Raleigh-GAC’s Mark Christian was close to having the ride of his life on Stage 4 at the Tour of Britain and for a time the young Manx man was the virtual leader on the road.
The 115 mile stage from Worcester to Bristol on Wednesday 10th September took in the rolling hills of the Cotswolds, perfect for a break to escape. And so it did with a few early flurries and then one that stuck featuring four riders including Movistar’s Alex Dowsett.
Mark Christian sensed this was a move to be part of and together with another four riders, he bridged the gap to the Dowsett group.
The break worked well together through the halfway point at Broadway, gaining over five minutes on the peleton at one stage.
As Mark was the highest placed rider in the General Classification this meant he was the virtual leader on the road. If the break maintained the gap he was guaranteed to take the lead in the race overall.
Through the rolling hills of South Gloucestershire it seemed as though the peleton were running out of road. But with the cycling city of Bristol in sight it took a concerted effort from Saxo, Sky and IAM Cycling to bring the break back with an agonizing 3km to go, just before the second category climb of Bridge Valley Road and onto the finishing straight along Clifton Downs.
With Mark Christian now back in the bunch and out of contention it was Matthieu Boulo who powered up the final climb with the second group to finish 12th, six seconds behind race winner Michal Kwiatkowski, giving Raleigh-GAC their best result in this year’s Tour of Britain.
Speaking after the race an exhausted Mark Christian said, “It was great feeling to be out front and in front of the cameras all day. As we got closer I began to think ‘what if’ but the bunch was too strong on that long straight run in.”
Despite the potential of leading the GC being snatched away Team Manager Cherie Pridham was elated with efforts: “With Mark only a minute-plus off the GC this morning I think we caused some panic amongst the bigger teams in the race.
“Today was a special day for us and is quite possibly our best result yet in the Tour of Britain. We’ll keep chipping away though and with five stages left we’ll see how we can animate things in the second half of the race.”
Tomorrow’s stage between Exmouth and Exeter features some of the toughest climbs yet in this year’s Tour. The riders in contention for the GC will be looking to steal vital seconds off each other but with the favourites marking each other, will Stage 5 be the day when a break is allowed to escape?