The Vacansoleil team took their second stage win of The Tour of Britain, as Borut Bozic sprinted to victory on East Hill in Colchester, as the gradient took its toll ensuring just Greg Henderson could stay with the Slovenian rider as they reached the line.
With the drag to the line causing splits in the field, Bozic and Henderson came in three seconds up on third placed man Richie Porte, with the leading trio all collecting time bonuses to add to their advantage over race leader Michael Albasini, who came in 20th in a group 11 seconds down on the winner.
That means that Albasini now holds the Yellow Jersey presented by Bikeability by 1 minute and 5 seconds from Bozic, with Porte a further nine seconds back and Henderson two more in arrears.
The Swiss rider, who won Stage Three into Swansea on Monday, spoke after the stage of his relief at having safely negotiated the final road stage of The Tour, with just London’s circuit race remaining.
“I was always looking forward to this moment, normally in the last stage not so much happens and it should be a bunch sprint. I am happy to still have the Yellow Jersey. Three days ago I wasn’t so sure to bring it this far when we had just four riders in the race.
“It’s perfect now with three stage wins and hopefully also the yellow at the end in London.”
The 29-year-old though isn’t going to celebrate early, saying, “The last stage is always hard, you have to keep the concentration and it’s only over when it’s over.”
Friday’s stage was characterised by a long breakaway containing Sigma Sport – Specialized’s Tom Murray and Pieter Jacobs, which went away after 21 miles of racing. For the second day running in the East of England massive crowds turned out to welcome The Tour of Britain to Suffolk and Essex, with sunshine and good weather greeting the riders for the start in Bury St Edmunds.
With Team Sky a constant presence at the front of the peloton, the break’s lead only just rose above three minutes at its greatest, before steadily being slashed as The Tour reached Essex just after passing through Sudbury and climbing Ballingdon Hill, both described as being the scene of ‘Tour de France style crowds’, by experienced cycling journalists after the race.
With 25 kilometres of racing to go, Murray had no response when Jacobs sensed him slowing and attacked, leaving the British to be swallowed up by the peloton. Ahead the Topsport Vlaanderen – Mercator rider persevered on alone, before being caught with five kilometres remaining on the outskirts of Colchester. But with an uphill drag to the line awaiting it wasn’t going to be conventional bunch gallop, as Bozic and Henderson crested the rise ahead, with the Slovenian coming through to take the win, much to his and his teammates joy.
Speaking afterwards, former Vuelta a Espana stage winner Borut Bozic said, “For me this is a big victory because there are a lot of good riders here. It doesn’t matter where it is; every race is hard to win.”
Bozic also commented on his team, who have featured prominently throughout The Tour, saying, “We are a good team and we help each other a lot. There is also, as you can see, a good team spirit.”
Teammate Johnny Hoogerland sealed the overall King of the Mountains and now just has to finish Stage Eight to claim the polka dot jersey, and spoke afterwards of his happiness to take a jersey, although his overall aspirations have not come to fruition.
“Yesterday I was pretty sure of the jersey”, said the Dutchman, “But with today it could have happened that 15 riders had gone with Richie (Porte) and stolen the points, so you never know.
“During the last few stages I have been taking the most points, but it was on the fourth stage when I took the jersey that it was good for me. I’m very happy to bring it home.
Hoogerland also praised The Tour of Britain’s route, saying, “You always have hilly and flat stages so I think it’s normal. They could have stayed in the South West the whole week, but I think that’s not fair for the sprinters! For me, two extra stages in the South West would probably have been better, and then maybe Albasini wouldn’t have got his jersey still.
“Some teams are probably less motivated because it is only a 2.1 category race, but for us they are all big races. I looked at the programme for September and I said ‘I want to do The Tour of Britain’, because I think it’s a beautiful race.”
The Vacansoleil rider also praised Suffolk and Essex for their role in hosting Stage Seven of the race, explaining, “There are a lot of people! It was actually more beautiful than I expected, because in every village there are fans, I think all the schools are empty for the race, and it’s lovely to be here.”
The final stage of The Tour of Britain takes place in Newham, London’s Olympic and Paralympic Borough, with a 96 kilometre circuit race around the historic Royal Dockyards and London’s ExCeL Centre.
Before the racing gets underway and the winner of the 2010 Tour of Britain is crowned amateur cyclists will have the chance to take part in the second of this year’s Prostate Cancer Charity Tour Rides, offering the unique opportunity to ride an official stage of The Tour in London.
The Tour of Britain is in the second year of its successful partnership with The Prostate Cancer Charity, who are sponsoring the coveted blue Points Jersey, currently worn by Team Sky’s Greg Henderson.
Mark Bishop, Director of Fundraising at the Charity, said: "By turning the Points Jersey blue, we are demonstrating the commitment of each party to this partnership which has proved hugely beneficial.
"Our first of three events this month went exceptionally well last weekend, in the South West. We believe the unique proposition of riding in the tracks of the pros has added something fresh and credible to the sportive calendar.
"Through the partnership, we have been able not only to raise awareness of prostate cancer in the men we are trying to reach - but given all cyclists something challenging and active to do to support the cause."
Cyclists get a further chance to ride a Tour of Britain stage on Sunday 26th September, when The Prostate Cancer Charity Tour Ride takes place at Stoke-on-Trent over the tough of Stage Two of The Tour. To find out more visit www.tourride.co.uk