Team Sky’s Wouter Poels took a superb victory on stage five of the Aviva Tour of Britain from Prudhoe to Hartside.
Poels overhauled Edvald Boasson Hagen in the last throes of the eight-kilometre hilltop finish to take the stage but Boasson Hagen hung on to take the yellow jersey ahead of Poels by a single second.
As the race rolled out of Prudhoe near Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the day’s break went almost from the gun.
Conor Dunne (An Post – Chain Reaction), Mark McNally (Madison Genesis), Michael Morkov (Tinkoff – Saxo), Pete Williams (One Pro Cycling) and Morgan Kneisky (Raleigh – GAC) formed a breakaway quintet that would last for much of the 166.2-kilometre stage.
Morkov was the only general classification danger of the five, 26 seconds behind Juan Jose Lobato of Movistar after stage four.
The break was allowed almost five minutes grace before the pursuit began, the race passing from Northumberland to the fringes of the Lake District before turning towards the Eden Valley for the finale.
As the final climb approached, Dunne and Kneisky were dropped by McNally, Morkov and Williams and with around 20 kilometres to go the remaining trio battled on towards Hartside with around two minutes advantage.
But ten kilometres later the break was up and the stage was set for a showdown on the eight-kilometre, first-category hilltop finish.
Immediately yellow jersey Lobato was shelled out of the lead group and another change of overall leader was guaranteed.
At the head of the field Great Britain Cycling Team’s Tao Geoghegan Hart rubbed shoulders with Team Sky at the head of the select group, as Team Cannondale Garmin’s Ruben Zepunkte briefly broke clear. Peter Kennaugh countered with Poels on his wheel.
Lotto NL Jumbo’s Steven Kruijswijk hit the front and behind the effort had reduced the chasing group to around a dozen, with Geoghegan Hart still in the mix.
But with four kilometres to go, Geoghegan Hart, shadowed by teammate Alex Peters, crashed, resulting in a broken rear mech, losing vital time as Poels hit the front with Edvald Boasson Hagen and Kruijswijk chasing.
Taken out 4km to go when rider came up inside & hooked my bars. @alexpeters_94 & I both in front group. Broken bike meant end of GC hopes.— Tao Geoghegan Hart (@taogeoghegan) September 10, 2015
With around 1.5 kilometres to go the trio were together, soon joined by Ruben Fernandez of Movistar. With a kilometre to go Boasson Hagen opted not to chance a four-way fight for the stage, hitting out on his own.
Victory looked assured for the Norwegian but the Team Sky man was not giving in, finding a final burst of energy to overhaul Boasson Hagen for Sky’s third stage victory.
First Briton over the line was Owain Doull in 11th, continuing his superlative ride, leaving him in fifth overall, 37 seconds off the lead. Alex Peters was a place behind Doull in 12th while JLT Condor’s Graham Briggs also held on superbly in 14th a few seconds back, the Yorkshireman’s late-season form still very much in evidence.
Geoghegan Hart came across the line in 50th, losing four minutes and 57 seconds, meaning that teammate Peters became Great Britain Cycling Team's highest placed rider, in 17th, one minute and six seconds behind the leader.
The race continues on Friday with stage six from Stoke-on-Trent via the Peak District to Nottingham.