DARTMOUTH, England (AFP) — Endura Racing’s Jonathan Tiernan-Locke is in position to win the Tour of Britain after opening up an 18-second lead following the seventh stage on Saturday.
The Englishman finished eighth in the race from Barnstaple to Dartmouth, but with Leigh Howard (Orica-GreenEdge) falling 62 seconds off the pace, Tiernan-Locke now enjoys a healthy lead over second-placed Nathan Haas (Garmin-Sharp).
The last Briton to win the national tour was Chris Lillywhite, 19 years ago. But Tiernan-Locke, 27, is confident of changing that in the final stage on Sunday.
“I think Haas would have to take all the time bonuses and win the stage which I don’t think will happen so I can’t lose it that way,” he told the Tour of Britain website.
“I’ve just got to not lose time on the sprints so we’ll have to ride for the sprints and there will be other teams interested in that and I am not going to get dropped on the climbs.
“We showed we were up to it today and I am sure we’ll be up to it.”
Pablo Urtasun (Euskaltel-Euskadi) took the stage win in a sprint finish, pipping Marc de Maar (UnitedHealthcare), winner of stage five on Thursday. Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) finished third.
Howard began the day as Tiernan-Locke’s closest challenger and took three seconds out of him in the first intermediate sprint, but by the finish it was Haas who had moved into second place overall after coming in sixth.
Howard tumbled to fourth overall.
Now Tiernan-Locke must concern himself with Haas and Damiano Caruso (Liquigas-Cannondale), who is third, 23 seconds off the pace.
The teams head to Reigate for Sunday’s 147.7km run to the finish in Guildford.