Stage 4 Tour of Britain

Stage 4 Tour of Britain

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Stage 4 Tour of Britain

Tuesday 15 September, Blackpool to Blackpool 151.3kms/94.1 miles 

Image by Stage win number 2 for Boasson Hagen

Edvald Boasson Hagen looks more and more like a brilliant signing for the new Sky team as he cuts a swathe through the 2009 Tour of Britain, much as he did in 2008. His win in the fourth stage of the 2009 Tour of Britain was his second in succession, though for much of the day it looked like a break might succeed in staying away to the finish. However, everything came back together in the final mile or so, thanks in no small part to some impressive work by Brad Wiggins on the front of the Peloton. The final sprint also saw a big cash, which left several top riders nursing injuries.

Results (Click here for the full result sheet)

1 Boasson Hagen,Edvald Team Columbia-HTC 3h32'04"
2 Sutton,Chris Garmin-Slipstream @ s/t
3 Reimer,Martin Cervelo Test Team @ s/t
4 Downing,Russell Candi-TV-Marshalls Pasta @ s/t
5 Fernandez,Koldo Euskatel Euskadi @ s/t
6 Martin,Tony Team Columbia-HTC @ s/t
7 Dion,Renaud Ag2r La Mondiale @ s/t
8 Finetto,Mauro CSF Navigare @ s/t
9 Briggs,Graham Candi-TV-Marshalls Pasta @ s/t
10 Elliott,Malcolm Candi-TV-Marshalls Pasta @ s/t

Stage four of the 2009 Tour of Britain started and finished in the big NW coastal resort of Blackpool and took in a typically Lancastrian mixture of windswept coastal flatlands and the bleak moor and agricultural uplands of the Forest of Bowland.

This year's event has been blessed with some excellent weather and stage four kept the trend going, beginning in brilliant sunshine as the riders rolled out across the Fylde coastal plain. As usual, there were several early attacks and after some five miles a small group of six riders took off up the road. They included Halfords' Ian Wilkinson and Cervelo Test Team's Dan Lloyd and they soon had a decent gap of almost half a minute.

However, the peloton were more attentive than thus far in the event and chased hard enough to bring them all back by Cockerham, where the flatlands end and the hills on the other side of the M6 begin to loom closer.

The attacking didn't end there, though, and another break was soon forming, with Ag2r La Mondiale's Nicolas Roche (son of TdF winner Stephen), ISD-Neri's Simon Clarke and CSF Navigare's Federico Canuti the three to get away. They soon built up a lead and by the time the M6 was crossed, they were some 3 minutes clear and still going away.

Roche was probably the dangerman and the Rabobank team eventually decided that they couldn't let him have too much leeway and the began to work the main field along at a brisker pace, holding the gap under four minutes as a result. The break's cause wasn't helped by Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team's Martin Mortensen who decided to try to bridge across to them. His move seemed to further activate the main field who chased him down and further ate into the break's lead, reducing it to well under 3 minutes.

After a brief crossing of the border into North Yorkshire, the race turned southwards at High Bentham and back into Lancashire before tackling the main climbing of the day, beginning with pretty much 1000 feet of ascent up the Cross of Greet, before a short descent and then the steep Waddington Fell.

The first climb saw some fresh attacks going clear, including Geraint Thomas, Team Columbia-HTC's Maxime Monfort and Team Katusha's Vladimir Karpets and eventually they hooked up with the earlier break and a six rider  group formed. Unluckily, Thomas punctured just as he was about to join it and he was forced abck into the main bunch.

The re-energized leaders soon built up a couple of minute gap, but the main field soon cottoned on to the danger and as the race returned to the flatlands coming back into Blackpool they were rapidly reeled in, with Brad Wiggins doing some monster turns at the front as he tried to bring things back together for his team's sprinter, Chris Sutton.

Things finally came back together only a couple of km out and the emphasis changed from chase to setting up the sprinters. In the resulting bunch gallop there was a big crash, with Ian Wilkinson amongst those hurt. However, Edvald Boasson Hagen came through strongly once again to win his second successive stage, from Chris Sutton.

Ian Wilkinson, Halfords Bikehut
Today was supposed to be the stage for Ian Wilkinson as it took in some of his training roads that are close to his home in the North West but alas, he was taken out in the sprint saying that it was much more than some one taking his front wheel but rather barging into him from the side and taking him out. After hitting the ground at full speed, sliding along the tarmac on his back hurting his elbow, he said that he had a dead leg also which he couldn't feel and that was quite disturbing.

Ian WIlkinson in the break. He later fell in the sprint but was okay when British Cycling spoke to him later in the evening.

"It slowly came round and hasn't swollen up and hopefully will be alright for tomorrow. I got in a right good break at the start and we had 40 seconds at one point but it obviously wasn't to be as we got brought back before the first sprint. Then we missed the counter which was a shame. It was quite a fast race and there was a lot of good home support for me on the climb and that really motivated me and I was well up for it."

 "I was feeling pretty good. At the finish I was in the right place before I got totally wiped out. I remember Brad coming through and I thought this was mint and he's going to take us forward here before I got a full on hit from the side. I was just waiting to unleash the beast but there we go."

On how he is finding the sprints, a new thing for him at this level, he explained "you never finish a Premier Calendar on the 11 or 12 sprocket like we do here. It is a learning experience and I got a bit of an insight into it at the Tour of Ireland and that gave me the confidence to get up there. I would definitely have been top 10, top 5 for sure today. I was really up for it but there you go, that's sprinting."

Chris Sutton (2nd), Points Leader
“No strategy. We knew it was going to end up in a sprint and I wasn’t too sure how I was going to climb over those hills but Brad Wiggins has put a lot of faith and confidence in me and he said you’ll get over these climbs no worries. So I had a lot of help and support from the boys up the climbs”.

“Towards the end, I put Trent Lowe on the front to ride tempo to show everyone we were keen for the sprint. Brad couldn’t help himself and he was on the front going at 60kph an hour. Brad was sitting on the front for five or ten k at a time just sitting at 60k an hour and I was yelling at him on the radio to drop back and he finally came back after 25 k and I said mate, ‘you gotta save something for the finish’ and he was like ‘I’m not even trying hard, I’m picking my nose’ so I said alright, no worries, I’ll hold you to that and he was really good in the finish as well.”

“All the boys from Garmin Slipstream today were incredible”.

Chris Sutton is now the Points leader

“I heard the crash, it was just behind me. Before we got to a K to go we got word from one of our soigneurs that it was a headwind finish so I told Brad we had to leave it as late as possible and needed to be near the front. With a K to go, I got boxed in about 20 wheels back, and I yelled at him to go and he opened up on the right hand side, and I suppose you could call him God, or Moses, as he parted the Red sea. It opened up and Brad when straight through and took me to the front and with about 400 to go I heard this massive crash behind me.”

“It sort of baulked the sprint a bit. Edvald was on my wheel and I kept looking and looking as I had to get the jump on him and when I went to open up, he got the jump on me. I jumped on Tony Martin’s wheel and Edvald let me in. I left it too late and ran second. It was good but I want another win.”

Chris then confirmed that with an Australian team full of climbers, he doesn’t expect to be making the team for this year’s World Championships”.

Kai Reus, Yellow Jersey
“I had 11 seconds and now I have 1 second. Today was very hard and in the middle, the climbs were pretty steep and my legs were not good today. The team were very strong. It was a frustrating race for me today as I was not good and very metre was too long for me.”

“I think Boasson Hagen is the best rider in the sprint, and he is also normally good in the mountains too so we will see. Tomorrow is very short but with steep climbs. The team are okay but I wasn’t good and I am not happy today.”

Simon Clarke, Combativity Award
“When you go out in the breakway like that, you put all your eggs in the one basket and give it everything to get to the finish line ahead of the bunch. Being such a hard day today, I thought if there is any day, they just might today be too tired to pull us back and with six of us in the front, I thought if we can do everything together, we might have  chance. And we went so close to pulling it off.”

Simon Clarke gets the combativity award

“The guys who caught us were good to start with but because they had ridden so hard to catch us, in the last 20k they started to get tired. We all gave it everything to stay away. We waited for them (the three chasers) on the last climb. We didn’t want them to catch us before the last climb because they were fresher to start with and they may have ridden away. Once we knew they were coming, we said lets get over the last climb first and then we see what happens.”

“I knew whoever was coming across would three strong guys because you can’t breakaway on the hills like today without being strong.”

On his time with ISD, he says “I only joined them in August so I’m just trying to get my year back on track. I went three months without racing and I really like the team. With South who I have been riding with for four years, its a great setup where you can do amateur racing and some pro races like I have done this Tour three times before  which has given me some good experience of knowing what it is going to be like when you do turn professional. I haven’t found  it too bad and have focused on getting results.”

Rapha Condor Report by Paul Rowlands

Asked about the stage as a whole Rapha Condor's Tom Southam described a tense day of racing out on the course. “You try to be at the front all the time, it gets pretty boring, to start with they let a break go then the yellow jersey does his usual thing of stopping for a piss as soon as two guys are down the road, it’s just boring, it goes quite slow, you’re just farting around to stay in position all day which is mentally fatiguing”

Picking up on what Tom mentioned about the yellow jersey stopping the bunch for a natural break, I asked if he felt the yellow jersey was using the etiquette of the bunch (not attacking when the yellow jersey
stops) in a manipulative way to make life easier for himself “With all due respect to the guy and to his team it’s just bullshit, if he does it again people are going to want to attack”

After reeling in the break on the run in the finish of the stage saw only a small group contest the finish after a crash a 300 metres from the end. I asked a number of the riders what happened including National Champion Kristian House “It was a headwind finish, 'everyone’s a sprinter' and it must have stalled, there’s a lot of guys taking a lot of risks out there and somebody must have touched bars or overlapped wheels or something like that and people end up on the floor. It happened right in front of me, I didn’t come off, I weaved my way through a little. I don’t know who caused it”

After the first day in this years race where the climbs seem to have created gaps in the front of the race, I asked Kristian what there was to look forward to in Stoke on a stage he knows better than most, and whether todays splits were a sign of things to come:

“I imagine it is, people are starting to want to race and there are some people that don’t want to race. Some people just want to take it easy and race hard at the end and have it be a bunch kick but I’m sure it’ll start breaking up. Tomorrow’s a hard day as well, the next three days are pretty hard so I’m sure it (a split) will happen. It’s just a question of making sure you’re in it. I’m looking forward to the race actually happening, that’s about as much as I’m looking forward to”

British Cycling is the only media with a photographer on a motorbike covering the whole race. Here are the exclusive photos of the fourth stage. Our thanks to NEG (Wales) pilot Graham Harper for his help in getting these photos.

CandiTV riders relax before the stage

Team managers get the maps out

Rabobank riders test the radios

Neutralised section

First attack by an AG2R rider

More attacks follow as they follow the TV bike around

King of the Mountains De Gendt makes a move followed by Kristian House

British champion Kristian then has a go himself

Graham Briggs has a dig as the bunch is lined out

Ben Swift has a dig. He had a bad day with a broken wheel costing him 15 minutes

Break of six gets away with Ian WIlkinson and Dan Lloyd

The chase behind was full on

Time is almost up for the break with Ian WIlkinson and Dan Lloyd

Simon Clarke gives it full gas as he tries to get away

Once the break was established, Clarke won the first sprint

Onto the first KOM and the sun is out

And Geraint Thomas launches a counter attack

Geraint then suffers a puncture and slips back.

The three chasers then pursue the break

The junction about to be made

The six leaders speed through a village enroute to Blackpool

Bradley Wiggins drilling it at the front to bring the break back.

Cervelo team also help out in the chase

But the break wasn't giving up without a fight and Clarke here grits his teeth and fights to stay clear.

Into the last five kilometres and the break are only a few hundred metres from being caught

A K to go and a Agritubel rider launches a final attack before the bunch sprint

A second victory for Sky's new signing Edvald Boasson Hagen

De Gendt still has two jerseys despite coming in way down on the leaders.

Yellow jersey Kai Reus