The race leader Mark Cavendish of Sky Pro Cycling climbs Gun Hill in Staffordshire during Stage 5 of the Tour of Britain on September 13, 2012 in Staffordshire, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

LONDON, Sept 13 (Reuters) – World road race champion Mark Cavendish lost the overall lead of the Tour of Britain on Thursday as Marc de Maar recovered from a crash near the end to win the fifth stage in Stoke.

Team Sky’s Cavendish lost touch with the peloton on the undulating roads of the Peak District and finished more than 10 minutes behind De Maar, who attacked with 7km remaining.

Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins chose to wait for Cavendish when the peloton broke up in an effort to lead him back into contention.

“At that moment it was the point of no return,” Sky sporting director Servais Knaven said on the team’s website (www.teamsky.com).

“Brad was in between the two groups waiting for Cav and the gap looked shorter than it was. Brad wanted to help us defend the jersey today and did everything he could to help Cav.”

Australia’s Leigh Howard reclaimed the overall lead with a seven-second advantage over Dutchman Boy van Poppel going into Friday’s 189km sixth stage in the Welsh mountains.

De Maar’s performance was all the more remarkable as he was left on the tarmac with 10km remaining.