Edoardo Zardini (Bardiani CSF) stormed to victory on The Tumble to move into the overall lead of the Tour of Britain on stage three.
Zardini attacked at the very start of the climb before accelerating away from Nicolas Roche (Tinkoff-Saxo) in the final few kilometres to solo to victory.
Further back, Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) kicked hard at the end on the iconic climb to take second, while fifth-placed Sir Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) also boosted his ambitions to defend the title he first won last year.
The stage in detail
A break formed very early in the stage, riding clear within the first ten kilometres to tackle the first categorised climb of the day ahead of the peloton.
Mark McNally (An Post Chain Reaction), racing in the King of the Mountains jersey, consolidated his lead by forming a part of the early six-man move, with the British domestic teams also represented.
Elite Road Series champion Yanto Barker (Raleigh-GAC), Tom Stewart (Madison-Genesis) and Mike Cuming (Rapha Condor JLT) all made the split, with Manuele Boaro (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Sebastian Lander (BMC Racing) rounding off the move.
Boaro, who has made several unsuccessful attempts to escape the attentions of the bunch so far in this year’s race, relished his time up the road by leading the six over the first climb – McNally following in second.
He did the same at the category-three ascent in Knighton, followed again by McNally, with the peloton – led by Team Sky and Omega Pharma-Quickstep – ensuring that their lead never grew to an extent that might be considered unmanageable.
Garmin-Sharp also lent firepower to the chase, which kept the gap hovering between two and three minutes throughout the stage.
At the front, Cuming was the first to make a move – after the six had been led through the second intermediate sprint point by Lander.
The Rapha Condor JLT man accelerated to build a small lead as Stewart and Boaro gave chase behind.
The pace proved too much for Barker, McNally and Lander, who soon sat up and returned to the bunch – which Mark Cavendish was among the riders leading.
Up the road, however, Cuming – who was caught by Stewart and Boaro – continued to work well in a bid to keep their advantage going.
With the roads becoming more and more lumpy as they approached The Tumble, however, their lead continued to tumble until Boaro accelerated inside the final 20 kilometres.
The Italian re-built his lead to more than a minute, with Omega Pharma-Quickstep, Garmin-Sharp and Team Sky continuing to chase – Mark Renshaw, in the yellow jersey, still in the wheels of his team-mates on the front.
By the time they had reached the lower ramps of The Tumble, however, he had been reeled back in as the GC men rode hard for position on the approach to ‘Iron Mountain’.
Zardini was one of the first riders to attack, joined by Jack Bauer (Garmin-Sharp), while riders including Renshaw were quickly spilled out the back.
Bauer’s challenge faded though, losing the wheel of Zardini as the Italian pressed on alone at the head of the race.
Sir Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) led the chase, though he appeared to be fading as the kilometres ticked past, while Zardini continued to open up a gap on the bunch.
Roche was next to respond, catching and passing the Italian with apparent ease as Zardini sat up slightly, content to allow the Irishman to open up his own lead.
As Roche looked over his shoulder, however, Zardini kicked again – quickly closing down the handful of metres between the two and again hitting the front.
Into the final two kilometres, Roche faded – allowing Zardini to burst clear as he powered on up the average ten percent gradients.
Behind, the chase continued apace – Kwiatkowski and a resurgent Wiggins, led by team-mate David Lopez, to the fore – but Zardini could not be stopped.
A look over the shoulder confirmed he had a sizable gap and the Italian had time to zip up his jersey, throw his arms in the air and free-wheel across the finish line to celebrate his second win of the season.
Further back, Kwiatkowski bridged to Roche and passed him with a powerful final kick to boost his own overall ambitions while Wiggins came home fifth – just after Dylan Teuns (BMC Racing).
It leaves the GC wide open, with Zardini leading the way but the time trial in Whitehall, London, likely to prove decisive with Wiggins and Kwiatkowki very much still in the hunt.
Tour of Britain 2014: stage three – result
1) Edoardo Zardini (ITA) – Bardiani-CSF – 4.35.02hrs
2) Michal Kwiatkowski (POL) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep +9”
3) Nicolas Roche (IRL) – Tinkoff-Saxo +11”
4) Dylan Teuns (BEL) – BMC Racing – ST
5) Sir Bradley Wiggins (GBR) – Team Sky +14”
6) Giovanni Visconti (ITA) – Movistar – ST
7) David Lopez (ESP) – Team Sky – ST
8) Sebastien Reichenbach (SUI) – IAM Cycling +16”
9) Ion Izaguirre (ESP) – Movistar – ST
10) Leopold Koenig (CZE) – Team NetApp-Endura
1) Edoardo Zardini (ITA) – Bardiani-CSF – 11.30.21hrs
2) Michal Kwiatkowski (POL) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep +13”
3) Nicolas Roche (IRL) – Tinkoff-Saxo +17”
4) Dylan Teuns (BEL) – BMC Racing +21”
5) Sir Bradley Wiggins (GBR) – Team Sky +24”
6) David Lopez (ESP) – Team Sky – ST
7) Ion Izaguirre (ESP) – Movistar +26”
8) Leopold Konig (CZE) – Team NetApp-Endura
9) Sebastien Reichenbach (SUI) – IAM Cycling
10) Giovanni Visconti (ITA) – Movistar +37”