In a typically frantic, bunched sprint for the line, Mark Cavendish surged through a group of 11 breakaway riders to claim victory in Stage 4 of the Tour of Britain.
Cavendish nosed ahead of Elia Viviani with 250 metres to go and held on for his eighth stage win at his home event, taking his seasonal tally to 17.
Not too far behind him, Sir Bradley Wiggins crossed the line in the golden jersey, maintaining his overall lead of 37 seconds, ahead of team-mate Ian Stannard.
With Stage 4 now in the books, here’s a recap of the times, the overall standings and a look ahead at what’s to come.
|1||Mark Cavendish||Omega Pharma Quick-Step||4:45:42"|
|2||Elia Viviani||Cannondale Pro Cycling||same time|
|3||Steele Von Hoff||Garmin Sharp||same time|
|4||Matteo Pelucchi||IAM Cycling||same time|
|5||Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil||Movistar||same time|
After a tough start to the Tour, especially during Stage 2, Cavendish will savour this finish as he overhauls Edvald Boasson Hagen’s previous record of seven stage wins.
The Omega Pharma Quick-Step rider reflected on this victory for the official Tour of Britain website, describing the pleasure of winning on home soil:
It's always nice to win here. It's always nice to win in front of your home crowd and I've got a good relationship with the organisers. I've seen this race grow over the last ten years, you've only got to look at the crowds in the last couple of years, it makes you proud.
To be able to do it in this jersey that represents the champion of the country. I'm very proud and very patriotic, so it's an honour for me.
Cavendish had initially appeared off the pace with 500 metres to go, but fine work from Alessandro Petacchi moved the Manx Missile into position to strike. And with 250 metres to go, the result never looked in doubt.
Following on from his fine win in the Stage 3 time trial, Wiggins remains firmly on track to secure victory in the overall standings. His finish in this stage was aided by team-mates Stannard and rookie Josh Edmondson, for whom Wiggins reserved a special mention in Ian Chadband's report in The Telegraph:
It was as tough as I thought in the cold and the wind, and the boys did an incredible job helping bring the leaders back. For a first-year pro, he’s (Edmondson) been brilliant all year. I don’t want to big him up too much but I think he potentially could be a Tour de France winner in the next ten years.
|Position||Rider||Team||Time and Deficit|
|1||Sir Bradley Wiggins||Team Sky||16:11:36|
|2||Ian Stannard||Team Sky||+00:37|
Martin Elmiger remains Wiggins' nearest challenger, for the moment, although Daniel Martin and Nairo Quintana are not out of the equation just yet. Both will fancy their chances of narrowing the lead as more and more climbs begin to appear.
Will Sir Bradley Wiggins Hold on and Win the Tour of Britain?
The course takes on several intimidating ascents from Stage 5 to Stage 7, before a flat finish in London, and Wiggins' lead is sure to come under considerable threat before that Stage 8 climax.
This domestic double was the ideal result for tournament officials, seeing their own sprint-king ride home to glory with Wiggins not far behind and with a handy overall lead still intact.
Stage 4 marked the halfway point of this spectacle, and its scenario is a result many will hope can be repeated on Sunday.