47th Vuelta al País Vasco - PT
Spain, April 9-14, 2007
Voigt finishes off his attacks
Germany's Jens Voigt (CSC) took the honours of stage four of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco today, arriving solo in his usual manner in Lekunberri finishing the 176-km parcours in 4 hours, 32 minutes and 15 seconds. Jose Angel Gomez Marchante (Saunier Duval-Prodir) came in second 1'39" later while Spanish star Alejandro Valverde (Caisse D'Epargne) arrived third 1'53" after Voigt. Today's winner was part of the breakaway of the day and changed the tempo inside the leaders group at the right place to get the victory.
Angel Vicioso (Relax-Gam) remained in command of the general classification in 17.14.26 followed by Gomez Marchante, 1.46 slower and Juan Jose Cobo (Saunier Duval-Prodir) at 1.54. Big favourite Valverde is 12th in the GC, 2 minutes and 21 second behind, Koldo Gil (Saunier Duval-Prodir) fifth (2'09"), Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) seventh (2'11") and Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Fondital) tenth (2'17").
Tomorrow's key stage five (169 kilometres long) will probably decide the overall winner with six climbs and a flattish finish in Oiartzun. It will be the penultimate stage before the individual time trial in Oiartzun.
How it unfolded
There were 163 riders left who signed today in Vitoria. Famous Basque Iban Mayo decided not to take part of today's stage as well as Bram Tankink (Quick-Step) who was second in the overall classification. The Dutch didn't feel good so he didn't start today in the capital city of Alava province.
Very early on, at kilometre six, nine riders attacked the peloton: Mikel Artetxe (Fuerteventura), Jens Voigt (CSC), Aitor Perez Arrieta (Caisse d'Epargne), Paolo Tiralongo (Lampre), Addy Engels (Quick Step), Carl Naibo (Ag2r), Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel- Euskadi), Andriy Grivko (Milram) and Remy Di Gregorio (Francaise des Jeux).
At the second climb, Alto de Opakua (category 1 - km 40), the leaders had an advantage around five minutes over the bunch. Later on, the gap was going to become bigger as the peloton let only let it grow. On the long descent of Opakua, the leaders got more seconds and led by more than six minutes.
The race went through Alto de Zuarrarrate (category 2 - km 103), where the breakaway was working well, but the leaders started attacking each other at Alto de Huitzi (category 3 - km 118.5). At the descent of this climb, Jens Voigt was behind his breakaway mates. But the German caught the upfront group and and attacked them soon after. At km 132, with 44 km to go, Voigt led the race 1'05" ahead of the other eight riders from the breakaway and 5'45" ahead of the peloton.
There were still two mountains left for the experienced CSC rider. At Alto de Leaburu (km 144 - 32 km to the end), Voigt was around two minutes ahead of his chasers and five minutes and 44 second faster than the bunch. The German turbo preserved the advantage at the last intermediate sprint in Betelu (km 165 - 11 km to go).
The CSC rider then began the tough climbing of the last mountain, Alto de Azpiroz (summit with three km to go). At the top of this climb, Voigt maintained the lead toward his chasers. Among them was defending champion Jose Angel Gomez Marchante who rode strongly trying to catch the German and making time up on race leader Angel Vicioso, who wasn't having a good time when climbing the last mountain.
The finish line was three kilometres further away from the summit of the Azpiroz. In these down-hills, Voigt managed a good tempo and ended up solo crossing in first place for his fourth stage victory in the Basque tour.