sprint.
Bauer led the six through the second intermediate sprint, although Williams appeared to reach an arm out to Madrazo before crossing second.
The peloton remained strung out but gradually reeled the leaders back in, prompting Schillinger, with Archbold following, to attack the break.
Their manoeuvre prompted a number of attacks and counter-attacks in the peloton, which the remaining escapees were now back in, but nothing stuck and first Schillinger, and then Archbold were caught with 22km remaining.
With Alex Dowsett (Movistar) preparing to lead Madrazo through the final sprint and IG Sigma Sport forming a train for Williams, the pace in the bunch remained high.
Madrazo found himself blocked in, however, as Simon Yates (Great Britain) led Dowsett and Williams through the final sprint.
The result meant Williams moved to first place in the sprints classification, prior to the race commissaires’ inspecting his earlier alleged misdemeanour.
Dowsett’s efforts saw him break clear of the bunch however and the British Time Trial Champion built a small lead before being caught with 10km remaining.
With the race back together as they took the bell, Sky led the peloton around the start of the final lap to ensure Wiggins was kept safe at the front.
Then with less than six kilometres remaining the sprint teams took control, with Omega Pharma-Quickstep, Great Britain and Cannondale among those jostling for control.
Cannondale led under the flamme rouge, but Petacchi and Cavendish timed their attack to perfection to lead the Manxman to the tenth Tour of Britain stage win of his career.
Tour of Britain 2013 – stage eight result
1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Omega Pharma-Quickstep 1:47:22
2 Sam Bennett (IRL) AN Post Chain Reaction same time
3 Elia Viviani (ITA) Cannondale Pro Cycling
4 Matteo Pelucchi (Ita) IAM Cycling
5 Chris Opie (GBR) Team UK Youth
6 Evaldas Siskevicius (LTU) Sojasun
7 Sacha Modolo (ITA) Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox
8 Alessandro Petacchi (ITA) Omega Pharma-Quickstep
9 Enrique Sanz (ESP) Movistar Team
10 Blaz Jarc (SVN) Team NetApp-Endura
1 Sir Bradley Wiggins (GBR) Team Sky 29:45.22
2 Martin Elmiger (SUI) IAM Cycling +26”
3 Simon Yates (GBR) Great Britain +1’03”
4 David Lopez (ESP) Sky Procycling +1’08”
5 Jack Bauer (NZL) Garmin-Sharp +1’13”
6 Sergio Pardilla (ESP) MTN-Qhubeka +1’16”
7 Ian Stannard (GBR) Sky Procycling +1’34”
8 Sebastien Reichenbach (SUI) IAM Cycling +1’42”
9 Michal Golas (POL) Omega Pharma-Quickstep +1’46”
10 Marcel Wyss (SUI) IAM Cycling +1’57”