Ben Swift sprinted to 12th place on stage four of the Tour de Pologne as lone attacker Taylor Phinney held off the peloton by just metres to claim a thrilling win.
Phinney (BMC) surged clear of the sprint trains 7.9km from the line in Katowice and hung on following a superb solo display, with Swift being one of a clutch of fast men who followed the American over the line on the same time.
Sergio Henao finished safely in the main bunch to retain second place in the general classification, four seconds behind race leader and home favourite Rafal Majka (Saxo-Tinkoff).
Stage four was the longest of the race, at 231.5km, and took the riders on an undulating route starting in Tarnow and finishing with four laps of a 12.3km circuit in Katowice.
Nine riders broke away and opened up a maximum gap of over four minutes, but their ranks were reduced to eight when Francis de Greef (Lotto-Belisol), just 6min 26sec down in the general classification, dropped away in order to relieve the pressure being exerted by the wary peloton.
As the gap fell to less than 1min 30sec heading into the final 30km, riders began to attack out of the breakaway, with first Mathieu Ladagnous (FDJ) and then Kamil Gradek (Poland) both attempting to open up solo leads.
Phinney hangs on
Gradek made his attempt 22km out stick and he remained in the lead until 11km to go, but by now the sprint trains were forming and the pace of the peloton was too high for the Pole to resist after being at the head of the race all day.
There no such concerns for Phinney, who used a half-hearted attack from Valerio Agnoli (Astana) as a springboard for his own solo assault.
When it quickly became apparent that the BMC rider had the form to hang on for victory, Rigoberto Uran hit the front of the peloton for Team Sky in a desperate bid to close him down.
With 250m to go it looked like his efforts would pay off, but Phinney called on his final reserves of energy to resist the sprint teams' surge.
Swift launched his burst for the line early but was swallowed up by his rivals in the closing metres.
After the stage, sports director Dan Hunt told us: “Stages don’t often end like they did today. Fair play to BMC – they took a gamble and it paid off. It was a tough sprint because it was a bit downhill, and Ben got swamped. But in hindsight, there is nothing we would have done differently.”
Hunt is now turning attentions to Thursday’s fifth stage and is hopeful the hilly day will come down a sprint in Zakopane, the same town in which Swift won in the 2012 race.
“The last time it was run on this course, Swifty won, so if it comes down to a sprint again, we will back him to try to get the victory,” Hunt added.
“But we have also got to think about the GC and think about Friday’s stage, which is going to be important. We will see how tomorrow pans out and make decisions on the road.”
Hunt revealed that long transfers between stages were proving taxing, but that the riders were being well looked after by the Team Sky staff.
He added: “The lads have had long transfers this morning and after the stage, but Nige Mitchell has done a really good job of keeping the lads fed at good times, and not 10pm in the evening.”