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Hello and welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage from stage 4 of Tirreno-Adriatico from Indicatore (Arezzo) to Cittareale (Selva Rotonda).
We're into the Apennines today for the first of two mountain stages. It's a brutal 244km on the menu for the peloton today though, with what promises to be one the most exciting days of racing so far this year.
To bring you right up to speed we have a group up the road and 120km has already been covered. The riders in the break are Mondory, Lutsenko, Fortin, Brandle, Pichot and Belkov.
There are two categorised climbs in the final half of the stage and then the 14km climb up to the finish. The average gradient is 5.3% but in truth the road ramps up, with the last five kilometres at 6.4% and the final two kilometres at 7-8%.
It is a real mountain finish despite being only March, and the roads will no doubt be lined with snow. Fortunately the weather forecasts are good for the whole duration of this year's race.
Peter Sagan won yesterday but we also saw Kwiatkowski move into the lead and he now holds the lead over his teammate Uran. Watch out for the likes of Contador and Porte today as they'll both be looking to attack.
1 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team 9:26:36
2 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:00:10
3 Simon Clarke (Aus) Orica GreenEdge 0:00:13
4 Tony Martin (Ger) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:00:15
5 Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica GreenEdge 0:00:17
6 Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale 0:00:22
7 André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Belisol 0:00:30
8 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Tinkoff-Saxo
9 Luke Durbridge (Aus) Orica GreenEdge 0:00:31
10 Cameron Meyer (Aus) Orica GreenEdge
11 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:00:36
12 Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar Team 0:00:38
13 Andrey Amador Bakkazakova (CRc) Movistar Team
14 Eros Capecchi (Ita) Movistar Team
15 Benat Intxausti Elorriaga (Spa) Movistar Team
16 Richie Porte (Aus) Team Sky 0:00:39
17 Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Lotto Belisol 0:00:40
18 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:00:44
19 Nicolas Roche (Irl) Tinkoff-Saxo
20 Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Cannondale 0:00:46
But Kwiatkowski is the man to beat. He's been in a different league so far this season and his rivals have simply found him too hot to handle. He started out in Mallorca with a stage win, nothing huge there, true. However he won two stages and the overall in Algarve before crushing the field and Sagan in Strade Bianche. He and his team won the TTT here and his second place yesterday saw him put time into all his main rivals.
If there's one or two weaknesses it's that he sometimes has the odd bad day as we saw in San Luis last year and the Tour. He's not the most experienced either but that doesn't really matter too much if you've got the legs and a good team around you.
At the moment the break, consisting of Lloyd Mondory (Ag2r La Mondiale), Alexey Lutsenko (Astana), Matthias Brandle (IAM Cycling), Filippo Fortin (Bardiani-CSF), Alexandre Pichot (Europcar) and Maxim Belkov (Katusha) have 7'20 over the peloton.
It's QuickStep who are currently on the front of the peloton though as they control the pace, as they have done for the majority of this week's race. First for Cavendish and now for new race leader Kwiatkowski.
The leaders broke clear inside the first 10km of racing and with 105km of racing to go their advantage is at 6'57.
Contador is safely tucked in the middle of the peloton at the moment. He looks to be finding some of his old form, he won a stage in Algarve and finished second overall but he's far from the rider who danced away to victory in the 2009 Tour de France. This race is should give a better indication as to whether he can challenge for the Tour, although the race is a long way off, and of course Froome isn't here. Still, it's a big day for him and victory in the stage would give him the world of confidence.
Here's where things stand in the KOM competition.
1 Marco Canola (Ita) Bardiani CSF 25 pts
2 Daniel Teklehaimanot (Eri) MTN - Qhubeka 8
3 Cesare Benedetti (Ita) Team NetApp - Endura 6
4 David De La Cruz Melgarejo (Spa) Team NetApp - Endura 6
5 Nicola Boem (Ita) Bardiani CSF 4
6 Alex Dowsett (GBr) Movistar Team 3
7 Bjorn Thurau (Ger) Team Europcar 2
8 Davide Malacarne (Ita) Team Europcar 1
Cycling the Alps @cyclingthealps 6m
@dnlbenson first climb is the Forca di Cerro (0734m). Here is a Street Time Lapse video of the climb. http://www.cyclingthealps.com/#forca-di-cerro-hyperlapse …
News has filtered through that Robert Gesink has abandoned the race. He started the stage 49 seconds down, on the same time as his teammate Bauke Mollema. We'll try and get an official comment from Belkin.
As the leaders have ducked under the 100km to go point. Their lead at a steady 6'50 over the peloton.
In other news Jurgen Van Den Broeck has escaped serious injury. He crashed out of the race a couple of days ago but hasn't sustained anything that will keep him off the bike for more than a few days.
While Philippe Gilbert has shown some signs that he's steadily improving ahead of Milan-San Remo. The first Classic of the season is only a week and a day away. Can.Not.Wait.
And a couple of days ago we reported the war of words between Floyd Landis and his former trainer Allen Lim. You can read the feature right here.
The gap to the leaders is now just over six minutes as the bunch start to warm up and look towards the final 80km of racing.
Chris Horner is 1:05 down on GC but the American will be looking to shine for Lampre. He's added the Giro to his schedule for 2014 and this is an important step towards the start in Belfast in May. He's ridden well here in the past of course and on his day, based of his efforts in the Vuelta last year, he's a threat for the stage and the overall.
Daniel Martin is two minutes down on GC and this is his first race of the season so he's still finding his feet but he could certainly feature on the last climb today. His teammate Andrew Talansky is also here an in this exclusive video for Cyclingnews talked about why he'd opted for Tirreno over Paris Nice.
While in this exclusive video Bradley Wiggins, Chris Horner, Tyler Farrar and Ben Swift talk about their neo-pro experiences and biggest mistakes. It's well worth a watch.
175 km covered by the leaders and the gap is at 5'46. Omega Pharma still on the front and controlling the pace.
The leaders are now climbing and already the group has split with Mondory, Lutsenko, Brandle and Belkov going clear.
Mondory is probably the most accomplished rider in the break and he's currently setting the pace. Way back in 2008 he won the KOM jersey in this very race.
Movistar have now pitched in and started to set the pace at the front of the peloton. The break, still up ahead, have split to pieces.
Race radio crackles through that Pichon and Belkov are now leading but we'll look to clear that confusion up as soon as we can.
Into the final 55km and Movistar have the leaders at 1'59, the lead has dropped dramatically.
It was indeed Pichot and Fortin who were dropped on the last climb, leaving four riders clear of the field.
It's all Movistar on the front of the peloton, with the lead at 2'16. The remaining leader: Mondory, Lutsenko, Brandle and Belkov.
It's all Movistar on the front of the peloton, with the lead at 2'16. The remaining leader: Mondory, Lutsenko, Brandle and Belkov.
Nairo Quintana is currently 12th overall, 38 seconds off the lead. He certainly has the capabilities to shake up the GC today.
And Cadel Evans has been dropped already today. That's a major shock at this stage in the action but he's off the back.
Vansummeren is back with the team cars and picking up bottles as up ahead the four leaders see their gap drop to 1'28. At this rate they'll be caught well before the final climb of the day.
Belkov has slipped off the back of the break so we now have just three riders in the lead.
Sagan is quite near the front as well at the moment but Movistar have their entire team on the front.
Anton is there as well, Dowsett too and Malori. They've really got a strong team with a huge level of depth. Can Quintana pay them back with a winning performance?
The break are trying to respond with an injection of pace but all they can do is limit their loses for now. The gap is at 1'30 with 38km to go.
Belkov is about to be caught by the bunch but there's no word as to whether Evans has made it back to the peloton.
Word has it that Evans has made contact with the bunch but there's no visual confirmation as of yet.
The road has flattened out though so he will have had a chance to make contact but the peloton are flying along at the moment and are stretched out in one long line.
The three leaders are climbing at the moment, their gap to the bunch steady at 1'23.
And there's a problem for Contador who has changed bikes. That's going to be a tough effort to make it back but he has a teammate waiting for him.
The former Tour winner, Contador, should make it back but that's not ideal at this stage.
He's quickly at the back of the bunch but now his team will need to ride him towards the front of the peloton.
The four leaders now have 1'17 over the peloton as we approach the final climb.
Into the final 30km of racing and the three leaders now have 59 seconds but Movistar aren't letting up and the chase is becoming ever more frantic.
Problems for Bramdle who gives it too much gas on a corner and almost runs off the road.
And on a descent it's Mondory who leads with a small gap over the rest of the break.
And Mondory is taking risks but he's leading buy a few more seconds now.
And Mondory is taking risks but he's leading by a few more seconds now.
And Mondory has crashed.
He was looking good but then he took one corner too quickly and went down. He's sitting up but he's been caught and quickly passed by Lutsenko and Brandle.
Mondory is up and riding again but he's about to be caught by the bunch.
So Brandle and Lutsenko lead the race with 22km to go and the gap at 1'16.
Dan Martin is occupying the back of the peloton so it doesn’t look like he'll change for the stage win today
All the riders are now in the valley between the last two climbs and the summit at Selvarotonda.
There roughly 60 riders in the main field and Kwiatkowski is still well protected.
Lampre have moved Horner up and Saxo have done the same with Contador. Wiggins leads Porte up to the front too.
16km to go and the pace is still high as we move towards the final climb.
Average gradient of around 5 per cent on the final climb as AG2R and Lampre mix it with Movistar on the front.
The pace has slowed a little in the peloton as they bunch up and prepare for the final key ascent. The two leaders are at 44 seconds.
Movistar have lost a couple of riders off the pace setting so we might see Sky or Tinkoff take things up.
It looks like the leaders are sitting up as the gap goes down to 20 seconds.
They're on a long straight road so the bunch can see what they need to do in terms of the chase.
And Movistar have returned to the front of the bunch as Wiggins pulls Porte up as well.
Wiggins clearly working for Porte as Quintana has a quick look over at his Sky rivals.
As we approach the final 10km of racing and the climb kicks up.
Movistar still have the numbers though as they lead.
Sagan has been dropped.
Just 8km to go and Pirazzi has attacked.
The main field is still quite large and Kwiatkowski is looking comfortable.
Pirazzi has 26 seconds already on the field.
And Movistar have sent a man up the road as well, so who will chase?
So Omega will need to respond because Intxausti is just 38 seconds down.
Poels is leading the chase
Movistar are playing a strong hand at the moment.
And Tinkoff have sent a man to up the road and it's Kruezinger.
The Tinkoff rider has made contact with Intxausti
And the pair are about to catch Pirazzi. Omega have to respond and they'll need to use Uran.
6km to go and Pirazzi, Intxausti and Kruezinger lead the race.
Quintana is sitting in the bunch and just waiting. Uran is on his wheel and then it's Contador.
Kreuziger is setting a furious pace though, the gap to the trio around 4 seconds.
Kreuziger is too strong and he's dropping his companions. Pirazzi stops the dangers and sprints back to the Tinkoff rider, who is on the big ring.
4.6km to in the race. As the main GC riders watch each other. The road will steepen again.
Kreuziger is 26 seconds clear with Pirazzi and he's still on the big ring as he gets out the saddle and smashes on the pedals.
And Pirazzi has cracked but only for a second, and he's back.
Pinot, Uran, Porte still in the Quintana group with the race leader. The gap is 28 seconds.
And now Kreuziger is clear with 3.3km to go.
He's riding away from everyone and into the race lead.
The chase group is still quite large though and Contador is waiting in the wings. He's not looking great though.
The gap to the leader is now 26 seconds. He started the stage 44 seconds down.
There's a ten, six, four bonus at the finish.
Kreuziger is now on the steeper sections as Pirazzi is caught by the main field
There's an attack from BMC and Porte chases.
Contador follow too
And now an attack from Trek as the chasers come back together.
Scarponi has attacked and Kreuziger might have cracked with 2km to go.
He's still grinding away on the big ring so he can't be in too much trouble as Contador and Quintana bridge up to Scarponi. The race leader isnt there nor is Porte.
Kiserlovski is with Contador, Quintana and Scarponi.
They're spread out over the road and Quintana attacks and Contador goes with him.
Krueziger has waited.
1km to go.
And Porte has made it the leaders as well.
Scarponi hs leading the way now and it's all coming back together with 1km to go.
And Porte now leads the main field on his wheel.
Uran has been dropped as Porte winds things up from the front.
He has two Tinkoff riders on his wheel.
The race leader is back with the group too.
And Porte has gone and Contador has to chase.
Porte leads Contador, Quintana and Scarponi.
Porte opens up for the sprint.
But Contador goes!
Quintana is trying to make it to his wheel
But it's Contador who takes the win as Quintana can't match the Spaniard. Kwiatkowski is chasing hard and he should keep his leader's jersey.
What a finish. Contador just had more of a kick in his legs as the leaders moved into the final 500m. He used Porte's acceleration well and then kicked for the line. Quintana tried to match him but simply couldnt shut the gap.
Horner was in the mix too and finished in the top ten aswell
It was Moreno in third. Krueziger in fourth, Porte, Scarponi and then Kwiatkowski.
Contador now moves into second place overall, 16 seconds off the lead.
1 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo 6:39:56
2 Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar Team 0:00:01
3 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Team Katusha 0:00:05
4 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff-Saxo
5 Richie Porte (Aus) Team Sky
6 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:00:08
7 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:00:10
8 Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Trek Factory Racing 0:00:11
9 Chris Horner (USA) Lampre-Merida
10 Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Team Katusha 0:00:17
General classification after stage 4
1 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team 16:06:42
2 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:00:16
3 Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar Team 0:00:23
Thanks for joining us today. You can find our report, results, and photos, right here.