Rouleur Classic

Cheese-less in Llandudno

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Photographs: Claire Beaumont - Rapha Condor JLT

It was my job to take care of Chris Opie today, but he struggled a bit on the last climb, the Great Orme. You kind of stayed where you were. There was little time to move up, without taking serious risks, and a few people came off.
I say it was uneventful: 136 was clipped by a motorbike and broke his collarbone. And a group of 25 got away early on too, without any of the GC men in it, and everyone was bluffing one another. IAM Cycling decided to chase, it was quite a tough one.
It could have changed the race: for instance, if Brad [Wiggins] moves, there’s always a reaction. But today, nobody wanted to shut it down from the gun.
Everyone expects me to jump in the breakaway. I’ve been in a fair few, but this year, I’ve decided that I want to win a stage. Sure, going up the road is good for PR and the fans like it, but why keep doing it?
I think I have the form and the ability to win a stage. It’s a case of picking the right day; if I go up the road in these first few, when there’s no chance, I’ve wasted energy.
The GC will take shape after tomorrow, a team might take control and then I can slip into a move that has a chance of staying away. The gaps won’t be massive tomorrow on the Tumble, it’s not so tough a climb, but it’ll set a precedent for the GC.
I may have finished eight Tours of Britain in a row, but anything can happen with illness or accidents, as we saw with Hugh today. I’d love to be there at the finish in London again.
Looking back, my lowpoint was in 2006: they had a stage around Rochester, my only time racing on home Kent roads, and there were some traffic problems. Tom Boonen and the big teams had a go-slow protest and wouldn’t let us race. I copped a lot of abuse from them and T-Mobile riders; but our managers had told us we had to race.
At one point, Tom Boonen grabbed Ben Swift and stopped him. Okay, years later, it’s quite funny, as he’s quite an established rider, but he was 18 years-old then, and he was pulling him back.
The best moment was winning the Mountains jersey in 2012, though riding in the national champion’s jersey all week in 2009 was on a par. I was on a break in the second last day, wearing it.
I’m looking at next year positively: I’m sad about Rapha leaving, but in terms of us as a team, nothing changes: the squad keeps going. When people heard Rapha were pulling out, we were inundated by requests to supply us kit.
The team has taken a path with young riders in recent years. Maybe a few years ago, they weren’t really up to the challenge. But it’s changed now: Hugh could have challenged on the Tumble, and we have guys like Mike Cuming and Richard Handley who can be up there tomorrow.
Every once in a while, I’ll feel my age – like the other day, when Tom Moses mentioned he did the Junior Tour of Wales four years ago. I was like ‘woah, that was 16 years ago for me’.  But I’m still confident of getting up there in the races and winning.

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