LONDON (Reuters) - Briton Jonathan Tiernan-Locke has a lead of 18 seconds heading into Sunday’s final stage of the Tour of Britain after finishing eighth behind Spain’s Pablo Urtasun in the penultimate stage.
Urtasun was part of a four-man breakaway, which included Euskaltel Euskadi team mate Samuel Sanchez and Ivan Basso, in Saturday’s 172.9km seventh stage from Barnstaple to Dartmouth.
Tiernan-Locke was in a group which finished 46 seconds down but he retained the gold jersey ahead of Australian Nathan Haas and Italy’s Damiano Caruso who is a further five seconds back.
The 27-year-old Endura Racing rider, who now has a healthy lead over Haas, hopes to be Britain’s first winner of the race since Chris Lillywhite’s Milk Race triumph in 1993.
“There are not enough time bonuses on the road, well technically there is, but I think Haas would have to take them all and win the stage which I don’t think will happen so I can’t lose it that way,” he told the Tour’s website (www.tourofbritain.com).
“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.”
Tiernan-Locke attacked from the peloton with 10km to go on an uphill section on Saturday and dropped Australian Leigh Howard, one of his main rivals in the general classification.
Howard had gained three seconds in the first intermediate sprint but it was Haas who managed to finish second in the overall standings after crossing the line sixth.
Howard has slipped to fourth, just over a minute off the overall lead heading into Sunday’s 147.8km final stage from Reigate to Guildford which includes four category climbs.
Urtasun won stage seven in a sprint finish from Dutchman Marc de Maar, who claimed the fifth stage on Thursday, with his team mate Sanchez fourth behind Basso.
Tiernan-Locke, linked by British media with a move to Team Sky at the end of the season, will compete in the road race on September 23 at the road world championships in the Netherlands.
Writing by Ken Ferris; Editing by Greg Stutchbury