This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.
Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma QuickStep) won stage 4 of the Tour of Britain from Stoke-on-Trent to Llanberis. The British road race champion picked up his first win of the race, his eighth in total, with Elia Viviani (Cannondale Pro Cycling) second and Steele Von Hoff (Garmin-Sharp) third.
Cavendish paid tribute to his rival-turned-teammate Alessandro Petacchi's efforts in the final kilometre. "We’ve been rivals a lot of my career but he’s a really good guy. He’s settled in very quickly to this team. Obviously the Tour of Britain is my home race but he was a big factor in me coming here because I wanted to ride with him."
Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) retained his overall lead in the race despite his Sky team being put under pressure throughout the demanding stage into Wales.
While Cavendish took the plaudits for an excellent all-round performance from the Omega Pharma QuickStep team, there was further evidence that both Daniel Martin and Nairo Quintana have overall aspirations. Both riders accelerated on the final climb of the race with 10km to go and Wiggins, briefly unprotected, was forced to chase them down.
The stage was marked by an eleven-man group that escaped earlier in the stage.
Michael James Northey (Node 4-Giordana Racing), Iljo Keisse (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Heinrich Haussler (IAM Cycling), Marco Canola (Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox), Anthony Delaplace (Sojasun), Angel Madrazo (Movistar), Alistair Slater (Great Britain), Aaron Gate (An Post-Chainreaction), Ian Wilkinson (UK Youth), Matthias Krizek (Cannondale), Thomas Scully (Team Raleigh) were the riders who slipped clear after 16 kilometres and built up a maximum advantage of 3:50.
Eleven riders, eleven different teams, and Sky were forced to patrol the peloton from an early stage for what would be a definitive test of their six-man squaid.
Slater was the best-placed of the escapees on general classification, 2:15 down on Wiggins, and Mathew Hayman, Josh Edmondson, Bernhard Eisel and David Lopez were ever-present as they marshalled the chase.
Up ahead, Madrazo, who had already gone on the attack on stage 2, was busy collecting king of the mountains points as he beat Delaplace to the first two peaks.
As the eleven leaders edged their way to the foot of the final climb they still had a healthy two-minute buffer on the peloton. Hayman fell back, and Ian Stannard –second overall – was called into action. The Sky rider chipped away at the break’s lead and with 10km to go the gap had shrunk to 1:24.
It appeared at this point that there was still enough firepower in the first eleven to hold off the bunch and get the job done. However, Martin’s attack on the final climb changed the complexion of the stage. Quintana was quickly on the Irishman’s wheel, followed by a determined Wiggins. Within less than a hundred meters the gap was reduced to less than a minute.
On the descent the harmony that had seen the break hold off Sky’s pursuit began to fracture. Canola was the first to blink, as back in the re-grouping peloton Jack Bauer launched an attack.
On the final run-in Sky found their footing and with NetApp-Endura helping to haul the break back the entire field became one with just over 1000 meters to go.
Cue Quickstep, who had profited from Keisse’s position in the break and once Cavendish hit the front the rest of the field were fighting for second and third.