British road champion Mark Cavendish won stage four of the Tour of Britain, taking a dramatic bunch sprint into Llanberis at the foot of Snowdon.
Above: Mark Cavendish celebrates his eighth Tour of Britain stage win, making him the most prolific stage winner in the modern race's history.
The stage saw a breakaway forming in the early stages as the race headed out from Stoke on Trent towards the Welsh border.
At first seven men broke clear, followed by another four, coalescing to form an 11 man supergroup comprising Mike Northey (Node 4 Giordana Racing), Iljo Keisse (Omega Pharma Quick Step), Heinrich Haussler (IAM Cycling), Marco Canola (Bardiani Valvole CSF Inox), Antony Delaplace (Sojasun), Angel Madrazo Ruiz (Movistar), Alistair Slater (Great Britain), Aaron Gate (AN Post Chain Reaction), Ian Wilkinson (Team UK Youth), Mattias Krizek (Cannondale), and Tom Scully (Team Raleigh)
The eleven riders worked well together staying away over the day’s categorised climbs of Groes and Llansannon. Best placed rider in the break was Great Britain under 23 Alistair Slater (@ 2'15"), whose presence became a threat to race leader Sir Bradley Wiggins. The breakaway lead extended to almost four minutes at one point but the concerted day long effort from Team Sky meant that the catch finally looked on the cards on the approach to the final climb of the day at Pen y Pass with just 10km to go.
Onto the final climb and attacks from Dan Martin and Nairo Quintana toward the summit provoked a reaction from the peloton which quickly decimated the breakaway lead.
Jack Bauer, Martin’s teammate and third on general classification, tried to break clear on the descent towards Llanberis and catch the breakaway but it was shortlived and ultimately fruitless.
Up ahead, Mike Northey and then Iljo Keisse tried to solo to victory but in the end the break was swept up. Into the finishing straight and Cavendish, supported by veteran sprinter and teammate Alessandro Petacchi, leapt from wheel to wheel and powered ahead to take the win from stage one winner Elia Viviani of Cannondale, with Steele Van Hoff of Garmin Sharp narrowly avoiding calamity and crossing the line in third.
Following the race, a delighted Cavendish, who was celebrating his first win of the 2013 edition and his eighth overall spoke to ITV4:
“If was a fast finish but I'm really happy. We spoke to Team Sky, they didn't want it [the break] to come back. There's still a couple more sprints to go.”
Cavendish's stage win moves him into third in the points classification behind Elia Viviani and Gerard Ciolek.
Overall leader Sir Bradley Wiggins finished safely in the bunch to maintain his grasp on the IG leader's jersey. After the stage Wiggins praised his team's efforts:
"It was as tough as I thought it was going to be, with the tough weather and the wind,” said Wiggins afterwards. "It always looks different on the tele, but the boys, to keep that gap down to 3:50 all the way, did an incredible job and then if we knew it was going to come back as easy as it did in the last 10, 15k, then perhaps we should have left it a bit more.
"I never look forward to the day after a time trial, the change of bike and stuff. But today I felt good. I'm glad it's out of the way though and we've had another day back on the road bike. Tomorrow's another day though, an important day.
"I think the race will be decided on the two laps. I looked at this stage last week, so it's going to be another tough day tomorrow, probably the toughest really because of that finish circuit.”
Stage 4 - Result
1 Mark Cavendish Omega Pharma Quick-Step 4h 45' 42''
2 Elia Viviani Cannondale st
3 Steele Von Hoff Garmin Sharp st
General classification after Stage 4
1 Sir Bradley Wiggins Sky Procycling 16h 11' 36''
2 Ian Stannard Sky Procycling 0' 37''
3 Martin Elmiger IAM Cycling 0' 47''