Mark Cavendish stormed to victory as stage four of the Tour of Switzerland came down to a bunch sprint finish while Germany’s Tony Martin retained the overall leader’s yellow jersey.
Cavendish’s powerful kick in the closing stages of the 160km ride on Tuesday from Heiden to Ossingen enabled the Briton to hold off Spain’s Juan Jose Lobato and Slovakian Peter Sagan, who won stage three a day earlier.
Australia’s Matthew Goss crossed the line in 10th and was among nine riders to share the same time behind Cavendish.
“My team worked really hard to chase down the breakaway and stay in front the entire day to protect me,” said Cavendish, who picked up a welcome tonic in his Tour de France preparation.
“I followed Mark Renshaw in the final and Mark was incredible. He led me through the peloton, and put me in the position to lead it out.”
“It was a headwind and uphill finish, so it was really about timing your sprint perfectly. I knew I had to go between 200 metres and 150 metres to go.
“So, I waited, and even though the others jumped before I still went at the right time. I was able to hold on until the finish,” added the Isle of Man native, who will go into next month’s Tour de France with 25 stage wins, only nine behind all-time stage winner Eddy Merckx of Belgium.
Cycling’s most prestigious race begins July 5 in Leeds, England and runs until July 27.
Prior to Cavendish’s exploits on Tuesday a sprint finish had seemed inevitable with just two category four climbs for riders to navigate and so it was the case after early breakaway pair Laurens de Vreese and Daniel Teklehaimanot were reeled in by the peloton.
De Vreese and Teklehaimanot were allowed to open up a lead of almost four minutes before the pack began to chase the duo down with 50km remaining and finally caught them 10km from the finish, leading to a fiercely contested finale.
Omega Pharma-QuickStep’s Martin, who has worn yellow since winning the opening time-trial, finished safely in the peloton to maintain his six second advantage over Dutchman Tom Dumoulin.
Bradley Wiggins endured another miserable day, though, as the 2012 Tour de France champion suffered a crash with around 25km remaining, leaving him with cuts and grazes on his legs.
Wednesday’s stage five is another relatively flat stage although the 184km ride from Ossingen to Buren an der Aare does feature four minor climbs and will encourage breakaways.