Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) won stage 4 of the Tour of Britain on a steep climb to the finish in Bristol, punching his way into the overall race lead.
After riding in the break for most of the 184.6-kilometer stage that started in Worcester, a breakaway trio of Peter Velits (BMC), Albert Timmer (Giant-Shimano), and Lasse Norman Hansen (Garmin-Sharp) tried to stay away on the final climb up Bridge Valley Road.
Timmer made a convincing effort, counterattacking after Velits had a go.
Then, it seemed that Garmin-Sharp’s Jack Bauer might have a shot, as he bridged to Timmer at the crest of the climb.
However, Kwiatkowski came storming up from behind to seal the deal in the final sprint, winning the day and taking the overall lead.
“It looked like it, but I didn’t actually come from nowhere,” Kwiatkowski said. “It wasn’t a classic sprint, to be sure. There was a hard climb at the end, and the attack from Nicholas Roche (Tinkoff-Saxo) out of the peloton was really impressive. A few guys were able to follow his attack and chase the breakaway.
“We had in front of us two guys, and I think they didn’t see us before the last corner. They were looking back and didn’t expect us to come. I started my sprint at the last corner and was sure no one was on my wheel.”
The Omega Pharma-Quick Step rider now leads GC by three seconds over yesterday’s winner Edoardo Zardini (Bardiani). Dylan Teuns is third, 14 seconds behind.
Early in the stage, a breakaway of nine riders got away and soon created a large advantage — as much as five minutes at times.
Their gap slowly began to fall, starting at around 75 kilometers to go. Inside of 20 kilometers to go, the peloton was quickly gaining ground.
Alex Dowsett (Movistar) was involved in the break but suffered a setback when a double puncture saw him fall back to the main bunch.
Velits attacked the breakaway with 8.3km left.
He was followed by Timmer and Hansen.
Inside the final kilometers, the trio held to a lead of around one minute, but it soon fell to 48 seconds with five kilometers left.
Omega Pharma-Quick Step and IAM Cycling made pace in the field. Then, Sky took over at the front of the chase.
Kwiatkowski quick on final climb
Velits attacked again on the start of the final climb, right after a hairpin corner with 2.8km left, but his breakaway companions marked the move.
Timmer then counterattacked on the steepening grade, sensing the peloton was close.
The Giant-Shimano rider soon had a small gap.
Back in the field, Bauer made his move, then Nicholas Roche (Tinkoff-Saxo) chased after him, both trying to overhaul the leaders on the final climb.
Bauer caught Timmer with 1.6km left as the climb eased. He sat on the Giant-Shimano rider’s wheel, then pulled through to drive the pace. The duo rode into the final kilometer together with Roche chasing, a few seconds behind.
Timmer came around Bauer on the inside of the final right corner to open up the sprint. However, Bauer could not make the jump around the Giant-Shimano rider.
In the final few hundred meters, Kwiatkowski, who had hitched a ride with a few others, bridged the small gap and blasted past the two leaders to win.
Timmer finished second, and Teuns was third.
“I was not so fresh like yesterday, but I felt pretty good,” Teuns said. “I felt the effort from yesterday but I also felt I was good on the climbs again today. We closed the gap to Nicholas Roche but then Kwiatkowski did not want to ride and I did not want to ride. Then it became a sprint really early — at 300 meters — because it was a false flat from one kilometer to 300 meters and then a little bit up.”
“I will now enjoy this victory, and my race leadership, and we will plan for the next days,” said Kwiatkowski. “We’ve got a really strong team here and we will keep fighting. For now, I want to thank my teammates for taking such good care of me today and we will see what we can do day-by-day. We’ve already won two stages, which has really boosted the morale.”