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As the Ras reached the halfway stage in Tralee on Wednesday evening it couldn?t be closer ? David McCann and Chris Newton are tied on time overall.

The leader this morning, Mark Cassidy of the An Post team, crashed heavily during the stage. He tried to continue for around 20 kilometres before the pain became too much and he reluctantly climbed off in tears with a suspected fractured elbow.

While Cassidy was down and in obvious pain the race was neutralised by the other leading teams.

At the finish, there was more drama. Chris Newton (Stena-Rapha-Condor-Recycling) was part of the decisive five-man move until he punctured two kilometres from the line. It denied him a second consecutive stage win.

Tuesday?s runner-up McCann, riding for Ireland, went on to attack and win in Tralee by two seconds ahead of the remaining members of the break.

Newton crossed the line a minute later, in 50th place, but because his puncture happened in the last three kilometres he was credited with the same time as the remnants of the group. It meant he conceded two seconds to McCann overall. The pair are level on time.

So McCann takes the yellow jersey courtesy of his better stage placings so far and Newton will curse the fact that the puncture not only cost him the chance of another stage win but 50th place on the stage also hampers his bid for a third overall victory.

He will have to make up time in the remaining four stages or hope he can somehow gain the 15 places he trails McCann on the daily stage finishing positions.

As Stena-Rapha-Condor-Recycling manager John Herety said: ?If I were McCann I?d follow Chris everywhere because he knows if he keeps him in sight he can win it.?

But with four riders within ten seconds of the overall lead and a total of 20 riders within two minutes, McCann knows he?ll have to watch more than just Newton.

Rapha will try to dislodge McCann over the coming days. The British team hold the points jersey (Dean Downing), the king of the mountains jersey (Newton), and lead the under-23 competition (Dale Appleby) and team classification.

But Herety is prepared to make sacrifices in order to win the race overall.

Read Cycling Weekly's report of Wednesday's stage four here

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If McCann fails to take any more time from Newton, the race could be decided by the two riders' stage placings. Just 15 places separate them when totting up their finishes so far.

David McCann?s stage placings so far

Stage 1: 44

Stage 2: 42

Stage 3: 2

Stage 4: 1

Total: 89

Chris Newton?s stage placings so far

Stage 1: 24

Stage 2: 39

Stage 3: 1

Stage 4: 50

Total: 104


Stage four report: McCann wins, Newton punctures, yellow jersey Cassidy crashes out

Reaction: Chris Newton on his stage win

Stage three report: Newton takes the stage

Stage two report: Dean Downing beats Evan Oliphant at the finish

Stage one report: Isle of Man's Hanson wins Ras first stage

2008 FBD Insurance Ras preview

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