Piloted by a strong Tony Martin, the 27-year-old finished 5th on the difficult stage 4 of the UK race.
A breakaway victory? A late attack? Or a bunch gallop? There were several scenarios in store for the hard stage 4 of Tour of Britain, the longest one at this edition, which saw the peloton travel from Denbigh to Builth Wells over 218 kilometers. A fast and nervous start meant it took around an hour for a break to go up the road, and when this happened, four riders managed to put some distance between them and the pack: Miguel Angel Benito (Caja Rural), Matthew Holmes (Madison Genesis), Rob Partridge (NFTO) and Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani-CSF).
Tucked away nicely in the peloton and surrounded by his Etixx – Quick-Step teammates, general classification leader Julien Vermote overcame without any trouble the 4000 meters of climbing, as the escapees were pegged back slowly but surely, despite having a steady margin of six minutes at one point.
Numerous attempts of a late attack came inside the final 30 kilometers, but the peloton reacted to each and every one, so the day finished with the expected bunch sprint. A three-time ITT World Champion, Tony Martin hit the front and brought Julien Vermote in a very good position, which allowed the Belgian to stay with the sprinters before putting his strong kick to work and getting 5th on the stage won by Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) ahead of Dan McLay (Great Britain) and Ben Swift (Team Sky). By not conceding any second on this demanding parcours, the Belgian rider of Etixx – Quick-Step made sure of retaining the yellow jersey he pulled on following his masterful display on stage 2.
"It was really a tough stage, but my team did yet another great job, pulling at the front from the beginning. Max and Lukasz controlled the breakaway, while Dan and Tony took over in the last part of the stage and did an excellent job. I am very happy for defending the yellow jersey again, especially as the stage was a tough one", said Julien, who also regained the lead in the points jersey following his top 5 placing. "The confidence is really high now, as all these results gave me a huge boost. People keep asking me of the GC, but there are still a few more hard days left and we want to take each thing at a time."
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele