Mark Cavendish edged out Juan Jose Lobato and Peter Sagan in a thrilling final sprint to win the fourth stage of the Tour of Switzerland, but there was more bad news for Bradley Wiggins as he crashed with 26 kilometres remaining.
The 2012 Tour de France winner, who lost more than two minutes on Monday and any chance of overall success, now lies 14 minutes behind Tony Martin as the German retained his lead.
Although Wiggins was eventually able to continue, he coasted to the finish, crossing the line nearly 12 minutes behind his British compatriot Cavendish.
The Manxman launched the sprint and made a second attack with 100 metres to go to win by almost three bike lengths. “It wasn’t so easy, it was a head-wind finish,” Cavendish said. “It was very chaotic in the peloton, a lot of teams were trying to get it right. My team weren’t 100 per cent but we were committed.
“I sat in Mark Renshaw’s wheel and he brought me around. It was about timing your sprint right. It was slightly uphill into the headwind, so even though the others jumped early, I waited until the last moment. I knew that I had to go with 200 or 100 to go.”
Cavendish clocked three and a half hours on the 160km (99-mile) leg from Heiden to Ossingen, though Martin retained his six-second advantage over Dutch cyclist Tom Dumoulin, while third-place Sagan reduced the gap slightly to 10 seconds behind the German.
Laurens De Vreese and Daniel Teklehaimanot led for most of the stage after opening up a lead of three minutes early on. Their advantage increased to nearly four minutes before the peloton began to increase the pace with about 100 kilometres left, with Omega Pharma-QuickStep – riding for both Cavendish and Martin – driving the group. The pair’s long tenure at the front ended with 10 kilometres to go.
Team Sky principal Sir Dave Brailsford insisted the Tour de France squad — led by defending champion Chris Froome — will not be selected until after the race in Switzerland.