Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers) put in a gutsy performance on stage 4 of the Tour of Britain and despite slipping out of the race lead, he promised to bounce back with an ideal sprint finish on stage 5 on the horizon.
Hayter came into the pivotal stage to the top of Great Orme with a six-second lead over his teammate Rohan Dennis but with Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) both within touching distance of the overall.
On the short but brutally tough final climb along the Welsh coastline, Hayter was put under pressure immediately on the lower slopes after an attack from Michael Woods. The Canadian dragged Alaphilippe and Van Aert with him and it looked as though Hayter was out of contention. However, the 22-year-old, who has enjoyed a breakout season and taken eight victories so far, paced himself back to the leaders with a few hundred metres to go.
At the finish, he admitted that he had caught his rivals too soon as it set up a perfectly timed counter-attack from Alaphilippe's teammate Mikkel Honoré. While Van Aert claimed the stage and race lead with the help of bonus seconds, Hayter finished in a solid fifth place and remains just two seconds adrift in the general classification.
"I wasn't blowing, I was just pacing myself," Hayter told Cyclingnews at the finish. "I could tell I was catching them and I pressed on with that, but I probably should have taken as much time as possible to do it because as soon we got there I knew Honoré was going to attack and that's what he did. I couldn't respond to that but I'm still second overall and fifth on the stage so I'm pretty happy with that.
"I expected more long-range attacks today to be honest but they didn't really happen. The climb just before the last one wasn't that hard and we were in a perfect position. It was quite an easy day until the end. No one wanted to help us at the start and the gap went out to eight or nine minutes but we knew we could bring it back and everyone did their work at the front."
Stage 5 sees the race head back into England, and the expected bunch sprint includes is on Hayter's local terrain. Home advantage might come into play – although Hayter admitted that he doesn't know the finish, but having led the bunch home on stage 2 behind breakaway winner Robin Carpenter (Rally Cycling), the British rider knows that the race is far from over.
"It's only two seconds and it can be hard to beat Van Aert but I took six seconds on stage 2 so we'll just see how the rest of the race goes," he said.
"There are loads of hard stages and there are some other guys not too far down so it could make it quite an interesting race. I'm looking forward to tomorrow. It's on some of my home roads and I'm living in Cheadle Hulme, so I know pretty much all of it apart from the last 5km, which is probably the most important 5km."
Editor in Chief - Cyclingnews.
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