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 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.
– Vuelta: De Marchi wins 14th Vuelta stage
But in seeking to hold off Greipel, Cavendish left space for the Italian on his left side to 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.”
Today’s second stage of eight is a 159.3km ride through Lancashire from Clitheroe to Colne in northern England.
Meanwhile, Cavendish has criticised the Vuelta a Espana, claiming organisers are taking the enjoyment out of the event.
Cavendish has not competed in the third Grand Tour of the year since 2011 mainly due to the rise in mountain finishes.
“The Vuelta has just become stupid now; 11 mountain-top finishes this year,” he said. “One thing for the viewers: sprinters aren’t bad bike riders. You don’t have to go quick uphill to make it a good race, do you know what I mean?
“No-one wants to go to the Vuelta any more unless they crashed out of the Tour de France.”
Spaniard Joaquim Rodriguez claimed the 15th stage of Spain’s Vuelta to move within one second of overall leader Fabio Aru on Sunday.
Joaquim Rodriguez wins stage 15 of the Vuelta a Espana and is now the active Spanish rider with the most Grand Tour victories, 14.
— CafeRoubaix (@CafeRoubaix) September 6, 2015
Rodriguez, 36, was strongest on the 12.7km category one climb to the finish of the 175.8km ride from Comillas to Sostres to win from Poland’s Rafal Majka and fellow-Spaniard Daniel Moreno.
Aru, who is bidding to go one better than his runners-up spot in this year’s Giro d’Italia, was fifth on the day, 15 seconds behind, to hold onto his lead by the slenderest of margins.
Majka’s second place was also enough to move him up to third overall, 1min 24sec behind. It was a tough day for Dutchman Tom Dumoulin, though, as he was dropped on the final climb and falls to fourth overall, one second behind Majka.
“It is a big confidence boost because we have been looking for the stage win and to be involved in the general classification as well is great,” Rodriguez told Television Espanola. “We are in a perfect position, just one second off Aru.
A nine-man breakaway had led the stage for most of the day, but the peloton never allowed them a lead of more than four minutes to ensure there would be no repeat of Saturday’s breakaway victory for Alessandro De Marchi.
Nairo Quintana was the first of the general classification favourites to attempt an attack, but the 2014 Giro d’Italia champion was kept in check by Aru’s Astana team.
Rodriguez made his break for the line with a kilometre to go and neither Quintana or Aru could respond to allow the Katusha rider to add a first Vuelta stage victory for two years to his two wins at the Tour de France in July.
Quintana remains three minutes back in ninth overall, 35 seconds behind his Movistar teammate Alejandro Valverde.
Dumoulin, who is one of the big favourites for Wednesday’s 38.7km time trial in Burgos, recovered well from being dropped by the peloton to limit the damage as he finished 51 seconds back in 12th.
Portugal’s Nelson Oliveira came home alone to land the 13th stage of Spain’s Vuelta on Friday with Fabio Aru retaining the overall leader’s red jersey.
For Lampre rider Oliveira, a three-time national time-trial champion, this was a first ever stage win on one of the Grand Tours. He set up his personal milestone by attacking with 30 kilometres of the 178km ride from Calatayud to Tarazona remaining.
Oliveira had his fellow members of a breakaway group in trouble on the final climb of the day, extending his lead to the line.
— Vuelta a España (@lavuelta) September 4, 2015
France’s Julien Simon (Cofidis) out-sprinted Ireland’s Nicolas Roche (Team Sky) for second, this pair chased home by the rest of the breakaway group.
“It was a difficult day but things worked out in the best way possible for me,” reflected Oliveira in an interview with Spain’s public television station. “It’s my first international victory and the first on a Grand Tour,” he added. “Those last 30km were the longest of my life.”
Italian Aru took 36th place to keep the overall lead by 27sec from Katusha’s Joaquim Rodriguez. Tom Dumoulin is third, a further three seconds away.
Aru is trying to go one better after filling the runner-up spot in the Giro d’Italia in May. Despite his position at the head of the Vuelta standings he will be only too mindful of the precariousness of his position.
In Italy, he lost three minutes to eventual winner Alberto Contador in a race-against-the-clock, and there is one looming next Wednesday – the 17th stage 38.7km time-trial in Burgos.
So first he will be out to exploit his advantage in the three tough days coming up in the mountains.
“We’re going to see how the legs hold up in these three stages. If I feel good tomorrow (Saturday) I’ll try to do something to make time,” the Italian said.
Saturday’s 14th stage is the longest of the 2015 Vuelta, a 215km mountainous ride from Vitoria to the ski station of Alto Campoo, with an hors-category summit finish.