World champion Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) won the fourth stage of the 2011 Tour of Britain in Caerphilly, Wales, on Wednesday.
The Norwegian was one of around 25 riders to make a final selection on the climb of Caerphilly Mountain before the race dropped into the finish.
Lars Boom (Rabobank) finished in second on the stage to keep the overall lead. Italian Cesare Benedetti (NetApp) finished third.
Boom now lies 12 seconds ahead of Geraint Thomas (Sky) in the general classification, with Boy van Poppel (UnitedHealthcare) in third at 14 seconds.
Day-long escape in Wales
Kristian House (Rapha Condor Sharp), Pieter Ghyllebert (An Post) and Jack Bauer (Endura Racing) launched an early attack just outside Welshpool. The trio quickly accelerated away from the peloton to build up a sizeable gap, reaching over five minutes at its peak.
Having started the stage 4-12 down on race leader Lars Boom (Rabobank), House became virtual leader on the road.
Rabobank and Sky shared duties at the front of the bunch, and the escapee’s advantage started to dwindle significantly in the final 50km.
As the race passed the 20km-to-go marker, Sky started to take matters more seriously, noticeably increasing the speed of the bunch. With 15km to go, and the final first category climb of Caerphilly Mountain looming, the lead trio’s advantage was less than a minute.
House launched one last attack just as the bunch were about to catch the break, but the efforts of the day out in front had taken their toll and he was quickly caught to bring the bunch back together.
Sky’s Steve Cummings attacked first, with Jonathan Tiernan-Locke (Rapha Condor Sharp) following. The steep gradient started to shatter the bunch behind them as Sky and Rabobank continued to set a sharp pace, eventually catching Cummings and Tiernan-Locke.
A group of around 25 riders formed up front on the descent to the finish and it was world champion Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) who launched himself to the line to take an emphatic win in Wales.
Stage one winner Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) finished in a third group, 31 seconds behind Hushovd.
Jersey classification battles hot up
Yodel sprints classification leader Ghyllebert – who had earned the jersey after being in a break on stage one – took all three intermediate sprints during the day, cementing his position at the top of the sprints table.
Russell Hampton (Sigma Sport-Specialized) continued to fight for his lead in King of the Mountains classification, launching at attack on the first category climb in the Brecon Beacons, the highest point of the 2011 race.
Hampton was followed closely by Tiernan-Locke, who started the stage just behind Hampton in the KoM competition after some aggressive riding the previous day in Stoke. Tiernan-Locke then took the final KoM of the day atop Caerphilly Mountain but Hampton retained the jersey.
After three top-ten finishes so far, Boom took over the lead in the points classification from Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad).
On Thursday, the riders take on the first of two West Country stages, a 180.3km meander from Exeter to Exmouth in Devon that includes a tough section in Dartmoor with three categorised climbs. The race concludes in London on Sunday, September 18.
Tour of Britain 2011, stage four: Welshpool to Caerphilly, 183.7km
1. Thor Hushovd (Nor) Garmin-Cervelo
2. Lars Boom (Ned) Rabobank
3. Cesare Benedetti (Ita) NetApp
4. Ian Bibby (GB) Motorpoint
5. Boy van Poppel (Ned) UnitedHealthcare
6. Jan Barta (Cze) NetApp
7. Stijn Neirynck (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen
8. Leopold Koenig (Cze) NetApp
9. Iker Camano (Spa) Endura Racing
10. Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Leopard-Trek all same time
Overall classification after stage four
1. Lars Boom (Ned) Rabobank in 12-36-51
2. Geraint Thomas (GB) Sky at 12 secs
3. Boy van Poppel (Ned) UnitedHealthcare at 14 secs
4. Ian Bibby (GB) Motorpoint at 19 secs
5. Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Leopard-Trek at 19 secs
6. Daniel Lloyd (GB) Garmin-Cervelo at 19 secs
7. Stephen Cummings (GB) Sky at 19 secs
8. Jan-Bert Lindeman (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM at 19 secs
9. Jan Barta (Cze) NetApp at 19 secs
10. Jelle Wallays (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen at 19 secs
Jonathan Tiernan-Locke is first to the top of Caerphilly Mountain, pursued by Steve Cummings
Bernhard Eisel shouts encouragement to Sky’s Alex Dowsett on Caerphilly Mountain
Lars Boom and Geraint Thomas on Caerphilly Mountain
Stage winner Thor Hushovd celebrates
Lars Boom extended his race lead
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Tour of Britain 2011: Photo galleries
By Andy Jones
Stage four photo gallery
Stage three photo gallery
Stage two photo gallery
Stage one photo gallery
Tour of Britain 2011: Press conference photo gallery
Tour of Britain 2011: Riders warm up photo gallery
Tour of Britain 2011: Start list
Tour of Britain 2011: Provisional start list
Tour of Britain 2011: TV guide
Tour of Britain 2011: ITV4 TV schedule