Emma Pooley has moved into the lead of the Tour de l'Aude after finishing second to breakaway companion Mara Abbott in the race's fourth stage.
On a tough 97km route around Osséja in the Pyrenees, Pooley initially escaped over the day's first climb, the Col de la Calvaire, with Abbott (US National Team), Emma Johansson (Red Sun), Evelyn Stevens (HTC-Columbia) and Cervélo teammates Sharon Laws and Regina Bruins.
"Because Cervélo had three in the break, we had to do the work. We wanted to keep the gap on Vos, so we worked till 40km to go," she said.
At the foot of the next climb, Abbott pushed the pace, distancing Laws and Bruins. Over the top, Pooley attacked and got away, to be joined by Abbott a few kilometres later on the day's third and final Hors-cat climb, the Col de la Llose.
The two then rode together to the finish, where the American rider pipped Pooley for victory.
"You can't do everything," she said. "It was tricky, I had to work. I wanted to keep the gap on Evelyn Stevens and Johansson, who were about two minutes back."
Teammate and fellow Brit Sharon Laws has also moved into the top six overall after her impressive showing.
This is the culmination of several strong days for Cervélo Test Team, who won Sunday's TTT, leaving then-race leader Lizzie Armitstead after an ill-timed early puncture.
"The whole team is really strong: yesterday was probably even better [than today] because we managed to drop a lot of the climbers in the crosswinds, setting it up for today."
Abbott was among the climbers to be jettisoned yesterday, losing 2-35 to the peloton.
"There was a group of 21 yesterday and all of our team was in it. We basically forced the group by riding on the front in the crosswinds," Pooley recalled.
With five stages to race, a first British Tour de l'Aude victory is still far from certain. It could yet be one of Pooley's teammates who prevails. "We've still got a lot of riders up there on GC, so I don't really mind if it's not me that wins," she added.
Tour de l'Aude 2010: stage four, Osséja-Osséja
1. Mara Abbott (Usa) US National Team 97km in 2-41-30
2. Emma Pooley (GBr) Cervélo at same time
3. Evelyn Stevens (Usa) HTC-Columbia Women at 43secs
4. Emma Johansson (Swe) Redsun Cycling Team at 1-57
5. Sharon Laws (GBr) Cervélo at 3-05
6. Marianne Vos (Ned) Nederland Bloeit at 3-15
7. Claudia Hausler (Ger) Cervelo at same time
8. Christel Ferrier-Bruneau (Fra) Vienne Futuroscope at 3-19
9. Carla Ryan (Aus) Cervélo at 3-23
10. Katheryn Mattis (Usa) US National Team at same time
14. Lizzie Armitstead (GBr) Cervélo at 3-25
General classification after stage four
1. Emma Pooley (GBr) Cervélo 9-44-05
2. Adrie Visser (Ned) HTC-Columbia Women at 2-34
3. Loes Gunnewijk (Ned) Nederland Bloeit at 3-09
4. Emma Johansson (Swe) Redsun Cycling Team at 3-15
5. Evelyn Stevens (Usa) HTC-Columbia Women at 3-21
6. Sharon Laws (GBr) Cervélo at 3-27
7. Chantal Blaak (Ned) Leontien.nl at at 3-28
8. Regina Bruins (Ned) Cervélo at 3-31
9. Claudia Hausler (Ger) Cervélo at 3-35
10. Mara Abbott (Usa) US National Team at 3-45
19. Lizzie Armitstead (GBr) Cervélo at 5-54
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