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After an excellent lead-out from Leezer, Groenewegen held McLay off in a close sprint on stage 4 of the Tour of Britain; Swift finished third and Vermote retained the leader’s jersey

Photo: Team LottoNL-Jumbo

DANIEL MCLAY

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DECEUNINCK - QUICK-STEP

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DYLAN GROENEWEGEN

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JULIEN VERMOTE

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TEAM JUMBO-VISMA

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TOUR OF BRITAIN

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07.09.2016 @ 18:49 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) continued his dream start to his WorldTour career by claiming a huge win on the very hard stage 4 of the Tour of Britain. After an excellent lead-out from Tom Leezer, he narrowly held Daniel McLay (Great Britain) off in a photo finish, with Ben Swift (Sky) crossing the line as a distant third. Julien Vermote (Etixx-QuickStep) finished fifth and retained the lead.

 

With two wins at the end of the 2015 season, Dylan Groenewegen had given indications that he had the potential to become a future top sprinter but few would have expected him to turn into a winning machine already in his first year on the WorldTour. However, that’s what he has been for the LottoNL-Jumbo team which has built a strong lead-out for their Dutch sprinter.

 

Groenewegen took no less than seven wins before the Tour de France and this prompted the Dutch team to select their youngster for the biggest race. He had a hard time in the French race where he failed to be in the mix for the stage wins but he gave further indications that he has the potential to beat the best and he even managed to survive the tough weeks in France.

 

Since then, Groenewegen recovered and after winning Arnhem-Veenendal Classic, he set his sights on the Tour of Britain where he is up against almost the entire sprinting elite. After crashing out in the sprint on the first stage, he got what can be regarded as the biggest win of his career when he came out on top in today’s fourth stage.

 

The win was made even more impressive by the fact that it came after a very long and lumpy stage that turned out to be too hard for many sprinters, including Mark Cavendish. However, Groenewegen made the selection and after Lotto Soudal decided not to work for André Greipel to give Jens Debusschere the chance, he showed his class by holding Daniel McLay off in a very close sprint.

 

After yesterday’s hard stage, the rides faced another brutal day in the saddle on stage 4.At 218km, the course between Denbigh and Builth Wells was very long and included more than 4000m of climbing. However, there were only three categorized climb on the menu, one of the third and two of the second category. The final top came with 102.8km to go but that didn’t mean that the final part was flat. There were several ups and downs in the final 100km until the riders got to the slightly downhill run to the line. The finale was extremely technical with no less than 3 sharp turns inside the final 500m.

 

The riders again had nice conditions when they gathered for the start. Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek) who crashed yesterday, stayed in the hotel while the rest of the group rolled through the neutral zone.

 

Everybody knew that it could be a day for a breakaway and so it was a very fast start with numerous attacks. No one had managed to get clear as they got to the first intermediate sprint and this allowed the GC riders to go for bonus seconds. Jasper Bovenhuis (An Post) was first across the line followed by Tony Gallopin (Lotto Soudal) and Ben Swift (Sky).

 

Right after the sprint, two riders got clear but they were soon brought back. The attacking continued as they headed up the first climb where lots of riders were dropped before Nicolas Roche (Sky) beat KOM leader Xandro Meurisse (Wanty) and Björn Thurau (Wanty) in the sprint for the points.

 

After the climb, Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani), Rob Patridge (NFTO), Miguel Angel Benito (Caja Rural) and Matt Holmes (Madison Genesis) managed to escape and as the peloton finally slowed down, they managed to build a gap of 3.40 after 54km of racing. However, the peloton was reluctant to let them get too far ahead and during the next 20km, it was kept between the 3- and 4-minute marks.

 

As they hit the second climb, Tonelli did a lot of work to increase the gap and when Patridge beat Holmes, Tonelli and Benito in the KOM sprint, they had pushed it out to 4.45. This time Meurisse beat Roche in the battle for the remaining points.

 

In the peloton, Maximilano Richeze, Lukasz Wisniowski (Etixx-QuickStep), Johann van Zyl and Jay Thomson (Dimension Data) were riding on the front but they were unable to prevent the gap from going out to 5.30 before Holmes beat Benito and Tonelli in the third KOM sprint. Tonelli then led Holmes and Patridge across the line in the second intermediate sprint while the gap was holding steady at around 5.30 as they hit the final 100km.

 

The gap was only coming down slowly and it was still 5 minutes when the peloton entered the final 85, still with Wisniowski, Richeze, Thomson and van Zyl. However, the race still took its toll and Movistar lost an important rider when sprinter Juan Jose Lobato abandoned.

 

It took some time for the sprint teams to show themselves but with 75km to go, Michael Hepburn (Orica-BikeExchange) joined van Zyl, Thomson, Richeze and Wisniowski at the front. That had an effect as the gap had dropped to 4.15 as they hit the final 70km. However, that only prompted Dimension Data to disappear from the front and as Tony Martin took over from Wisniowski and Richeze, only two riders were left to do the work.

 

With Orica-BikeExchange having taken control, Etixx-QuickStep stopped their work too and for several kilometres, it was the lone figure of Hepburn riding on the front. With 65km to go, he had reduced the gap to 4.05 when he was passed by the big teams as the fight for position intensified. Sky, Cannondale and Dimension Data lined out their troops as they approached an uncategorized climb, with Elia Viviani, Ryan Mullen and Thomson riding on the front. Lotto Soudal also came to the fore, led by the lanky figure of Marcel Sieberg.

 

Cannondale took complete control with Jack Bauer riding on the front and suddenly the gap came down rapidly. With 56km to go, the gap was down to 2.10 and this was the signal for Tonelli to make his move. The Italian attacked on a small climb and quickly got a big advantage.

 

As the peloton hit climb Bauer and Ruben Zepuntke (Cannondale) were joined by Ian Stannard (Sky) in the pace-setting and the elimination gradually started. That set the scene for the attacking to start when the Movistar pair of Gorka Izagirre and Giovanni Visconti launched an offensive. Marco Marcato (Wanty) and Jochem Hoekstra (Giant-Alpecin) joined them and the quartet quickly got an advantage of15 seconds. Meanwhile, Tonelli pushed his advantage over the chasers to 30 seconds.

 

The attack forced Dimension Data and Sky to react and they immediately started to chase, bringing the gap to the leader down to 1.05 as they hit the final 45km. As the Visconti group was kept under control, Nicola Boem (Bardiani) saw an opportunity to bridge across to make it a quintet.

 

On the next climb, Visconti dropped his companions and sprinted past the chasers before he finally decided to sit up. Benito was desperately trying to hold onto an advantage over the splintering peloton from which Ian Stannard (Sky) was dropped. Going over the top of a small climb, Tonelli led Benito by 15 seconds while the peloton was just 10 seconds further back.

 

Sky took control in the peloton with Wout Poels and as they hit a small climb, Cannondale joined them with Bauer. Their fast pace was enough to bring both Benito and Tonelli back and the subsequent counterattack from Jonathan McEvoy (Madison Genesis) didn’t work out either.

 

Poels and Bauer kept riding on the front until the GC battle started. While Mark Cavendish (Diemsnion Data) was left behind, Tony Gallopin (Lotto Soudal) attacked. However, Nicolas Roche shut it down immediately and the group came to a standstill.

 

Roche tied to launch his own attack and it was Gallopin, Daniel Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) and Jacopo Mosca (Trek) who followed. A small group with the likes of Ben Swift (Sky) and Rohan Dennis (BMC) joined them but as there was no cooperation, it came back together.

 

Dylan Van Baarle (Cannondale), Roche, Martin, Dennis and Gallopin tried again but again they failed to cooperate and instead it was Sebastian Langeveld (Cannondale) who managed to get a bigger advantage. As the Dutchman rode away, Sky and Etixx-QuickStep again took control and it was Tony Martin who led the bunch down a tricky descent.

 

The relentless Visconti tried to bridge the 10-second gap but he couldn’t hold off Sky and Etixx-QuickStep and with 25km to go, Langeveld also sat up. Hence, it was all back together with Poels and Martin riding on the front.

 

With 20km to go, Jochem Hoekstra (Giant-Alpecin) launched a strong attack and he quickly got a 10-second advantage. That prompted the sprint teams to react as Lotto Soudal put Jasper De Buyst and James Shaw on the front while LottoNL-Jumo started to work with Bert-Jan Lindeman.

 

Hoekstra did his best to stay away but with 13km to go, he was back in the fold and while Cavendish did his best to return with a small group that also included Steele von Hoff and Ramon Sinkeldam, Lindeman, Shaw and De Buyst kept riding on the front.

 

Lindeman stopped his work and with 10km to go, the entire Lotto Soudal team was lined out on the front, with Shaw and De Buyst leading Gallopin, Marcel Sieberg, André Greipel and Jens Debusschere. Paul Martens (LottoNL-Jumbo) lent them a hand as they headed towards the final intermediate sprint. Here Bernhard Eisel (Dimension Data) tried to take away the bonus seconds but he was passed by Gallopin who led the Austrian and Jacob Scott (An Post) across the line.

 

Scott tried to attack and was joined by Gallopin, Martens and Eisel but as none of them wanted to cooperate, the quartet was brought back by Lotto Soudal. Martens then rode on the front until Edoarzo Zardini (Bardiani) launched the next attack. Jorge Arcas (Movistar) and Taylor Phinney (BMC) joined the Italian and the trio hit the final 5km with an advantage of 5 seconds.

 

A Madison Genesis rider took a huge turn to shut the move down and then Lindeman kept the speed high until Shaw took over with 3km to go. Lotto Soudal were still organized near the front as they let their stagiaire string the group out.

 

Martens took a final turn and then De Buyst launched the lead-out for Lotto Soudal, with Greipel and Sieberg sitting on his wheel. However, they had lost Debusschere who was their protected sprinter and instead it was LottoNL-Jumbo sitting on their wheel.

 

With 2km to go, Greopel took over but as Debusschere was not there, he slowed down. Instead, Lotto NL-Jumbo hit the front with Robert Wagner, Tom Leezer. and Dylan Groenewegen and they held off a surge from the ONE train.

 

Tony Martin took over just after the flamme rouge, making sure that Julien Vermote was protectd before Leezer led Groenewegen and the rest of the group through the final turns. The Dutchman gave his compatriot a perfect lead-out and he could start the sprint from the front. Dan McLay (Great Britain) jumped onto his wheel in the late turns and tried to come around. It came down to a close battle but Groenewegen had enough to take the win, with McLay being a close second and Swift completing the podium.

 

Race leader Vermote mixed it up in the sprint and crossed the line in fifth to retain his 5-second advantage over Steve Cummings (Dimension Data). He hopes to defend his position in tomorrow’s stage where the riders will cover 194.5km from Aberdare to Bath without any major climbs. That doesn’t mean that the roads are flat as there are several small ascents along the way and there will be three category 2 climbs to tackle. The final of those comes with 61.6km to go and from there it is a lumpy run to the finish. In the final 10km, there is a small uncategorized climb before the riders descend to Bath and the flat finale which ends with a slightly uphill sprint. Again it’s a technical final with two sharp turns in the final 500m.

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