Stage 5 of the Tour of Britain erupted at the 5-kilometre to go mark on a small hill on the outside of Birkenhead. Corendon-Circus took the race on up the climb, but couldn't split the field, with Dylan Groenewegen taking advantage in the sprint to the line.
Trentin was able to reclaim the race lead from Matthieu Van Der Poel, taking 4 bonus seconds from coming in 3rd. The gap between Trentin and Van Der Poel is now a mere 3 seconds going into the final 3 stages.
Van Der Poel
Mathieu Van Der Poel took a dominant victory on stage 4, winning an uphill sprint to cross the line with his hands in the air. The victory was akin to his Amstel-Gold win - where he launched an early, monumental sprint to catch Alaphilippe on the line.
It rounds up a successful season in 3 disciplines for Van Der Poel who looks to be in great form ahead of the World Championships at the end of the month. Van Der Poel has won the World Cyclocross Championships, 3 mountain bike world cups and had some outstanding results on the road in 2019. Many riders have tipped the dutch cycling star to win the elite road race in Yorkshire to take the rainbow bands.
Van Der Poel now narrowly leads the overall classification by 1 second from Matteo Trentin (Mitchleton-Scott) with Jasper De Buyst (Lotto-Soudal) in 3rd. The 2019 edition of the race finishes in Manchester on the 14th of September, two weeks before the World Championships.
Train Track Drama
Stage 4 also featured a peculiar incident where a train stopped the breakaway and the race organisers had to redistribute the time gaps. This was handled smoothly and was undoubtedly a success, allowing the breakaway riders to go back up the road, restoring their advantage.
Back in the 1950’s the race organisers were much more relaxed with the impact of level crossings. Matt Rendell notes in his book about José Beyaert, that a stage of the 1950 Giro d'Italia was decided by a level crossing. The chasing group containing Cogan and Apo Lazaridès was saved by the peloton, as they were forced to stop at a level crossing, allowing the Lazaridès brothers to regain the group. Despite Gino Bartali and Fausto Coppi trying to drop the pair, they came unstuck by a train!
Nowadays the commissaires are keen to restore the time gaps to prior the incident. Although the train crossing at the Tour of Britain provided a little reminder of the impending risks of racing on the road. When the racing bubble seems impenetrable, a simple passenger train can cause a moment of chaos and halt the race for 10 minutes! When the heat of the race is on, it is never that simple.
In fact there is a heap of footage, mainly from France and Belgium, of riders lurching across the tracks whilst the barriers are down. It does provide uncomfortable viewing for spectators, who are left watching cyclists risk everything to stay with the front of the race.
This footage from the 2015 under-23 Tour of Flanders shows riders jumping round the barriers and narrowly missing an oncoming train.
Perhaps more famously, this video from the 2015 Paris-Roubaix shows the peloton in disarray as some escapees jump across the tracks, whilst others wait in frustration desperate to cross but being held back by their own will. The rail company later described the riders actions as "extremely grave and irresponsible actions which could have been tragic".
This incident prompted the UCI to revise the rules completely, enforcing stricter regulations that forbid crossing a level crossing when the barriers are down during a race situation.
Roger Hammond has previously commented on this subject, agreeing that "riders cannot make a rational decision in race mode" and more has to be done by the race organisers.