Stage four was billed as the queen stage of this year's Tour of Britain, and it lived up that title as Wout Poels of Vacansoleil finished five seconds clear of his teammate Borut Bozic to take the stage in the seaside town of Teignmouth, in Devon.
He left a shattered field behind him. In fact, the course, which took in three first category climbs, proved so hard that a large part of the field was set to finish outside the time limit and faced elimination. However, for those who did miss the cut-off it was "overlooked".
The day was catastrophic in terms of the minor placings, but did nothing to change the main contenders with Michael Albasini of HTC-Columbia holding on to the yellow jersey and increasing his time over the second place by rider by two seconds to give him a 1:28 advantage. What did change, though was the second place rider, with Greg Henderson (Team Sky) slipping to third and Richie Porte (Saxo Bank) jumping one place to be second overall.
Although the Vacansoleil rider Pouls won the stage after escaping from a small group towards the end of the 106-mile stage, it was the Irish rider Dan Martin (Garmin-Transitions) who added the dynamite to today's stage, attacking early on with Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil) and staying at the front of the race for most of the day. Once Martin had gone away, Matthew Hayman of Sky left a trio that was trying to bridge the gap and got across on his own and this group was later joined by another group of chasers to swell the numbers.
Chasing hard across rainy and mist covered Somerset, which is beautiful when you can see it, was a group of about 30 with HTC-Columbia and particularly Tony Martin again doing much of the work in the yellow jersey group, although those riders were slowed by a series of punctures. The leading group had an advantage of up to four minutes, but with the final categorised climb of the day approaching, the lead shrunk to under two minutes.
As the riders crested the final King of the Mountain climb just outside Sidmouth, there were exactly 30 miles to the finish. With 20 miles to go, Hoogerland was the leader on the road, but as the chase picked up pace, he lost his virtual jersey, although he did move up from tenth to fifth place overall.
The lead group stayed clear despite the collected efforts of HTC-Columbia and Saxo Bank, although it fragmented in the final few miles and the treacherous descent into the finish which saw Poels of the Netherlands take the win by five seconds.
The daily combativity award went to a Dan Martin, with Porte losing the King of the Mountains jersey to Hoogerland but keeping the sprint classification jersey.