With Dylan van Baarle having defended his yellow jersey in the face of Michal Kwiatkowski’s time trialling abilities, the dynamics of the previously straight-forward afternoon Criterium may have changed somewhat. Kwiatkowski now sits 10 seconds back on the leading Dutchman, with 9 seconds available during the Criterium’s intermediate sprints, giving OmegaPharma-QuickStep quite the headache for the remaining racing.
Originally, OPQS will have circled Stage 8B as another classic target for Mark Cavendish and his lead-out train to take another win at the Tour of Britain. However, having a rider of the calibre of Kwiatkowski within spitting distance of the overall win, could tempt the team to support him in an ‘all-or-nothing’ attack upon the yellow jersey. He could go about this by either winning the intermediate sprint, gain a 6 second bonus by winning on the line with a 1 second time-gap to van Baarle; or attack late on and attempt to gain a race winning 11 seconds in one massive charge out of the pack to the line. Should the team support either manoeuvre, it will leave Mark Cavendish without a run at taking his sole stage win at this year’s tour. If it seemed possible to win the overall, it is easy to imagine Cavendish accepting this and working hard to help Kwiatkowski succeed in his attempts to overhaul van Baarle at the death. Even so, this would also mean giving the sprint trains of Giant-Shimano, Bardiani – CSF and more the slip to just get the Pole’s hopes off the ground.
The likelihood is still a sprint finish come the conclusion of Stage 8B, meaning that Marcel Kittel will be the favourite to take the win ahead of Mark Cavendish – even home support does not seem enough to beat the German powerhouse. Giant-Shimano will look to boss the race by sitting at the front of affairs, though support from Garmin-Slipstream, Team Sky and perhaps BMC should make life easier against any breakaways. Making up the places behind Kittel should be Ben Swift, Adam Blythe, Tyler Farrar, Nicola Ruffoni and perhaps Rick Zabel.
1st Kittel 2nd Cavendish 3rd Swift 4th Blythe