April 25, 2011 (Castle Douglas, Scotland) – With just two seconds separating first and second places, and only 20 seconds covering the top eight riders on general classification, the 147.2km/92-mile third and final stage of The Tour DoonHame looked set to be a cliff-hanger where every second would count, and so it turned out to be.
110 riders left Dumfries for the final time with the ScottishPower Renewables yellow jersey worn by Matt Cronshaw of Team Raleigh. In second place was man of the season so far, Zak Dempster of Rapha Condor Sharp. Following a string of victories – the most recent at Rutland-Melton just a week earlier – there was no question that the tall Australian was in top form, and Cronshaw’s slender two second advantage was going to be tough to defend. With Jack Bauer (Endura Racing) at twelve seconds and Ian Bibby (Motorpoint) at 13, both of whom had tasted success at the 2010 edition of the race, it was clear that the time bonuses available along the route at the hot spot sprints and also on the finish line would be the key to victory.
The peloton was active right from the moment the neutralized flag was pulled in and Dempster was ominously one of the members of an early breakaway that eased out a small advantage with 3 miles covered. Though it was quickly brought back, continued attacks up to the first intermediate sprint at Haugh of Urr featured Rapha men and was an early indication of the team’s intent. This tactic bore fruit, although the peloton were all back together by the sprint line, Dempster crossed it first earning the 3 second time bonus and leapfrogging Cronshaw to become yellow jersey on the road.
Passing through the outskirts of Castle Douglas, which would be the scene of the race finish later in the day, it was Bibby’s turn to collect a time bonus at the sprint line, but shortly afterward an attack by four riders: Wouter Sybrandy (Sigmasport Specialized), Kevin Dawson (Sportscover), Peter Murdoch (Second Helpings) and Tom Barras (Cyclepremier- Metaltek) was quickly joined by Magnus Backstedt (Team UK Youth) and Peter Williams (Motorpoint). With Dutchman Sybrandy the best placed on GC at 25th place, 1:10 behind the intial lead of Cronshaw, the move seemed opportunistic at best. However the gap grew to in excess of 1 minute as the race reached Mossdale with 31 miles gone, and shortly afterward it was the Sigmasport rider who became the virtual yellow jersey as the advantage exceeded his time deficit on GC. The group continued to work well and stretched the lead to a maximum of 2 minutes 22 seconds at Moniaive.
Although King of the Mountains leader Bauer was not in the lead group, the others were not in contention for the climbers prize so as the last climb – a third category ascent of Wether Hill – was completed, Bauer was confirmed as the outright winner of the J & B Print polka dot jersey he had held since the first stage. With Backstedt in the break he guaranteed his win in the Endura sprints competition with a first place at St John’s Town of Dalry.
As the race entered its final 30 miles the gap to the leaders was rapidly reducing as Rapha and Endura in particular were setting the pace at the head of the peloton. The 6 leaders were briefly reduced to 5 as Williams overshot a corner, but quickly regained the group. However the relentless pace behind saw their advantage stand at just 24 seconds with 20 miles to go. Further misfortune hit the breakaway as Barras punctured and Murdoch blew.
With the yellow jersey now back with Dempster, Sybrandy and Williams were the last of the breakaway to remain clear but the inevitable catch came with 6 miles to go and the stage was set for another bunch gallop. Rounding the final corner into the main street at Castle Douglas, close to 50 riders filled the full width of the road as the uphill charge for the line gathered pace. Following his win at Dumfries on stage 2, Johnny McEvoy again proved to have the best sprint and took the victory.
But where were Dempster and Cronshaw? Both missed out on the final time bonuses with Dempster finishing fourth behind McEvoy, Chris Opie (Pendragon) and Marcin Bialoblocki (Motorpoint) while Cronshaw crossed the line in 13th place. With the first 47 finishers awarded the same time, the judges deliberations finally confirmed that Dempster’s win in the first hot spot sprint and the 3 seconds it carried was enough for him to take the overall victory by just 1 second from a clearly disappointed Cronshaw. Bauer secured third place overall closely followed by Bibby in fourth.
With Sigmasport-Specialized taking away a luxury hamper of Scottish delicacies as winners of the team competition the podium presentations were complete and the second edition of The Tour DoonHame had proved a worthy opener to the 2011 Premier Calendar competition.
The action now moves on to Lincoln on May 8th, but with Zak Dempster in his current form will anyone be able to better him there?
1. Johnny McEvoy (Motorpoint) 3:29:43
2. Chris Opie (Pendragon-LeCol)
3. Marcin Bialoblocki (Motorpoint)
4. Zak Dempster (Rapha-Condor)
5. Yanto Barker (Pendragon-LeCol)
6. Marcel Six (Twenty3c-Orbea)
7. Rafa Rodriguez (Twenty3c-Orbea)
8. Steve Lampier (Sigma Specialized)
9. Ian Bibby (Motorpoint)
10. Will Bjergfelt (Motorpoint)
58. Jamie Sparling (Team Raleigh) 1:10
1. Zak Dempster (Rapha-Condor) 9:58:52
2. Matt Cronshaw (Team Raleigh) 0:01
3. Jack Bauer (Endura Racing) 0:12
4. Ian Bibby (Motorpoint) 0:13
5. Yanto Barker (Pendragon-LeCol) 0:16
6. Steve Lampier (Sigma Specialized)
7. Matt Higgins (Corley Cycles)
8. Simon Richardson (Sigma Specialized) 0:21
9. Marcin Bialoblocki (Motorpoint) 1:06
10. Alex Wetterhall (Endura Racing) 1:08
42. Jamie Sparling (Team Raleigh) 2:39