Mark Renshaw wins one for the pilot fish

I probably should have done some sort of ‘riders to watch’ post for the Tour of Britain. Fortunately, the end of stage two did it for me with many of the strongest names taking turns to lead down the descent of the Great Orme where they could be seen from a faintly disconcerting side-on camera shooting across the sea.

There was Michal Kwiatkowski, there was Leopold Konig, there was Sylvain Chavanel and there was Niki Terpstra. Alex Dowsett had a bit of a go for the Brits and just behind them all, there was Bradley Wiggins.

Wiggins was right near the front at the top of the climb and that’s basically the defending champion’s gameplan. Stick with them on the climbs and then smash them in the time trial.

Twas ever thus.

The problem he has is that the time trial in this race is short, while the stage finishes are a little more fiendish than last year. They’re also better. It could be a good race.

Stage victories so far

Stage one was pretty flat, so Marcel Kittel won. The Great Orme was too much for him though, so the stage two sprint was open to others. Australian Mark Renshaw, who is nominally Mark Cavendish’s lead-out man, was quickest.

The French call lead-out men ‘pilot fish’ and these beasts have an odd set of responsibilities. They have to be experts at weaving (and occasionally muscling) their way through the melee in the closing kilometres, but they have to do this towing some sort of diva-trailer, which is the sprinter himself. They also have to be pretty damn fine sprinters themselves, but yet their finish line comes a couple of hundred metres before the real one, giving them a marvellous vantage point to witness other people’s glory.

Renshaw edged out Ben Swift, who would have fancied his chances being a fast man who can climb. Promising young Irishman, Sam Bennett, came third and the American sprinter who never wins, Tyler Farrar, came fourth. Farrar should really think about retraining as a pilot fish.

Stage three

A summit finish, no less. The only one of the race and the biggest ever used in the Tour of Britain. It’s atop the Tumble, a 6km climb which probably doesn’t quite average the 10% they’ve put on the road signs, but which isn’t far off. This is where the general classification will be established and the winner here may possibly end up being the winner overall as well. Watch out for Nicolas Roche in addition to the names above.