Mark Cavendish must have felt in a holiday mood yesterday after he claimed his second stage win in as many days in the shadow of the Blackpool Tower. Again set up superbly for the sprint finish by his Sky team-mates, the 2011 world road-race champion took the overall race lead from the Australian Leigh Howard of Orica-GreenEDGE and so will carry the Tour of Britain's gold jersey away from his visit to the Lancashire seaside resort.
After his victory in Dumfries the previous day, Cavendish had hinted that, rather than go for gold, he preferred to stay in the world champion's rainbow jersey, which will be up for grabs again later this month. In the event, the 97-mile fourth stage from Carlisle ended in an easy victory for him after a strong Team Sky lead-out by the Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins and Luke Rowe up the famous Promenade.
A six-man breakaway formed early on in the stage and at one point was some six minutes clear of the peloton. UK Youth Cycling's Niklas Gustavsson picked up the bonus points at the first intermediate sprint at Shap ahead of Mathew Cronshaw of Node 4 and An Post's Ronan McLaughlin.
With Rapha Condor's Kristian House, IG's Dan Craven and Saur Sojasun's David Lelay also taking part in the escape, the chasing pack closed to three minutes. The breakaway was then reduced to four as the course wound its way towards Blackpool, with Gustavsson and House dropped after the last King of the Mountains points dash, as ORICA-GreenEDGE and Sky led the chase.
Wiggins stepped up the pace at the front of the peloton with 15 miles to go as stiff crosswinds began to wreak havoc, with the increased speed causing the main pack to fracture.
Cavendish and Howard positioned themselves well and were part of the large chasing group, who slashed the gap to the leaders to 30sec with less than 10 miles left. Ireland's McLaughlin made a late bid to go it alone but he was hauled back by Craven before the Sky-led pack hunted them both down with six miles to go.
It set the stage perfectly for another sprint to the line for Cavendish.