Chris Newton's overall lead in the Thwaites Grand Prix was wiped out yesterday in Accrington by the sprinting of an unexpected challenger, Joe Bayfield.
Newton is now neck-and-neck with the Reading rider for the overall honours as they begin today's final leg over 85 miles starting and finishing in Blackburn.
Newton has held the leader's jersey in four previous races but has never won it outright and Bayfield undermined his hopes once again by snapping up precious seconds in time deductions during yesterday's two stages.
Newton started the day with an advantage of 38 seconds over Bayfield but he missed the vital breakaway in the morning stage over 62 miles between Burnley and Accrington. That enabled Bayfield, third behind the morning winner, John Tanner, to close within four seconds of Newton overall.
As Mark Walsham snatched victory in the afternoon circuit race, Newton saved his leader's colours by finishing ahead of Bayfield in a mass finish. Bayfield had wiped out his deficit of four seconds by winning an intermediate sprint and finishing second in another.