After bad luck and a narrow defeat on the opening two stages, Team Sky’s Mark Cavendish scored his second straight stage victory today to assume the overall lead of the 2012 Tour of Britain.
The world road race champion was led to his second victory in as many days by teammate, Luke Rowe, who had won the opening stage at the Norfolk showground after the Manxman crashed, briefly placing the Welshman in the overall lead.
Normal service was resumed yesterday when Cavendish cruised home ahead of Leigh Howard (Orica-GreenEDGE) at the end of stage three, and today the Manx Missile finished his day by swapping the rainbow stripes of world road race champion for the IG Markets gold jersey of race leader.
Cavendish said: “It’s difficult with only six riders so you have to rely on the other teams and try and collaborate. We’ve got options but we’re really having a good time and enjoying riding together.”
The day had begun in heavy rain; unfavourable conditions that hung over the peloton for the majority of the stage, easing only in the final 40km. The inclement weather didn’t deter an early attack that included Team IG-Sigma Sport’s Dan Craven. Their escape failed to trouble the peloton who, perhaps subdued by the rain, enjoyed a leisurely ascent of the second category Shap Fell.
With about 25km to go, Team Sky, chiefly in the form of Jeremy Hunt and Tour de France champion, Bradley Wiggins, came alive, setting a pace that in stiff cross winds split the bunch and created a selection that included most of the key players of the opening three stages, Boy Van Poppel (UnitedHealthcare), Russell Downing (Endura Racing), Magnus Backstedt (Team UK Youth), Garmin-Sharp’s Sep Vanmarcke, and Rowe (Team Sky) among them.
The blistering run into Blackpool, conducted at a pace that rendered attacks impossible, created the perfect finish for Cavendish, who, in a flourishing partnership with Rowe, rode off the Welshman’s wheel to complete a brace of victories.
Tomorrow’s 146.9km stage begins and ends in Stoke on Trent, and includes the first category climb of Gun Hill, and a steep incline to the finish. Backstedt told RCUK the stage could provide the first shake up to the general classification.
Tour of Britain stage four – result
1) Mark Cavendish (GBR) – Team Sky – 3.51.33
2) Steele Von Hoff (AUS) – Garmin-Sharp – ST
3) Leigh Howard (AUS) – Orica-GreenEdge
4) Boy Van Poppel (NED) – UnitedHealthcare
5) Daniel Schorn (AUT) – Team NetApp
6) Russell Downing (GBR) – Endura Racing
7) Magnus Backstedt (SWE) – Team UK Youth
8) Sep Vanmarcke (BEL) – Garmin-Sharp
9) Rony Martias (FRA) – Saur-Sojasun
10) Luke Rowe (GBR) – Team Sky
1) Mark Cavendish (GBR) – Team Sky – 17.07.51
2) Leigh Howard (AUS) – Orica-GreenEdge +6”
3) Boy Van Poppel (NED) – UnitedHealthcare +14”
4) Luke Rowe (GBR) – Team Sky
5) Rony Martias (FRA) – Saur-Sojasun +20”
6) Steele Von Hoff (AUS) – Garmin-Sharp
7) Russell Downing (GBR) – Endura Racing +22”
8) Sep Vanmarcke (BEL) – Garmin-Sharp +26”
9) Nathan Haas (AUS) – Garmin-Sharp
10) Yanto Barker (GBR) – Team UK Youth +27”