Rapha-Condor-Recycling will target Sunday's final stage of the Tour du Loir-et-Cher after their two main overall hopes slipped on general classification yesterday.
Graham Briggs and Kristian House dropped to seventh and ninth respectively after missing the main move on stage four of the Tour du Loir-et-Cher. It was a day when bizarre tactics saw the race leader, Jos Pronk, surrender his lead.
The Dutchman, of the Krolstone team, had led since winning the opening stage but his team was put under pressure by the GLS squad.
Rapha missed the big break of the day, which contained a danger man from the GLS squad, Christofer Stevenson, but not the yellow jersey, Pronk.
Instead, Pronk's Krolstone boys had to chase, despite being represented in the break by Niels Scheuneman, because they were in danger of losing the yellow jersey.
They called on the Polish Legia team to help and although the gap came in to 50 seconds it went back out to 1-30. At that point Krolstone asked Rapha's manager John Herety to aid the pursuit.
Herety, though, felt that Krolstone should sacrifice their man in the break before asking other teams to help. "We were losing out a little but I declined, saying that they couldn't have it all. If they wanted to defend the GC they needed to bring their own rider back from the break to assist the yellow jersey."
Instead the break stayed clear and Krolstone's Scheuneman, who rode for Unibet.com last season, won the stage. Stevenson of GLS took over the lead.
"I suppose they will justify their tactics by the fact they won the stage, despite losing the yellow jersey to GLS," said Herety.
Rapha did help try to pull the break in and Herety praised Simon Holt. "He rode strongly for the team all day, got dropped, fought his way back only to hear me say 'We need you at the front again Simon'," said Herety.
Kristian House has the king of the mountains wrapped up with a day to go for Rapha and it leaves him and Briggs free to target a stage win on Sunday's final leg, 13 laps of a 7.5-kilometre circuit in Blois.
Briggs and House will also go for the time bonus seconds 41 kilometres from the end to try to leapfrog back into the top five.
Overall after four stages
1 Christofer Stevenson (GLS) in 16hr 25min 11sec
2 Eladio Sanchez (Orbea) at 12sec
3 Jos Pronk (Krolstone) at 38sec
7 Graham Briggs (Rapha) at 1-02
9 Kristian House (Rapha) at 1-02
50 Rob Partridge (Rapha) at 15-25
54 Simon Holt (Rapha) at 17-46
70 Dean Downing (Rapha) at 27-12
77 Matthew Rowe (Rapha) at 31-22
Tour du Loir-et-Cher stage three
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Sports journalist Lionel Birnie has written professionally for Sunday Times, Procycling and of course Cycling Weekly. He is also an author, publisher, and co-founder of The Cycling Podcast. His first experience covering the Tour de France came in 1999, and he has presented The Cycling Podcast with Richard Moore and Daniel Friebe since 2013. He founded Peloton Publishing in 2010 and has ghostwritten and published the autobiography of Sean Kelly, as well as a number of other sports icons.
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