Tour of Britain Stage 4: Mark Cavendish wins again and takes over race lead
Crosswinds cause havoc as Team Sky put hammer down after peloton splits on way to Blackpool
On a good day you can see the Isle of Man from the top of the Blackpool Tower, and while filthy weather today meant there was no chance of the island's most famous son, Mark Cavendish, being able to get a view of his birthplace, the world champion is walking tall after taking his second stage of the Tour of Britain in as many days in the shadow of the Lancashire resort's most famous landmark and riding into the race lead.
As a front group of fewer than 30 riders headed along the promenade and into the closing kilometre, and with leadout man Luke Rowe having shot off the front, the Team Sky rider let race leader Leigh Howard of Orica-GreenEdge slip in front of him, coming round the Australian, who finished third, to clinch victory, with Steele Vonhoff of Garmin-Sharp finishing strongly to take second.
Most of the 156km stage from Carlisle was raced in driving rain and while that may have abated as the race headed towards its conclusion, the weather remained influential strong crosswinds wreaked havoc.
A split in the peloton saw a group of riders including most of Team Sky and Endura racing as well as Rowe distance their rivals, Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins in particular putting in a massive effort to ensure there was no chance of riders who had missed the split getting back on.
That pace being set also spelt doom for the final four members of the day's breakaway, the last of whom were swept up with around 10 kilometres left to ride.
However, one man who was in the initial escape and will be happy with his day's work is Kristian House of Rapha-Condor-Costa, who managed to stretch his lead at the top of the King of the Mountains standings.
Commenting on the weather, Mark Cavendish said, “It’s good, I am used to it. Nobody enjoys it but I kind of adapt to it so it doesn’t bother me.
“We didn’t try and split it to do anything on the GC, we were just having a bit of fun really. It makes the group a bit smaller for the sprint as well. It’s still early in the race and I still have fresh legs so it’s nice for the sprint and just makes it a little bit safer.”
Despite taking the race lead, the Team Sky rider doesn’t believe he is his squads best chance of a first British Tour of Britain win.
“I won’t win it, I’ll lose it tomorrow. But hopefully we’ll win it with the team, we’ve a really strong team.
“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.”
British riders occupy three of the four jerseys, with Peter Williams keeping the Yodel Sprints Jersey, sponsored by the UK’s leading parcel delivery company Yodel, and Kristian House building his lead in the SKODA King of the Mountains Jersey, thanks to another day on the attack.
“Today was a shame there weren’t bigger hills,” said House. “I got up the road early and took all the points. But the race hasn’t really started yet; there are still a lot of Category One climbs to come so it’s still really open, at least between the guys that have got some points already.
“It’s great to have this event here and the profile has got bigger and bigger every year. Even in the weather like today you’re still getting lots of people on the sides of the roads and hopefully it will just continue to grow.”
Stage Four, Carlisle to Blackpool, 156km
1) Mark Cavendish, GBR, Team Sky, 3:51:33 2) Steele Von Hoff, AUS, Garmin - Sharp, same time 3) Leigh Howard, AUS, Orica GreenEDGE, same time 4) Boy Van Poppel, NED, UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling, same time 5) Daniel Schorn, AUT, Team NetAPP, same time 6) Russell Downing, GBR, Endura Racing, same time 7) Magnus Backstedt, GBR, Team UK Youth, same time 8) Sep Vanmarcke, BEL, Garmin - Sharp, same time 9) Rony Martias, FRA, Saur Sojasun, same time 10) Luke Rowe, GBR, Team Sky, same time 11) Peter Williams, GBR, Node4 - Giordana Racing, same time 12) Damiano Caruso, ITA, Liquigas - Cannondale, same time 13) Nathan Haas, AUS, Garmin - Sharp, same time 14) Jonathan Tiernan-Locke, GBR, Endura Racing, same time 15) Yanto Barker, GBR, Team UK Youth, same time 16) Brett Lancaster, AUS, Orica GreenEDGE, same time 17) Christopher Jones, USA, UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling, same time 18) Christian Knees, GER, Team Sky, same time 19) Bartosz Huzarski, POL, Team NetApp, same time 20) Zak Dempster, AUS, Endura Racing, + 0.09
Rouleur Combativity Award: Ronan McLaughlin, AN Post Sean Kelly
IG Gold Jersey, General Classification, after Stage Four
1) Mark Cavendish, GBR, Team Sky, 17:07:51 2) Leigh Howard, AUS, Orica GreenEDGE, + 0.06 3) Boy Van Poppel, NED, UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling + 0.14 4) Luke Rowe, GBR, Team Sky, same time 5) Rony Martias, FRA, Saur Sojasun, + 0.20 6) Steele Von Hoff, AUS, Garmin - Sharp, same time 7) Russ Downing, GBR, Endura Racing, + 0.22 8) Sep Vanmarcke, BEL, Garmin - Sharp, + 0.26 9) Nathan Haas, AUS, Garmin - Sharp, same time 10) Yanto Barker, GBR, Team UK Youth, + 0.27 11) Christian Knees, GER, Team Sky, same time 12) Jonathan Tiernan Locke, GBR, Endura Racing, same time 13) Christopher Jones, USA, UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling, same time 14) Damiano Caruso, ITA, Liquigas - Cannondale, same time 15) Brett Lancaster, AUS, Orica GreenEDGE, same time 16) Zak Dempster, AUS, Endura Racing, + 0.36 17) Bradley Wiggins, GBR, Team Sky, same time 18) Magnus Backstedt, SWE, Team UK Youth, + 0.43 19) Daniel Schorn, AUT, Team NetApp, + 1.00 20) David Lelay, FRA, Saur Sojasun, + 2:05