Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) won stage four of the Tour of Britain, holding off Elia Viviani (Team Sky), Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin), and Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) in another tight bunch sprint finish.
Gaviria has been fairly quiet so far in the Tour of Britain but delivered on an excellent lead-out effort by team-mate Maximiliano Richeze on the stage to Newark-on-Trent.
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All of the sprinters’ teams had to work hard to chase down a strong break featuring mostly British domestic teams which survived until three kilometres to go, before the lead-out men moved to the front under the flamme rouge.
Richeze was Gaviria’s last man, putting the Colombian in a perfect position before inadvertently getting in the way of double stage winner and race leader Caleb Ewan (Orica-Scott) as he dropped back after doing his turn.
Ewan out of contention, Gaviria still had work to do, but was able to hold off the accelerations of Viviani, Groenewegen and Kristoff to take his first win since the Giro d’Italia in May.
As for Viviani, he still had reason to celebrate as he moved back into the race lead after Ewan finished outside the top 10.
How it happened
The opening few kilometres of stage four of the 2017 Tour of Britain saw aggressive racing as the domestic teams fought to make the break, but with a few of the bigger teams getting involved too.
Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) and Laurens de Plus (Quick-Step Floors) were two of the riders from WorldTour teams looking to get away early, but when the break was established it was made up entirely of smaller outfits.
In the move were Jacob Scott (An Post-Chain Reaction), Alistair Slater (JLT Condor), Mark McNally (Wanty-Groupe Gobert, and Alexandre Blain and Richard Handley (Madison Genesis), who established a gap of two minutes before James Lowsley Williams (Bike Channel-Canyon) and Bryan Lewis (Cylance Pro Cycling) made use of the pavement to get out of the bunch and try and get across.
The front group quickly established a gap of more than four minutes over the peloton, which was led by Orica-Scott and Katusha-Alpecin, while Lowsley Williams and Lewis remained stranded a minute behind the main break.
For a while it seemed as if Lowsley Williams and Lewis would make it across to the front of the race, but their Tour of Britain was brought to a premature end as a race commissaire pulled alongside to inform them that they had been disqualified from the race for riding on the pavement as part of their initial attack.
Back in the breakaway, the group was working well together with their lead hovering at between three and four minutes as the sprinters’ teams controlled the front of the bunch.
The break swept up the first two intermediate sprints, with McNally out-sprinting Slater at both, and the one KOM point of the day, where Scott took maximum points, before the pace really started to be raised by Team Sky, Orica-Scott, and Dimension Data in the peloton.
However the escape riders still had a lead of more than two minutes with 20km and there seemed to be a sense of belief among them as they continued to collaborate in search of a major upset.
McNally led through the final sprint of the day to move into the lead in that classification, but the break were by now concentrating on staying away rather than fighting among themselves for points.
With 10km remaining the break led by exactly a minute over a peloton which by now had riders riding through and off on the front rather doing longer turns, a sign of the effort being required to chase the break down.
The chase was hard but it was working, and the gap to the leaders was slowly brought down to 20 seconds with four kilometres remaining, before the catch was finally caught with 2.5km to go.
From there the race looked to be decided in a similar style to the previous three sprint stages, and so it proved as Zdenek Stybar and Maximiliano Richeze put Gaviria in a perfect position, holding his place at the front of the bunch to edge Viviani into second place.
However it was not all bad news for the Italian, as that result meant he moved back to the top of the general classification on countback, level on time with Ewan.
Tour of Britain 2017, stage four: Mansfield to Newark-on-Trent
1. Fernando Gaviria (Col) Quick-Step Floors, in 3-43-31
2. Elia Viviani (Ita) Team Sky
3. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha-Alpecin
4. Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo
5. Alan Banaszek (Pol) CCC Sprandi Polkowice
6. Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
7. Harry Tanfield (GBr) Bike Channel-Canyon
8. Enzo Wouters (Bel) Lotto Soudal
9. Nikolas Maes (Bel) Lotto Soudal
10. Nils Politt (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin, all at same time
General classification after stage four
1. Elia Viviani (Ita) Team Sky, in 17-38-05
2. Caleb Ewan (Aus) Orica-Scott, at same time
3. Fernando Gaviria (Col) Quick-Step Floors, at 6 secs
4. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data, at 7 secs
5. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha-Alpecin, at 12 secs
6. Karol Domagalski (Pol) One Pro Cycling, at 14 secs
7. Silvan Dillier (Sui) BMC Racing, at 15 secs
8. Kamil Gradek (Pol) ONE Pro Cycling, at same time
9. Lars Boom (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo, at 18 secs
10. Nikolas Maes (Bel) Lotto Soudal, at 20 secs