He arrived in Llandudno a relieved man, restored to the yellow jersey of race leader that he lost on Saturday to the Belgian Nico Mattan. Lillywhite's confidence was rattled by a fall after the Horse Shoe Pass on a day that no one relished. Nearly five hours of racing over 128 miles took the 96 survivors of the first week from Birmingham.
'I had to dig deep. I was feeling terrible, and I missed two decisive moves,' Lillywhite said. 'When I missed the big group attack I thought that's it until next year. I had given up hope, and I was surprised when the move was brought back. Then I gave myself a big kick, mentally: you have been lucky. Don't miss out next time.'
He did not, and when, with 12 miles remaining and the worst of the climbs behind them, a group of 13 came together, Lillywhite was present.
Mattan and his yellow jersey finished 1min 18sec behind Lillywhite, who chased home the sprint for second place, won by Jacek Mickiewicz of Poland. The stage fell to Pat Jonker, who won a 1991 Milk Race stage in Birmingham and claimed his first win in Europe this season.
It was a hard day, with riders finishing more than 28 minutes behind Jonker, and Lillywhite's Banana team were among those suffering. They lost Keith Reynolds with a fractured wrist at the weekend, and their Australian, Shane Sutton, with badly bruised ribs, is soldiering on.
The Irish shadow of Conor Henry, last year's winner, looms larger than ever. He is now third overall, 41 seconds behind Lillywhite, and the man the Bananas fear most.
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