LONDON (AFP) –
Team Sky rider Mark Cavendish was victorious in a sprint finish on the fourth stage of the Tour of Great Britain in Blackpool on Wednesday, as he claimed the overall leader’s gold jersey.
Having already won Tuesday’s third stage from Jedburgh to Dumfries, the defending world road race champion started the day level with Australia’s Leigh Howard of Orica-GreenEdge atop the standings.
Cavendish was part of the peloton that eventually closed down a small breakaway group towards the end of the 156-km ride and, after being led out by Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins and Luke Rowe, the Manxman crossed the line under the city’s iconic tower just in front of Australia’s Garmin rider Steele Van Hoff.
The time bonus for winning the stage allowed Cavendish to open up a six-second lead over Howard in the general classification.
Following his victory, Cavendish hailed Wiggins, whose knowledge of the local area played a vital role in the team’s success in windy conditions.
“Bradley lives not far from Blackpool and the route included a lot of the roads he uses for training,” he said.
“He told us it was very open, and very windy, and he knew the exact place we should go on the attack. It was the perfect call.
“It was a grim day but we ploughed through and waited until that moment 22km from home to split things apart.
“On those last 5km along the front we just made it so fast that nobody else could get close to us.
“We’d expected a crosswind, but in the end it felt like a tailwind, and we were flying.”
The 27-year-old said that Sky had tried to help Rowe in his bid for overall glory until he saw Howard make his own bid for the line.
“Luke Rowe is going for the overall so we tried to let him get a bit of a gap like the other day, but then Leigh Howard jumped so I had to go with him, and then it was quite straightforward for me in the sprint,” he said.
Rowe and Boy Van Poppel of the Netherlands are both 14 seconds off the pace heading into Thursday’s fifth stage, a 147-km ride around Stoke-on-Trent.
The eight-stage race finishes in Guildford, Surrey, on Sunday.