After the stage, Wiggins rode home to nearby Chorley
Bradley Wiggins pulled out of the Tour of Britain after the fourth stage in Blackpool, to concentrate on next week's World Championships time-trial.
"It's just over a week to the World Championships and I don't want to take any risks," he told Cycling Weekly.
"I'm riding well but I could end up going too hard and not have anything left for the World Championships."
Norway's Edvald Boasson Hagen won a second consecutive stage to move within one second of race leader Kai Reus.
Boasson Hagen - who will ride for the new GB-based Team Sky next year - out-sprinted Wiggins' Garmin team-mate Chris Sutton for his 11th win of the 2009 season and the 79th victory for his team, Columbia HTC.
He just looked at me and said, 'Don't worry about it, I've got loads in the tank'
Wiggins' team-mate Chris Sutton
Sutton, who won Saturday's first stage in York and lies third overall, again paid tribute to Wiggins, who played a critical role in dragging back a five-man breakaway.
"He was pushing 60km per hour for a lot of the ride and I was telling him to slow down because I'd need him at the finish," said Sutton.
"But he just looked at me and said, 'Don't worry about it, I've got loads in the tank'."
After the stage, three-time Olympic champion Wiggins rode his bike to his home in nearby Chorley and will now rest ahead of the 24 September race in Mendrisio, Switzerland.
He has a realistic chance of a podium place there, alongside Olympic time trial champion Fabien Cancellara.
Back in Blackpool, in a 148km stage around the Forest of Bowland, Team Columbia took command in the final minutes.
We're close now and so we have to try and win overall
Boasson Hagen's team manager
Although a crash 500 metres from the finish scattered the peloton, Boasson Hagen was ahead of it and got a perfect lead-out from Tony Martin of Germany.
"We're close now and so we have to try and win overall," said Columbia team coach Valerio Piva.
"Edvald is on form, we've got a strong team here, and so why not? We've done it before."
Sutton is just five seconds adrift of the yellow jersey in third overall and now leads the points standings.
WORLD ROAD CHAMPIONSHIPS
Venue: Mendriso, Switzerland
Dates: 23-27 September
Coverage: Live on the BBC Red Button and the BBC Sport website (UK only); highlights on BBC Two
"It was a pretty good day for me overall and I have to be pleased with how things have gone so far this week," he said.
"It's been a great week for me so far and I had no intention of chasing the GC when I got here. But now all the lads are telling me to go for it and give it a go but we will have to see."
Stage four result:
1 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor/Team Columbia-HTC) 3hrs 32mins 04secs
2 Christopher Sutton (Aus/Garmin-Slipstream)
3 Martin Reimer (Ger/Cervelo Test Team)
4 Russell Downing (GB/Candi TV- Pinarello RT)
5 Koldo Fernandez (Spa/Euskaltel-Euskadi)
6 Tony Martin (Ger/Team Columbia-HTC)
7 Renaud Dion (Fra/AG2R La Mondiale)
8 Mauro Finetto (Ita/CSF Group-Navigare)
9 Graham Briggs (GB/Candi TV-Pinarello RT)
10 Malcolm Elliott (GB/Candi TV-Pinarello RT)
all at same time
1 Kai Reus (Ned/Rabobank) 14hrs 56mins 19secs
2 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor/Team Columbia-HTC) at 0.01
3 Christopher Sutton (Aus/Garmin-Slipstream) at 0.05
4 Martin Reimer (Ger/Cervelo Test Team) at 0.11
5 Michele Merlo (Ita/Barloworld) at 0.14
6 Alexander Kristoff (Nor/Joker Bianchi) at 0.19
7 Simon Clarke (Aus/ISD-Neri) at 0.21
8 Reinier Honig (Ned/Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team) at 0.23
9 Rob Ruygh (Ned/Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team) at same time
10 Geoffroy Lequatre (Fra/Agritubel)
at same time