Next day Clay took the colours from Lovatt, but in yesterday's stage from the Camelot theme park his tenancy of the jersey ended once nine riders had broken away.
Lovatt still faced more doubt in the quest for his holy grail. His first worry came on the final climb as he lost contact with the leaders, but he fought back to salvage sixth place. Then he had to wait while officials worked out whether he or Huw Pritchard would win overall as Pritchard had taken third place, 46 seconds clear of Lovatt, in yesterday's 89-mile tester through the Pennines.
The British road race champion, Matt Stephens, raced away to win with 50 seconds to spare over Dave Williams, but his overnight deficit of three minutes and 39 seconds was too much to overhaul Lovatt.
"I was beginning to think that I would never win a race wearing the champion's jersey, but I decided to just keep attacking," Stephens said.
Clay finished 5min 4sec behind Stephens and said: "You cannot chase everything especially without team support."
TRAVELWISE TOUR OF LANCASHIRE
Fifth stage (Charnock Richard-Manchester, 89 miles): 1 M Stephens (Harrods- RT) 3hr 38min 24sec; 2 D Williams (Adidas-SciCon) +50sec; 3 H Pritchard (Team Men's Health) same time; 4 J Bayfield (Harrods) +1:36; 5 G Butler (Men's Health); 6 M Lovatt (Pro Vision-Planet X) both same time. Final overall positions: 1 M Lovatt 11hr 27min 10sec; 2 H Pritchard +4sec; 3 J Bayfield +36, 4 G Butler +39; 5 D Williams +41; 6 M Stephens +1min 05sec.