There is always a lot of hype surrounding the Tour of Britain and with Wiggins and Cavendish on the start list, this year's race was going to be massive! I was looking forward to the event having never ridden it before and being back on home soil with support from friends and fans.
Stage 1 - The weather was horrendous and with a strong headwind all day, it took 6hrs to complete the stage. On the final 16km circuit around Drumlanrig Castle, I was able to get into a good position and with good feeling in the legs, I was hopeful of a good finish. Unfortunately to begin with I became boxed in on the right hand side of the road. Following soon after, a crash in the finishing straight caused me to brake hard and sacrifice any chance of a good result. Nevertheless, I stayed up right and moved on to the next day and the next opportunity.
Stage 2 - Again the weather was terrible and after 5hrs of riding over some brutal climbs such as Honister pass, we came into the finish town of Kendal with only 45 riders left in the peloton. This showed how hard the stage had been. Again I got into a good position for the last 500m but like many other riders, I hadn't anticipated the severity of the ascent to the finish. With about 250m to go my legs blocked and I started to loose places, eventually crossing the line just outside the top 10. It was slightly disappointed as the finish would usually suit me, but I was happy that my placing had taken me up to 9th on General Classification.
Stage 3 - Time trialling is my weakness and something that I will look to improve for next years season. The 16km was very technical especially due to the wet roads. I struggled a bit to get the power out on the TT bike which I have only ridden twice before. I finished in the middle of the field which I was satisfied with.
Stage 4 - I had previously planned to target this stage as the short 2km climb close to the finish meant that a small group could potentially arrive at the finish, giving me a better chance in the sprint. Despite climbing really well on the last ascent and passing in the top 15, a headwind meant that riders who had lost ground on the climb, were able to come back. The sprint was hectic as we caught the breakaway inside the last kilometre, but thanks to a great leadout by Blaz I started my sprint in 5th wheel. Unfortunately, I missed the wheels of the first 4 riders and had to sprint from 500m out in the wind, and with only 50m to go I faded and slipped to 8th. I was disappointed to loose 3 places in the last 50m as I felt my sprint was worthy of holding 5th, had I managed to get in the slipstream of the first 4 riders.
Stage 5 - The infamous Caerphilly Mountain was on the agenda today with a double ascent before the finish. I knew that it was a difficult climb but believed If I was able to pass the top close enough to the front group, I would be able to get back on. On the first attempt, however, I was keeping a little bit in reserve as I was unsure of where the top was and didn't want to use my final push too early. I reached the summit but I wasn't close enough to Stannard to get on his wheel and ride across to the front group of 20. I rode hard all the way to the bottom of the 2nd ascent with team mate Wetterhall in a small group. We were 15 seconds of getting across, but when the front group accelerated on the 2nd ascent, we lost ground again. I was happy that I had climbed well and been so close to the front group, but a little disappointed that a bit more might have meant a chance for victory.
Stage 6 - Having gone so hard the previous day, and the long steady gradient climbs not suiting me as well as the short steep ones, I decided to take this stage easy. This allowed me to appreciate the amazing crowds on the final climb up Haytor.
Stage 7 - At this point in the race I was starting to come down with a cold causing me to struggle, so we decided to ride for Blaz who had shown good form helping me in the earlier stages.
Stage 8 - Finally the end was in sight. I gave it a good go at getting in the breakaway but I was brought back so I rode the rest of the race enjoying the circuit and crowds. On the last lap I kept Blaz out of the wind near the front for as long as possible to give him a chance at the sprint, before rolling in.
Overall I enjoyed my first TOB and was pleased with how I rode in the first half of the race. I feel like I was just missing a bit of course knowledge and a couple of percent in the tank to really challenge for the win. Hopefully next year, knowing the stages better, I will be looking to get a podium or even win a stage.