Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) won stage 4 at the Tour de Suisse on Tuesday.
The British rider out-sprinted a group of fast men, including Peter Sagan (Cannondale), to capture victory in the 160-kilometer stage from Heiden to Ossingen. Juan Jose Lobato (Movistar) was second and Sagan took third.
Tony Martin (Omega Pharma) remains in the overall race lead, as he holds a 6-second gap over Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Shimano) and a 10-second advantage over Sagan.
Cavendish, Lobato, and Sagan were part of a group of sprinters and leadout men at the front of the race with 500 meters left. Cavendish was fifth in line, with Sagan and Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida) bumping shoulders as they fought for position on Cavendish’s wheel.
With a little more than 200 meters left, Sagan pulled around the right side of the group and began his finishing sprint. Cavendish and Modolo went left, but it appeared Sagan had the legs to beat Cavendish. With 100 meters remaining, however, Cavendish found another gear and exploded ahead of everyone else.
Cavendish and Sagan shook hands as they coasted after the finish line. Minutes later, in the tent near the podium, TV cameras caught Cavendish shaking hands with Sagan and saying, “That was hard, eh?”
Cavendish described his victory in a TV interview.
“It was a headwind finish, and very chaotic in the peloton,” Cavendish said. “A lot of teams were trying to get it right. My team worked really hard to chase down the breakaway and stay in the front the entire day to protect me, they were really committed. Then, I followed Mark Renshaw in the final and Mark was incredible. He led me through the peloton, and put me in the position to lead it out. It was a headwind and uphill finish, so it was really about timing your sprint perfectly. I knew I had to go between 200 meters and 150 meters to go. So, I waited, and even though the others jumped before I still went at the right time. I was able to hold on until the finish. My main competitors of the Tour de France aren’t here with the exception of Sagan, who will go for the green jersey but maybe isn’t a pure sprinter. But still, a win like this gives me confidence. I also have to thank my teammates today for taking care of me and then guiding me to the front at the right moment in the end. I’m proud of the guys and am happy to finish off their effort. We also kept the jersey with Tony so it’s a perfect day for the team.”
Wiggins, others crash
A crash during an 8km neutralized section at the beginning of the stage saw a few riders hit the pavement. Jelle Vanendert (Lotto-Belisol) abandoned the race with injuries to his left knee and elbow.
Later in the race, as the peloton crossed the finish line at the start of the final 28km circuit, Bradley Wiggins (Sky) and another rider from CCC Polstat crashed along the fencing lining the road. Both seemed to be in pain and were grimacing as they gingerly stood up.
Wiggins, who spent much of the stage riding at the back of the peloton, re-mounted his bike and started soft pedaling, the affects of the crash clear. Minutes later, Sky posted this update on Twitter: “Sir Bradley Wiggins has crashed at the #TourDeSuisse. He took a bang to his right leg but he’s back on his bike. 24.5km to go.”
Laurens De Vreese (Wanty Groupe Gobert) and Daniel Teklehaimanot (MTN-Qhubeka) broke free of the peloton early in the stage and quickly built a lead of 3:00. Their advantage eventually grew to about 4:00 with 99km left, at which point it began slowly falling.
After the start of the final finishing circuit, the pair’s advantage was down to 57 seconds. At 16.5km remaining, it was below 10 seconds. The peloton then stalled, seemingly to allow the pair to fight for the KOM points on the final Cat. 4 climb. On the ensuing descent, De Vreese and Teklehaimanot did everything they could to remain out front.
But the effort was short-lived. Right before the 10km to go mark, the catch was made. Soon after that, the two former stage leaders were spit out the back as the peloton upped the pace ahead of the sprint finish.
The nine-day race continues with Wednesday’s 184km stage 5.