De Clercq sprinted into the finish at Manchester, swung his bike in a wild back-wheel skid and cursed the man who had shared the lead with him for 70 of the 113 miles from Birmingham.
De Clercq was peeved because Berzin had stopped helping with the pace-making over the last six miles, and the spectacle of the two arguing about it while riding slowly along city streets, closed for the occasion, did not please the race organisers.
Yet earlier, through torrential rain and over Peak District climbs, they had co-operated, as is the way of rivals who want to consolidate their attack, to push their advantage to more than nine minutes. It did not ruffle Phil Anderson, the race-leader, because neither is a serious challenger and so his lead of four seconds rode out a third day.
De Clercq has a reputation for liking a hard time on the bike, and yesterday's cloudburst was something he had sought since his team-mate, Serge Baguet, won in Swansea at the expense of Berzin. 'When the rain came, riders were calling for their rainwear,' De Clercq said. 'Then I looked into the sky and saw that it was brighter ahead and the rain would not last, so I decided that this was the moment to attack.'
Anderson is one day from his second Kellogg's victory. This year's four-second lead is comfortable compared with the one second he clung to throughout the 1991 tour. 'It was not so bad as I thought it might be,' the Australian said. 'No one dangerous attacked, and this was their last chance. The final stage will be difficult early on, but with my team I have few worries.'
The race has lost 23 riders in four of its five days and yesterday saw some notable retirements. Last year's winner, Italy's Max Sciandri, departed along with the former world champion, Moreno Argentin, who has been riding with a broken nose, and Denmark's Jesper Skibby, a Tour de France stage-winner.
KELLOGG'S TOUR OF BRITAIN Fourth stage (Birmingham to Manchester, 113.3 miles): 1 P de Clercq (Bel, Lotto) 4hr 58min 52sec; 2 E Berzin (Rus, Mecair) same time; 3 J Svorada (Slovak, Lampre) +1min 57sec; 4 C Lillywhite (GB, Banana); 5 C Zamana (Pol, Subaru); 6 S Baguet (Bel, Lotto); 7 E Schurer (Neth, TVM); 8 J Capiot (Bel, TVM); 9 P van Roosbroek (Bel, La William); 10 P Anderson (Aus, Motorola) all same time. GB: 13 M Walsham (Banana) +1min 57sec; 19 B Burns (GB Professionals); 23 B Smith (Banana); 26 J Tanner (Neilson-Tivoli); 30 S Yates (Motorola); 33 W Randle (Neilson-Tivoli); 42 A Doyle (Neilson-Tivoli) all s/t; 53 C Young (GB Professionals) +7:50; 54 S Way (GB Professionals); 55 N Perry (GB Professionals); 57 S Douce (Banana); 58 B Luckwell (GB Professionals); 59 H Lodge (Collstrop); 63 T Harris (GB Professionals) all s/t. Overall: 1 Anderson 19hr 02min 42sec, 2 W Belli (It, Lampre) +4sec; 3 B Namtvedt (Nor, Subaru) +8; 4 H Imboden (Swit, Mecair) +20; 5 F Lemarchand (Fr, Gan) +23; 6 Schurer +28; 7 F Andreu (US, Motorola) +32; 8 P Haghedooren (Bel, Collstrop) same time; 9 H Frison (Bel, Lotto) +1min 18sec; 10 A Kappes (Ger, Mecair) +3:11. GB: 16 Tanner +10:20; 18 Yates +10:21; 26 Lillywhite +12:58; 39 Doyle +16:53; 42 Lodge +20:00; 52 Smith +42:44; 54 Randle +44:46; 55 Luckwell +50:39; 57 Walsham +53:25; 58 Burns +55:08; 59 Way +1:01:01; 60 Perry s/t; 61 Douce +1:01:21; 62 Young +1:13:09; 63 Harris +1:23:55. Stage team: 1 Lotto 15hr 00min 30sec; 2 Mecair s/t; 3 Lampre 15:02:27. Overall team: 1 Motorola 57:18:59; 2 Mecair 57:22:59; 3 Lampre 57:23:08. Mountains: 1 Berzin 74pts; 2 Belli 59; 3 Anderson 45. Sprints: 1 Lillywhite 19pts; 2 Berzin 16; 3 D Lauritzen (Nor, TVM) 15. Points: 1 Svorada 37pts; 2 Schurer 36; 3 Anderson 34.