Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) powered to the Tour of Britain stage 4 victory, beating Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quickstep) into 2nd place with Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up) rounding out the podium.
Stage 4 of the Tour of Britain was the longest of the race, covering 210km from Aberaeron to Llandudno. There was also a fair amount of climbing in the final half of the stage, with two short sharp climbs placed in the final 7km.
The tough nature of the course meant it would be an important stage for the GC men and the punchy climber specialists in the bunch. For Team Qhubeka NextHash, this meant Simon Clarke would be the go-to-guy for the day.
An early break did animate the beginning of the stage, and a few opportunists did also try their luck by jumping across the lead group with around 60km to go, but the up and down finale ensured the likes of Jumbo-Visma, Ineos and Deceuninck-Quickstep kept the pressure on at the front of the race.
Team Qhubeka NextHash played its first card with 35km to go, as Mauro Schmid attacked on one of the hills outside of Llandudno. He was joined by two others, but they never got more than 25 seconds before being caught with 19km remaining.
The peloton stayed together until the penultimate climb but the battle to reach the foot of the hill was intense. Team Qhubeka NextHash did a fine job though, looking after Clarke into the climb, Giacomo Nizzolo and Carlos Barbero in particular doing some fantastic work to keep their teammate in the top 10 places.
An acceleration over the top of the climb by Movistar was again shut down, just before the final 2km climb to the line began. Riders were greeted with an explosive gradient of 18% and it was here where the favourites made their moves.
Van Aert was matched by Alaphilppe and Woods right up to the line, the Belgian champion just having enough to edge the World Champion into 2nd. Clarke fought valiantly and brought home a credible 8th place finish on the stage, 16 seconds behind Van Aert.
It was a pretty good day. The team was pretty keen to bounce back after an unfortunate day yesterday, with the crash in the TTT. The plan was to look after me all day and I would do what I can in the final. I had the full support from the team and I have to say it was super teamwork. I really appreciated everyone’s help, they all did their job and each person made a difference. I had great help in the lead out to the climb which was crucial with the final climb being so steep. Every meter you were behind the front was a disadvantage so I got dropped off in the perfect position without having to use much energy at all, which was really good. I did my best, getting up the wall as best as possible. 8th place, happy with that and happy to get a top 10 for the team and hopefully we can keep building upon the positivity.Simon Clarke