The gradient took its toll in the Tour of Britain yesterday as the Vacansoleil team took their second stage win. Borut Bozic sprinted to victory on East Hill in Colchester, and only the New Zealander Greg Henderson could stay with the impressive Slovenian as they hit the line.
With the drag to the line causing splits in the field, Bozic and Henderson came in three seconds up on third- placed man Richie Porte, with the leading trio all collecting time bonuses to add to their advantage over race leader Michael Albasini, who came in 20th in a group 11 seconds down on the winner over the 94-mile course from Bury St Edmunds to Colchester.
That means that Albasini now holds the yellow jersey by one minute and five seconds from Bozic, with Porte a further nine seconds back and Henderson two more in arrears with the final stage taking place today in London.
The Swiss rider, who won Stage Three into Swansea on Monday, spoke after the stage of his relief at having safely negotiated the final road stage of the Tour, with just London's circuit race now remaining.
"I was always looking forward to this moment, normally in the last stage when not so much happens and it should be a bunch sprint. I am happy to still have the yellow jersey. Three days ago I wasn't so sure I could bring it this far when we had just four riders in the race. It's perfect now with three stage wins and, hopefully, also the yellow at the end in London."
The 29-year-old Albasini, though, isn't going to start celebrating early. "The last stage is always hard; you have to keep the concentration."
For the second day running massive crowds turned out to welcome the Tour of Britain to Suffolk and Essex, with bright sunshine greeting the riders in Bury St Edmunds.
Tom Murray of the Sigma Sport-Specialized team and Topsport Vlaanderen rider Pieter Jacobs forced an early breakaway, building up a lead of more than three minutes. But the peloton worked hard to close down the pair and by the time the leaders passed Braintree, the gap had been trimmed to one minute and 30 seconds. As the stage reached its climax, Team Sky tried to set Henderson up for a second stage win but it was Bozic who held the upper hand.
In Spain, Philippe Gilbert of Belgium won the 19th stage of the Spanish Vuelta, which Italian Vincenzo Nibali still leads going into the penultimate leg. Gilbert crossed the finish line in 5hrs 43mins 41secs. Tyler Farrar of the United States finished second in the same time.