Mark Cavendish stepped up his Tour de France preparations by sprinting to a comfortable victory on the fourth stage of the Tour de Suisse.
The British rider benefitted from a strong lead out by his Omega Pharma – Quick-Step team-mates and then powered home for his ninth success of the season.
The Manxman launched his sprint from Michael Morkov’s wheel in the last 200m and passed Peter Sagan before pressing home his advantage in consummate style.
Juan Jose Lobato followed Cavendish over the line in second position, with Sagan just behind the Movistar rider in third. Cavendish’s team-mate Tony Martin was also among a large front group who rolled home in Ossingen, and that ensured he maintained his six-second cushion over Tom Dumoulin at the top of the overall standings.
Sir Bradley Wiggins meanwhile, was one notable absentee, with the Team Sky rider falling back after suffering a nasty crash 25km from home and rolling in almost 12 minutes adrift.
Shortly after wrapping up his victory, Cavendish said: “It wasn’t so easy with a headwind finish. It was chaotic in the peloton with a lot of teams trying to get it right. My team worked 100% and Mark Renshaw moved me around the peloton before putting my into position.
“With the wind, and it being slightly uphill, you had to time your sprint perfectly and I knew you had to go between 200-150m. I waited even when the others jumped and managed to pass them, so I was happy with that.”
The largely flat stage had taken the riders 160.4km from Heiden and Daniele Ratto was forced to abandon before the action had even started off after taking a tumble in the neutral zone.
Once the flag had lowered however, Daniel Teklehaymanot (MTN Qhuebeka) and Laurens De Vreese (Wanty) went on the attack and that was how things stayed until 10km from home.
Wiggins’s fall punctuated an otherwise straightforward stage and came as the peloton began the final lap of a 25km finishing circuit.
By the time the two escapees were brought back, several sprint trains were battling for supremacy at the front of the bunch. BMC Raing, Tinkoff-Saxo and Giant-Shimano all tried their hand but it was Omega Pharma – Quick-Step who were celebrating when Cavendish delivered the goods in a frantic finale.
Asked how the win had affected his confidence before the Tour de France, Cavendish replied: “There’s no really big sprinters here – Sagan’s going for the green jersey but he’s not a pure sprinter – so although I’ve won and it’s nice, I’ll have to look at the power I was putting out and really analyse that instead.”
Stage four result
1 Mark Cavendish (IOM) – Omega Pharma – Quick-Step, 3:35:03
2 Juan José Lobato (ESP) – Movistar, same time
3 Peter Sagan (SVK) – Cannondale, st
4 Sacha Modolo (ITA) – Lampre, st
5 Alexander Kristoff (NOR) – Katusha, st
6 Danny van Poppel (NED) – Trek, st
7 Jonas Van Genechten (BEL) – Lotto, st
8 Davide Appollonio (ITA) – AG2R, st
9 José Joaquín Rojas (ESP) – Movistar, st
10 Matthew Goss (AUS) – Orica, st
1 Tony Martin (Ger) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step, 10:44:33
2 Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Giant-Shimano, +6secs
3 Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale, +14
4 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin, +17
5 Tom-Jelte Slagter (Ned) Garmin-Sharp, +23
6 Davide Formolo (Ita) Cannondakle, +27
7 Ion Izagirre (Spa) Movistar, same time
8 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff-Saxo, +28
9 Mathias Frank (Swi) IAM Cycling, +29
10 Mattia Cattaneo (Ita) Lampre-Merida, st