Great Britain faced a deficit of more than five minutes in the Olympic cycling road race as they sought to help Mark Cavendish claim the first home gold medal of the London 2012 Games.
A 12-man escape group established a large advantage entering the second of nine ascents of the Box Hill climb in Surrey.
Cavendish, the world champion and winner of 23 Tour de France stages, began the 250-kilometre road race as one of the favourites to finish first on The Mall.
But in an event without race radio, the Manxman was relying on the experience and ability of British road captain David Millar and Bradley Wiggins, the first British Tour winner, to ensure the break remained within reach.
Chris Froome, who finished second to Wiggins in the Tour, and British champion Ian Stannard completed the five-man line-up.
With many of the major nations represented in the escape, Britain were handed the responsibility to chase.
Like Britain, Germany were not present in the escape and an alliance was possible.