Geraint Thomas kept the pressure on in the fight for the lead at the Tour of Britain after taking fourth place on stage five.
The Welshman was in the mix for the bunch sprint on the Exmouth seafront and moved into the Prostate Cancer Charity points jersey after maintaining his consistent start to the race.
Thomas still sits 12 seconds behind the race leader Lars Boom (Rabobank) as things came back together in a finish that also saw Mathew Hayman claim sixth.
Team Sky were on the attack once again through Michael Rogers as the experienced Australian made his way into the day’s break following the opening first category climb.
Mark Renshaw sprinted to victory on the day to lead home a 1-2 for HTC-Highroad, the Australian edging out Mark Cavendish at the finish as the lead-out man was handed his chance to take the win.
The peloton were forced to shut down a spirited attack from Damien Gaudin (Europcar) in the closing stages but a downhill run to the line on the beachfront made life difficult for the Frenchman.
Steve Cummings remains in the fight for the IG Markets leader's jersey in ninth, still 19 seconds back on Boom.
Rogers feeling strong
Fresh from a lengthy spell in the day's break we caught up with Michael Rogers who revealed he is happy to be back racing at the sharp end.
He said "The team's plan for the day was simply to pile the pressure on again. We attacked continuously over the first hour of the race with that objective and I was able to get into the breakaway. Unfortunately it didn't stay away, the lead got eaten up by the main group with about 25 km to go to the finish. It became a bunch sprint then into Exmouth on the seafront which HTC are obviously world class at and they took first and second.
"It was a great day for riding with the sun, although we would have ideally liked some wind to help on the higher moorland. That said, it was still a very tough course with some steep climbing and a real effort needed on the moors and back towards the coast.
"The first couple of days in Scotland were tough but I am feeling strong now. It is great to be back racing with the team, and the guys, and I'm looking forward to the remainder of the season with this race to finish, the World Championships next week and the Tour of Lombardy in October. I have got a few more goals to aim for yet this year."
The riders rolled away from the start line in Exeter under the shadow of the cathedral as good conditions greeted the race for the second day in succession.
Rogers chipped off the front early on with Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil) and Mark McNally (An-Post) in toe in a short-lived move that signalled the team’s intentions.
A battle broke out for the King of the Mountains classification with Jonathan Tiernan-Locke (Rapha Condor Sharp) taking the fight to Russell Hampton (Sigma Sport) on the first climb of the day at Haytor Rocks and moving into the jersey at the end of the day.
The dig from Tiernan-Locke dragged three additional riders along as narrow, undulating roads saw the peloton strung out over Dartmoor.
Various chasing groups chanced their arm on the tough westerly loop, Rogers again forcing his way into a nine-man move which joined forces with the day’s break, creating a motivated pack of 13 riders.
With the gap to the group sitting at over six minutes Rabobank were forced to pick up the chase work, yet as the race looped back around towards Exmouth the gap began to tumble and more teams were willing to lend a hand on the front.
The lead group was slowly whittled down as the terrain took its toll and eventually the attacks began, four men firing off the front in a bid to hold off a raging peloton, Gaudin the last man to be caught to set up a bunch sprint.
After the stage we caught up with Sports Director Sean Yates who admitted the terrain had made it difficult to influence the race in the manner of the last few stages.
He said: “It was tough in the mid-section of the stage but once the break was established they chased it down. At the end it wasn’t so hard. Unless it is seriously hard it is difficult to do too much, especially with no wind to speak of.
“After yesterday we are kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place. The boys did a lot of work in the last couple of days. With it being easier towards the finish our options were very limited. We got Mick into that break which was good.”
A strong ride from Rogers was an encouraging sight for team and rider after a stop-start season, with Yates revealing he’d have been fine with the break contesting the finish.
He added: “I’d have been more than happy for that break to go even though (Linus) Gerdemann was in there. Mick won one of the intermediate sprints and got a few seconds but Rabobank had a lot of help in the peloton and it all came back together for a sprint.
“G just missed out a third place bonus which would have come in handy. He was a bit disappointed about that but there’s not a lot we can do really. It is another day that we can tick off. We’ll fight on.”