The Tour of Britain opened up on the fifth day of racing with Marc de Maar winning the stage and Australia's Leigh Howard regaining possession of the leaders jersey.
I knew Cavendish was struggling with the climbs early in the stage, so when the crunch came I knew he wasn't going to go. When the break happened, I just made sure I went with them.
Stoke-on-Trent hosted the finish where de Maar (Unitedhealthcare) finished ahead of Sep Vanmarcke (Garmin-Sharp) and team-mate Boy Van Poppel (UnitedHealthcare) at the end of the 147km stage.
"We were planning for a sprint but there was a bit of movement, I suddenly saw a gap and decided to keep on going," said a delighted de Maar.
"I had a rough start to the Tour. I was involved in two crashes and I was thinking about going home.
"I'd come to contend the general classification but lost four minutes in one stage. I lost motivation, but it looks like I have found it again."
The general classification again saw a reshuffle as Howard (Orica-GreenEDGE) finished fifth to regain the race lead he'd lost on Stage 4 to Mark Cavendish (Sky).
"I rode an aggressive race, I had some attacks myself and luckily I had good legs and could stay with those at the front," Howard told the BBC.
"I'll be having a few problems up the climbs and I can't see myself still in the gold jersey by the end of the week but I'm going to try."
"I knew Cavendish was struggling with the climbs early in the stage, so when the crunch came I knew he wasn't going to go.
"When the break happened, I just made sure I went with them."
Cavendish and Sky suffered the most damage on the stage after the road world champion was dropped with a third of the race to go, he eventually finished minutes behind De Maar.
With 50km left to race Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) had opened up a gap on his breakaway companions, Australian Bernie Sulzberger (Raleigh-GAC) and Bartosz Huzarski (NetApp), after the rolling terrain and crosswinds saw the peloton split into several groups, one of which contained Cavendish.
The foot of the last climb of the day at Gun Hill saw another filtering of the peloton as the chase group, led by Jonathan Tiernan-Locke (Endura) caught Basso and left Cavendish trailing more than five minutes behind.
A very strong-looking Tiernan-Locke was first over the Gun Hill climb but on the descent he was collected by six riders, including Australian Nathan Haas (Garmin-Sharp).
That select group then gained a few more riders with Howard, who was second on the general classification heading into the stage, and Van Poppel, third, the most dangerous among them.
With 15km to go a series of attacks came from several quarters as individual riders unsuccessfully attempted to loosen the grip of the front selection.
Inside the 10km mark De Maar hit the deck on a high-speed turn, but he recovered quickly, and fuelled by the adrenaline of the moment drove past the leading group into an 10-second lead.
The 2012 Curacao road and time trial national champion then extended his lead by a further five seconds as the finish line rapidly approached, digging deep in the final kilometre to win solo.
With De Maar spent and waiting at the finish, the bunch sprint was where the general classification would be decided.
Once there Vanmarcke got the better of Van Poppel and Haas at the line as Howard rode into fifth position on the stage and leader's overall jersey.
Stage 5: 147km, Stoke-on-Trent
1 Marc De Maar (NED) UnitedHealthcare 3hr 30min 27sec
2 Sep Vanmarcke (BEL) Garmin-Sharp 0:00:15
3 Boy Van Poppel (NED) UnitedHealthcare
4 Nathan Haas (AUS) Garmin-Sharp
5 Leigh Howard (AUS) Orica-GreenEDGE
6 Sam Bennett (IRL) An Post-Sean Kelly
7 Damiano Caruso (ITA) Liquigas-Cannondale
8 Leopold Koenig (CZE) Team NetApp
9 Jonathan Tiernan-Locke (GBR) Endura
10 Jerome Coppel (FRA) Saur-Sojasun
1 Leigh Howard (AUS) Orica-GreenEDGE 20hr 38min 35sec
2 Boy Van Poppel (NED) UnitedHealthcare 0:00:07
3 Sep Vanmarcke (BEL) Garmin-Sharp 0:00:17
4 Nathan Haas (AUS) Garmin-Sharp 0:00:23
5 Christian Knees (GER) Sky 0:00:24
6 Jonathan Tiernan-Locke (GBR) Endura
7 Damiano Caruso (ITA) Liquigas-Cannondale
8 Christopher Jones (USA) UnitedHealthcare 0:00:34
9 Bartosz Huzarski (POL) NetApp 00:02:02
10 David Le Lay (FRA) Saur-Sojasun