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Tour of Britain 2016: Stage 4

 Welcome to stage 4 of the 2016 Tour of Britain. Today is the longest stage of the race, 218km from Denbigh in North Wales to Builth Wells in Powys.

 The weather looks perfect for bike racing: plenty of sun, some light cloud and highs of 23C, so similar to yesterday.

On the menu today are three intermediate sprints, three KOM primes and a tough undulating course between.

 

Sky's Ian Stannard romped away with the win yesterday after getting in the break as the flag went down. He rode the last 40km solo on what was chalked down as a day for the sprinters. But this is the Tour of Britain, where the parcours is tough and the teams small. Forecasting how a ToB stage will pan out is often a futile exercise. 

 

It's just under 10 minutes until they roll out (then there's 7.8km of neutral road), so why not read Daniel Benson's story on why the sprinter's squads lost out yesterday here.

 

Stage 4 is now underway. 

 

 

Giacomo Nizzolo, (Trek Segafredo) was the only non-starter this morning.

 

Nizzolo, the Italian Champion crashed yesterday and he suffered a small fracture in his elbow, the team reported.  

And the flag has dropped. We're really off. 

 

It's an active start today, but the break it still to form.

 

Phil West, sports director at One Pro Cycling said of today’s stage: “There’s more than 4,000m of climbing. It’s unrelenting. With the neutral zone it’s like 225km so a lot of people’s legs are going to fall off at 180km.” He said he expected some changes to the GC to happen today.

 

We've had a very fast start and the break is still to form. 

 

We're only a couple of kilometres away from the first intermediate sprint, so expect a tussle between AN-Post and Lotto-Soudal: Bovenhuis and Greipel are tied on 9 points apiece. 

 

We spoke too soon... a small break is forging clear. We await details. 

 

And that break has been re-absorbed. 

 

Looks like a couple of riders tried to use the lull just after the sprint to go clear. We're awaiting details. 

 

We're approaching the first categorised climb of Rhydtalog: 6km at 3 percent.    

 

Bovenhuis took the first intermediate sprint back there: 1. Bovenhuis (AnPost), 2. Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal, 3. Swift (Sky).   

 

Looks like there are some tired legs out there already. Riders are being dropped on Rhydtalog and we have a lone leader and a single chaser. Names aren't forthcoming yet. 

 

Results from the first KoM:  1. Roche (Sky), 2. Meurisse (Wanty) 3. Thurau (Wanty) 

 

Meurisse (Wanty) did have a point lead over Sky's Roche in the KoM competition, but they're equal again and pulling away from the rest in that competition. 

Here we go. We've got a break. Four riders and a healthy 3:40 gap. Signal is sparse in some parts of Wales. It's part of the charm. 

 

Those riders are: Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani-CSF), Matt Holmes (Madison-Genesis), Rob Partridge (NFTO) and Benito Diez (Caja Rural)

 

Away from the ToB, the Vuelta peloton are in for a hell of a day today. Alasdair Fotheringham looks at the Vuelta's first ascent of Mas de la Costa near Valencia. "Hell starts here' someone has gleefully written at the foot of the climb. Read about it here  

 

Meanwhile the gap hold steady at 3:10. 

 

Actually it's going out a little, closer to four minutes now, as the break prepares to climb Bwlch-y-Safn. 

 

There's plenty of support out for the riders on Bwlch-y-Safan. Tonelli leads the front group towards the summit

 

The status quo in the race is maintained with the gap going out slightly to 5:30.  

At the Cat 2 KoM sprint that just passed, the break hoovered up the big points, leaving Meurisse and Roche to battle for the minor places. Muerisse  got the better of Roche and reclaimed a slim outright lead n the competition.  

The peloton is just going through the feedzone at 106km to go. No drama. 

 

The composition of the break isn't overly threatening to the overall. Number 92 in the break, Miguel Diez is the virtual leader, however. He's in 30th at 4:59 behind Vermote.    

 

Matt Holmes the Madison-Genesis rider is  7:19 behind in 64th. Alessandro Tonelli, is 16:31 down and the final member of the break,  Robert Partridge, who's Welsh, so on home roads, is 13:34 back.   

Meanwhile back in the peloton Maximiliano Richeze of Etixx-QuickStep leads them into the climb.

 

 

All riders are on the final categorised climb of Dyfnant

 

But not for long as the break enjoys the sweeping  descent towards the sprint at Foel at 122km.  

 

Marco Marcato (Wanty) just took off to hoover up some of the points available  on Dyfnant and that should keep the jersey with his team-mate Meurisse tonight. 

 

And at the sprint Foel, Tonelli (Bardiani) took maximum points. 

 

Our latest podcast is up, and the team talk ToB and all the action at the Vuelta, which was turned on it's head on Sunday when Contador and Quintana attacked Froome from the gun on the stage to Formigal. Give it a listen.  

Etixx have been the primary agent at the head of the pursuit. No surprise given they've got two riders in the top 3. However, Dimension Data are ready to step into the breach on behlaf of Stephen Cummings. They're starting to collect near the front. 

Racing for GC is not a situation current yellow jersey, Julien  Vermote is used to. He's usually an all day diesel working on behalf of Etixx's array of leaders. As they say, a change is as good as a holiday. 

Second on GC, Stephen Cummings has raced for overall before and been pretty good - he was second on GC at this very race in 2011. He doesn't really like it. He's said he finds it boring and much prefers  what he's become known for: rare but astute tactical attacks that often as not lead to stage victories. Just so happens that his astuteness has put him in a strong position for this GC. 

 

 

The gap has just dropped below 5:00 minutes. After yesterday's hiatus from the sprinters' team it should be business as usual today. 

 

Orica-Bike Exchange contribute Michael Hepburn to the peloton's pursuit. The team pursuit silver medallist will probably welcome the reprieve from all the sledging he's surely taken from the gold medallists Owain Doull and Bradley Wiggins.  

At the back of the bunch, Wiggins talks to Mark Stewart, one of the young British Cycling Academy riders who's part of the Great Britain composite team here.    

 

The gap continues to fall to just above 4:00 as Lotto-Soudal dispatch men to help with the chase. 

 

The riders have been treated to some gentle roads but the next 35km are a lot more gnarly. The escapees' alliance will probably dissolve soon. I wonder what time gap the strongest rider in the group will have in mind to play his hand? 

 

One of today's jersey's is confirmed. Wanty's Xandro Meurisse will keep the climbers' jersey. 

 

57km remaining from 217km

As we dip under 60km to go: a recap. Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani), Rob Partridge (NFTO), Matt Holmes (Madison-Genesis)  and Miguel Ángel Benito (Caja Rural) lead the peloton by 3:00. Cannondale lead the bunch. 

 

We're on some narrow roads here. Lovely vistas though. Wales is great.  

 

Cannondale are absolutely hammering it now. And Tonelli (Bardiani) has attacked from the break. There's only a 2:00 gap back to the peloton.  

 

Jack Bauer (Cannodale) leads the peloton. He's tracked closely by an array of sprinters, but are the lime green team cooking something up? They've pulled improbable moves before in the ToB... 

 

Tonelli's gap to the break goes out to 30 seconds. And it's 2:10 to the peloton. 

 

51km remaining from 217km

Stannard (Sky) now leads the peloton. The efforts of yesterday to take the win a distant memory.  

 

The peloton have brought the gap right down to 1:53 to leader Tonelli who is 40 seconds ahead of Partridge, Holmes and Diez. The race it definitely on now. 

 

 

Here we go, Giovanni Visconti, Gorka Izaguirre (Movistar) Marco Marcato (Wanty), Jochem Hoekstra (Giant) and have gone clear of the peloton

 

they're about to pick up Diez and Holmes

 

Tony Martin is pegging back the attack. 

 

Only Tonelli is out ahead now. 

 

His gap is small. Only 18 seconds. 

 

And Benito Diez, who was part of the day's break is dangling off the front with a 10 second gap. 

 

This is going to come back together. With 40km to go over some tough terrain, anything could happen.  

 

Tonelli, hands on hoods, calls it quits.

 

And Jonathan McEvoy immediately attacks on a small rise.

 

He's an NFTO man. 

 

The peloton is intent and McEvoy's swept up straight away.  

 

Sky have been an agitating force at the front of the group. Danny Van Poppel showed admirable commitment yesterday to contests the sprint for minor placings and finished fifth. If Sky can shake out some of the faster but less durable sprinters on this rolling terrain he could secure another decent placing. 

 

Ewan (Orica-Bike Exchange) we're hear hearing has been dropped by the peloton. 

 

It's Bauer (Cannodale) and Poels (Sky) who are causing the sprinters problems.

 

And Cavendish has been dropped according to Race Radio. 

 

Poels is stretching the peloton right out. 

 

and Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal) makes an attack

 

the group is fracturing in pursuit of Gallopin as Roche gets everything in control again. 

 

Now Roche goes, taking Gallopin and Dan Martin joins. 

 

That's brought back and Swift tries to make an opportunity out of trying circumstances.   

 

Now Van Baarle's gone but that little group is broguht back.  

 

Now Langeveld of Cannondale has ago and is on his own with a few seconds and the chase gets organised. 

 

Cummings is just hanging onto this lead group. 

 

Vermote's not there. We'll confirm that when the camera sweeps through the group again.  

 

Correction, Vermote is there. 

 

We've still got a group of about 50 chasing Langeveld at 7 seconds. 

 

Quick Step are at the front of the peloton in good numbers as Visconti tries to get away. Not happening, not with Poels on the front. 

 

There's been a regrouping and the peloton doubles in size.  

 

Langeveld sits up. 

 

We'll do a roll call of the sprinters who were dropped. Greipel's definitely back. He returned with bottles. 

 

A moment of calm with 25km to go. The riders will shortly be in Rhayader, which isn’t a bad place to be on the lookout for the red kite. We’re not talking the flamme rouge variety, but the ornithological: RSPB Carngafallt is just down the road.

 

After that flurry of excitement, it might yet boil down to a bunch sprint. Before then, we've got an intermediate sprint at 210km.

 

Spoke to soon. It's kicked off again and 20 riders have gone clear, led by Tony Martin. 

 

It's fast and furious now

 

It's constant skirmishing at the front of a group which is about 60 strong.  

Hoekstra, Giant-Alpecin's trainee has a go now and the peloton relent for now.  

 

Cavendish is doing through and off in a group behind the main peloton.  Unlikely he'll get back.  

 

Hoekstra has been a man on a mission. He was in the break on stage 1, and has been active in the latter stages of today. Clearly going well. He's got 12 seconds. 

 

We're on big roads now. Lotto Soudal have large numbers here to set up Greipel.  

 

Hoekstra's lead is cut 6 seconds

 

Cavendish's group is 500m behind. So Lotto Soudal and Lotto NL Jumbo will have to keep the pace really high here to keep him out the game. 

 

Lotto Soudal have sewn this up. The whole team is here. Behind them is a block of LottoNL-Jumbo working for Dylan Groenewegen. 

 

A quick look at the finish. It's technical. In the last kilometre, theres a 90-degree left-hander followed by a 90-degree right-hander. Two more sweeping left-handers followed by a final 90-degree left hander and the riders are in the final  straight.   

 

Now LottoNL-Jumbo lead at the front while Bardiani rider Zardini attacks at 6km to go 

 

He's joined by Visconti and Taylor Phinney at 5km to go. 

 

That break came to nothing and LottoNL reinstate some order. 

 

Lotto-Soudal are back in control at 3km to go.

 

Dan McLay, Dylan Groenewegen, Andre Greipel are all lining up  as they approach the technical finale 

Tony Martin pulls Vermote to the front under the flamme rouge. 

 

Groenewegen is second wheel through this technical section.  mclay's also there

 

Groenewegen takes it, just. Swift went slightly wide in the final left-hander allowing McLay  to come up the inside. Swift took third.  

 

Lotto-Soudal won't be thrilled with that. They did a lot of work in the last 20km and Greipel was well down going into the first left hander. Didn't even make the top 10. 

 

We're awaiting confirmation, but Cummings might have been gapped by Vermote who finished 5th. 

 

Here's the stage top 10: 

1 Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo
2 Daniel Mclay (GBr) Fortuneo - Vital Concept
3 Ben Swift (GBr) Team Sky
4 Carlos Barbero (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
5 Julien Vermote (Bel) Etixx - Quick-Step
6 Boy Van Poppel (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
7 Luka Mezgec (Slo) Orica-BikeExchange
8 Nicolas Vereecken (Bel) An Post-Chainreaction
9 Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin
10 Diego Rubio (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA

 

That's Groenewegen's ninth win of the year and his second in the UK (he won stage 1 of the Tour of Yorkshire). 

 

And here's the top 10 on GC as it stands after stage 4: 

1. Julien Vermote (Bel) Etixx-QuickStep in 18-22-04
2. Stephen Cummings (GBr) Dimension Data at 6 secs
3. Ben Swift (GBr) Team Sky at 1-03
4. Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto-Soudal at 1-03
5. Daniel Martin (Irl) Etixx-QuickStep at 1-04
6. Xandro Meurisse (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert at 1-08
7. Dylan van Baarle (Ned) Cannondale-Drapac at 1-12
8. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Giant-Alpecin at 1-12
9. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Wanty-Groupe Gobert at 1-12
10. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Sky at 1-16

 

AN-Post's Jasper Bovenhuis has moved back into the intermediate sprints jersey after it rested with Andre Greipel.  

 

Wanty-Groupe Gobert's Xandro Meurisse extended his slim lead in the KoM competition. 

 

Tomorrow's 194.5km stage takes the riders from Aberdare over the border to Bath. It's another lumpy day. 

 

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