Ewan takes opening stage as Froome maintains La Vuelta lead
AUSTRALIAN Caleb Ewan sprinted to victory in a photo finish on the opening stage of the Tour of Britain.
The 23-year-old Orica-Scott rider edged out Dimension Data’s Edvald Boasson Hagen on the line, with Team Sky’s Elia Viviani in third in the 190-kilometre ride from Edinburgh to Kelso.
Mark Cavendish, competing for the first time since breaking his shoulder blade in July’s Tour de France, finished seven and a half minutes behind on the first day of the eight-stage race which finishes in Cardiff next Sunday.
Polish rider Karol Domagalski was in the breakaway group clear of the peloton when he was knocked off his bike by a rival team car 38 miles into the race but was not seriously injured and recovered quickly to claim the sprinters’ jersey at the end of the stage.
Today’s second day sees riders tackle the longest stage of the tour, 131 miles from from Kielder Water to Blyth.
Chris Froome extended his overall lead in La Vuelta after Colombian rider Miguel Angel Lopez won the mountainous 129-kilometre 15th stage from Alcala la Real to Sierra Nevada.
Team Sky rider Froome, who is bidding to become only the third rider to win La Vuelta and the Tour de France in the same year, produced a late surge to stretch his advantage over Vincenzo Nibali by six more seconds.
Froome now has a 61-second cushion over his Italian rival. Lopez finished the stage in three hours, 34 minutes and 51 seconds, overtaking Briton Adam Yates on the final climb to reach the 2,510-metre summit of Alto Hoya de la Mora first for his second win of the race.
Russia’s Ilnur Zakarin came second, 36 seconds behind, with Dutchman Wilco Kelderman third and Froome coming in fifth. Zakarin and Kelderman are third and fourth in the general classification but trail Froome by more than two minutes.
Reigning champion Billy Harding got his defence of the Yorkshire Cyclo-Cross Points Series off to an emphatic start yesterday, winning the opening round in emphatic style.
The 21-year-old PH MASOldfield-Paul Milnes rider from Bradford crossed the line alone and 42 seconds ahead of his nearest rival at the end of a challenging technical opening round held at Middleton Bike Hub in Leeds.
Junior rider Matt Taylor, the Shibden CC rider who won the only round he rode last season, was second and just inches ahead of long-time rival Jenson Young (Oldfield).
Riders faced a challenging hilly course which featured several hurdles and banked areas on mainly grassland, and it proved a fitting start to the winter series.
In other categories, Holmfirthbased GB ace Amira Mellor easily won the women’s race from team-mate Sophie Thackray from Bingley, while Maddie Smith (Bolsover & Dist CC).
Former national champion Chris Young (Oldfield) came out on top in the over-45 veterans race.
He crossed the line six seconds ahead of Stefan Macina (Aurelius Cycles), with Noel Clough (Fietsen Tempo) third.
And in the youth race Leeds rider Joe Pidcock – younger brother of World cyclo-cross champion Tom – took the win by 18 seconds from Oldfield teammate Max Poole, while third was Billy Lazonby (Pedalsport CC), more than a minute further back.
SO TIGHT: Australia’s Caleb Ewan, left, wins the first stage of the Tour of Britain from Norway’s Edvald Boasson Hagen, Norway’s Alexander Kristoff and Italy’s Elia Viviani, right, in Kelso yesterday.