Tour of Britain Cycling: Mark Cavendish surrenders lead

Christian Knees leads Marc de Maar as they climb Gun Hill in Staffordshire. Picture: Getty
Christian Knees leads Marc de Maar as they climb Gun Hill in Staffordshire. Picture: Getty
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MARC de Maar won the fifth stage of the Tour of Britain as Leigh Howard regained his overall lead from Mark Cavendish after coming in fifth.

De Maar made a break for the front with six kilometres of the 146.9km Stoke-on-Trent stage left, making the move only four kilometres after a crash.

The Dutch UnitedHealthcare rider raced to the finish alone after the stage around the undulating roads of the Peak District.

Belgium’s Sep Vanmarcke won a sprint finish for second place some 15 seconds further down the road.

Cavendish fell away from the leading pack in the hills, and could not stay close enough to retain his overall lead.

Former race leader Boy van Poppel of the Netherlands came in third behind Vanmarcke to close the gap on Australian Howard in the overall standings.

However, Cavendish dropped back to 61st, a result that saw him tumble all the way down to 35th in the overall classification.

Bradley Wiggins had done his best to help his Team Sky team-mate, dropping out of the lead group to try to help him recover, but, in the end, he only hampered his own race.

Team Sky’s sports director Servais Knaven said: “At that moment it was the point of no return. Brad was in between the two groups waiting for Cav and the gap looked shorter than it was.

“Brad wanted to help us defend the jersey today and did everything he could to help Cav.

“The team has done a great job during the first four days to control the race and you feel that. There’s three more days to go and everyone is motivated to add to what we’ve already achieved at this race.”

Cavendish’s afternoon began to go wrong with 50km left as Italy’s Ivan Basso made a break and the peloton broke up. As 27 riders raced clear, Cavendish and Wiggins toiled behind as the team lost their grip on the race.