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Tour of Britain 2019: Mathieu van der Poel in a league of his own on Stage 4

George Smith
10 Sep 2019

Cycling prodigy comes good following yesterday’s disappointing second place. Photo: SWPix

Mathieu van der Poel (Correndon-Circus) picked his moment perfectly to launch an attack on the final climb into Kendal to pass the breakaway and take the win on Stage 4 of the 2019 Tour of Britain.

The Corendon-Circus rider went from a long way out, dropping all his rivals to comfortably cross the line fists aloft ahead of Jasper De Buyst (Lotto-Soudal) and Simon Clarke (Education First).

The stage win moves Van der Poel into the overall lead by a single second.

A rolling day in the dales

Following three consecutive days won by the sprinters, Stage 4 had promised to mix it up a bit - with the parcours making it one of the toughest days in the Tour of Britain’s recent history.

The 171.5km stage packed in 2,658m of elevation as riders made their way from Gateshead southwest across County Durham and the Pennines to the finish line in Kendal.

Much like yesterday, Dutch cyclocross star Van der Poel was hotly tipped to excel atop the finishing 500m, 11% average gradient climb of Beast Banks that played host to the end the stage.

But unlike yesterday, Van der Poel’s Corendon-Circus team did not send anyone out in the break. Indeed, who earned that honour was not immediately apparent as riders looked attentively to the first sprint points that were on offer just 12.5km into the race.

Nonetheless, 2014 overall champion Dylan van Baarle (Team Ineos) and Axel Domont (AG2R LaMondiale) began to establish a gap for themselves at the front of the race, where they were eventually joined by Eddie Dunbar, Van Baarle’s teammate.

The trio soaked up the mountains points on offer at the first climb, Snods Edge, before repeating the feat up Bollihope Common - the first Category 1 climb tackled this year - by sheer dint of their position in the breakaway.

They managed to maintain a healthy lead despite Corendon-Circus and Mitchelton-Scott taking up the chase at the front of the peloton, no doubt with Van der Poel and race leader Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott) respectively in mind.

With Lotto-Soudal subsequently contributing to the chasde, the gap began to fall but they could do nothing to stop the three riders again sharing the points on offer for the day’s second sprint, with Van Baarle picking up six potentially important bonus seconds too.

Shortly after, Dunbar lost the wheel and was distanced by the original breakaway pair. Displeased with the duo's slowly decreasing gap, Van Baarle decided to go solo with over 60km remaining.

Making his way across sprint three of the day, Van Baarle took maximum points. A little over one minute later Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) pipped Rory Townsend (Canyon-dhb) to take the next two points to the current sprint leader’s one - not enough to see the red jersey change hands.

With attacks launched across the board, Van Baarle’s gap at the front disappeared while the Dutchman was tackling the 1.8km climb of Gawthrop, which averages 9.6% and tops out at 18.4%.

As riders reached the top, a reduced peloton consisting of the race’s biggest names launched themselves clear and proceeded to spend the final part of the race attacking each other - though nothing stuck until Tony Gallopin (AG2R-LaMondiale) went clear with 16km to go.

James Shaw (Swift Pro) and Ben Hermans (Israel Cycling Academy) bridged the gap to the Frenchman with a bit over 10km to go, helping him to extend the gap to the Mitchelton-Scott then Team Ineos-led chasing group.

With the lack of an organised effort by the peloton - individual attacks preferred - the trio found themselves with a 10 second lead as they entered the final kilometre, but it wasn't enough