Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) moved into the overall lead of the Tour of Britain after snatching a dramatic win on stage four in Bristol.
The Polish ace attacked late from the bunch to pip Albert Timmer (Giant-Shimano) – who had been in the break all day – to victory.
With Jack Bauer (Garmin-Sharp) and Timmer having been seemingly set to contest the stage, Kwiatkowski blasted past both of them just metres from the line, with the ten-second time bonus for winning enough to also grant him the yellow jersey.
It means the Pole becomes the fourth different rider to wear the jersey, after four stages of this year’s race as the undulating course from Worcester to Bristol made for an enthralling stage.
Timmer was the last man standing from a nine-man break formed early in the stage, with Alex Dowsett (Movistar) – 87 seconds down overall prior to the stage – instigating the move.
Another well-placed rider to make the split was Mark Christian (Team Raleigh), who was 19th after the climb of the Tumble, while Kristian House (Rapha Condor JLT) and Sam Harrison (NFTO) ensured a heavy British presence in the group.
Madison-Genesis were also represented, through New Zealander Mike Northey, while Timmer, Peter Velits (BMC Racing), Lasse Norman Hansen (Garmin-Sharp) and Sebastian Lander (BMC Racing) completed the group.
House and Northey are no strangers to the break at the Tour of Britain, while Lander’s presence up the road allowed him to move into the sprint leaders jersey having started racking up the points the previous day.
With Tinkoff-Saxo and Bardiani-CSF leading the chase, the gap stretched to a maximum of 5’45” but Team Sky and Omega Pharma-Quickstep lent firepower to the chasers to help pull the leaders back.
Dowsett’s presence up the road was of biggest concern to the GC men – the Commonwealth Games time trial champion representing a big threat overall due to his ability to mix it in the break.
A double puncture, however, put paid to any hopes Dowsett had of taking the stage as he sat up and returned to the bunch to the visible surprise of some of his team-mates, initially unaware of his misfortune.
The bunch continued to chase hard, but Dowsett’s return saw a period of slowing – enough for the eight leaders to stretch their advantage back out again.
The pattern continued throughout, with Sky, IAM Cycling, Belkin and Omega Pharma-Quickstep among the teams to take their turn chasing.
As the peloton became strung out, it was clear the pace had been ramped right up on the front and the gap again fell – enough for Hansen and Velits to attack their former breakaway companions and go clear.
With the remaining riders looking to each other to take up the chase, Timmer spotted the move to form a three-man leading group.
Just as the three looked to have done enough to stay out all day, however, Bernie Eisel and David Lopez came forward to cut their advantage right back down again.
It fell rapidly as they hit the sharp left-hand turn signalling the start of the day’s final climb, enough to encourage several attacks off the front of the peloton as the break came into sight in front.
Timmer accelerated again, but as he crested the climb he turned to find Bauer in hot pursuit, and Nico Roche (Tinkoff-Saxo) also chasing hard behind.
Bauer caught Timmer, but Roche could not make the junction as it appeared the two would be set to contest a two-up sprint heading into the final kilometre.
The two continued to look at each other, daring the other to attack as the metres ticked down and the finishing line drawing closer.
With the bunch split Kwiatkowski accelerated off the front, however, clearly catching Timmer by surprise as he turned to find the Pole on his wheel.
The Dutchman accelerated but too late to hold off the Omega Pharma-Quickstep man who powered through and had enough time to sit up and raise his arms in celebration.
Dylan Teuns (BMC Racing), Jon Izaguirre (Movistar), Roche and Bauer also finished in the same time – the former three boosting their overall standing in the process.
Sir Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky), meanwhile, finished in the bunch just behind – with team-mate Ben Swift winning the sprint to the line for seventh place.
It leaves Kwiatkowski boasting a three-second overall advantage over former leader Edoardo Zardini (Bardiani-CSF), with Wiggins – now sixth overall – 27 seconds back, the same time as fellow Team Sky man David Lopez.
Izaguirre, the Spanish champion and Tour of Poland runner-up, is also handily placed, given his time trialling ability but it will be Kwiatkowski who rolls out in yellow on stage five.
Tour of Britain 2014: stage four – result
1) Michal Kwiatkowski (POL) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep – 4.19.09hrs
2) Albert Timmer (NED) – Giant-Shimano – ST
3) Dylan Teuns (BEL) – BMC Racing
4) Jack Bauer (NZL) – Garmin-Sharp
5) Jon Izaguirre (ESP) – Movistar
6) Nicolas Roche (IRL) – Tinkoff-Saxo
7) Ben Swift (GBR) – Team Sky +6”
8) Rick Zabel (GER) – BMC Racing
9) Sonny Colbrelli (ITA) – Bardiani CSF
10) Sylvain Chavanel (FRA) – IAM Cycling
1) Michal Kwiatkowski (POL) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep – 15.49.33hrs
2) Edoardo Zardini (ITA) – Bardiani-CSF +3”
3) Dylan Teuns (BEL) – BMC Racing +14”
4) Nicolas Roche (IRL) – Tinkoff-Saxo – ST
5) Jon Izaguirre (ESP) – Movistar +23”
6) Sir Bradley Wiggins (GBR) – Team Sky +27”
7) David Lopez (ESP) – Team Sky – ST
8) Leopold Konig (CZE) – Team NetApp-Endura +29”
9) Sylvain Chavanel (FRA) – IAM Cycling +45”
10) Dylan van Baarle (NED) – Garmin-Sharp +48”