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Volta a Catalunya stage 4 - Live coverage

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Hello there and welcome to our live coverage of stage 4 of the Volta a Catalunya. After yesterday's summit finish at Vallter 2000, today we have more climbing on the menu as the riders take on three major mountain passes in the space of 166km, finishing at Port Ainé at the top of an hors-catégorie climb just below 2000m. 

It should be a cracker. 

Not much of a pre-amble today, I'm afraid. The riders have already rolled out of Ripoll and are making their way through the neutral zone, so the start of the stage is just around the corner.

There's no pre-amble for the riders either; we're climbing from the gun.

Plenty of riders were on the rollers this morning, anticipating a fast and furious start. There should be plenty of interest in the breakaway bus today, while race leader Adam Yates and his Ineos Grenadiers team will have to be wary of the opening exchanges. 

Just before we get going, now's the time to re-cap on how we got here. Full results and standings at our report page from yesterday's stage

We're off!

The flag is waved and we are underway.

A few early attacks but nothing going clear yet.

We have two non-starters today. George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma) is ill, while Ilnur Zakarin (Gazprom-RusVelo) has a hip injury. 

The opening gradients are low - more of a false flat before we reach Ribes de Freser, where the climb of the Port de Toses officially begins and where we have an early intermediate sprint.

From Ribes de Freser, it's still steady stuff, before a two-kilometre descent takes out any sting and makes the climb's overall average gradient seem pretty meek. However, it ratchets up from there and the last five or so kilometres are much steeper. 

Diego Camargo (EF-Nippo) and Andreas Kron (Lotto Soudal) are on the move.

We'll see what kind of breakaway forms on this first climb. It's followed by a descent and then a long false flat downhill that will lead us towards the final two climbs. From there it's up-down-up, and that will be the critical phase of the race for the GC contenders.

At the intermediate sprint, Kron passes through first ahead of Camargo. Several seconds later, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) clips off the front of the peloton to take the final remaining bonus second.

That bonus second moves Valverde level on time with Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe) in fifth place. The Spaniard was third yesterday in what was his best performance in quite some time. He has won this race three times - are we seeing a new lease of life for the rider who'll turn 41 next month?

A reminder of the overall standings at the start of the day

1 Adam Yates (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers 9:44:21

2 Richie Porte (Aus) Ineos Grenadiers 0:00:45

3 João Almeida (Por) Deceuninck-QuickStep 0:00:49

4 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers 0:00:53

5 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:01:03

6 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 0:01:04

7 Hugh Carthy (GBr) EF Education-Nippo 0:01:14

8 Simon Yates (GBr) Team BikeExchange 0:01:21

9 Esteban Chaves Rubio (Col) Team BikeExchange

10 Brandon McNulty (USA) UAE Team Emirates 0:01:24

Kron and Camargo are brought back but we have more riders on the move now, including Wout Poels and James Knox

That move is now brought back as well. The other riders in there were Tolhoek, Vallter, Storer, Zwiehoff, Schelling. 

A new group went clear on the downhill section but they've been caught now.

It's quite chaotic out there and we're about to hit the tougher section of the climb. 

Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) is on the move. Plenty of riders losing contact with the peloton now.

A dozen riders in a counter-attack behind De Gendt.

Those riders join De Gendt and now we have 12 out front. Lennard Kamna (Bora-Hansgrohe) is in there. He's just 1:33 down in the overall standings, so a real danger man.

Confirmation on the full composition of the group on the way shortly. They've opened up a lead of 45 seconds. If Kamna is indeed in there, that's a surprising one. Ineos can't afford to give him much rope. 

Into the final kilometre of the Port de Toses, and the gradient eases a little.

The gap's growing! 1:45 now. Kamna is the virtual leader of the race. A long way to go, though.

Here's the 12-rider breakaway

Lennard Kamna (Bora-Hansgrohe)

Rigoberto Uran (EF-Nippo)

Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal)

Clement Champoussin (AG2R Citroen)

Antwan Tolhoek (Jumbo-Visma)

Koen Bouwman (Jumbo-Visma)

Sergio Samitier (Movistar)

Antonio Pedrero (Movistar)

Juan Pedro Lopez (Trek-Segafredo)

Attila Valter (Groupama-FDJ)

Joe Dombrowski (UAE Team Emirates)

Louis Meintjes (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert)

135km to go

The break reaches the summit of the Port de Toses with a lead of 1:55 over the reduced peloton.

Results at the KOM point at Port de Toses

1. Bouwman - 10 points

2. De Gendt - 8 points

3. Tolhoek - 6 points 

4. Champoussin - 4 points

5. Samitier - 2 points

6. Dombrowski - 1 point

The peloton has fractured on that climb but there should be some sort of regrouping on the descent and the long run down to the two final climbs. Ineos have let Kamna slip clear but they still have time to get organised and keep this under control. 

Meanwhile, the other riders in the break might not be too happy about Kamna's presence, given the way the peloton is sure to give chase. He may well be bullied out of it. 

Tolhoek and Lopez are more minor threats, at 3:21 and 4:25 respectively, while the rest are already at least 8 minutes down overall. 

The gap falls to 1:35 as Ineos take the reins on the descent.

Kenny Elissonde (Trek-Segafredo) abandoned a little earlier. Not sure of the reason on that.

Alexander Evans (Intermarché) and Karel Vacek (Qhubeka Assos) have also abandoned.

The gap has stabilised at 1:30.

Over in Belgium, it's the women's Brugge-De Panne, and we have live coverage of it. Here's the link if you want to follow that one as well.

Here's a first look at the break

Volta a Catalunya 2021

(Image credit: Getty Images)

And there's Adam Yates in the leader's jersey at the start of the day.

Catalunya

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Stage 1 winner Kron has abandoned. Again, no reason given for the time being.

It's fast as we zip along this gentle downhill. The breakaway are on the gas but so too is the peloton, with Ineos keen to keep the gap small. 

97km to go

The gap is stable at 1:30 as we enter the final 100km of this queen stage. 

We're heading towards the two big final climbs, with the Port del Canto coming up first and starting with around 67km remaining. It's a 20km climb and is followed by a 20km descent, then a short false flat ahead of the final climb to Port Ainé.

My colleague Alasdair Fotheringham has just arrived in Port Ainé, having driven up the two climbs, and he's been good enough to give us some intel before he gets his lunch. 

"Canto is hardest at the start then a long, long, drag up to the top - almost flat roads at times. The descent is very very fast, but all well surfaced.

"When they get to Ainé, I'd forgotten what a strange climb it is. The first couple of k's are hard, then it flattens out completely for about five kilometres, then there's a bit of a downhill, then the hardest part is in the last five kilometres. 

"The finish is a real uphill grind - no mega steep ramps on the last part, just a long ol' grind, with steady bends in the final kilometre. Some poor road surfaces but mostly ok. No much wind, sunny and snow on the sides of the roads in the last five kilometres but the roads are clear."

Cheers Alasdair, now enjoy your lunch.

As we head towards the crucial phase of the race, there's been a twist in the Paris-Roubaix tale. Several French newspapers reported yesterday that it has been called off, but ASO have said nothing, and now France's sports minister has indicated that no final decision has been taken. That said, it still does not sound good. Here's the latest.

See more

Ineos have their whole team on the front of the peloton. Kamna going up the road must have caused a little scare but they've got things well under control here.

And here is that, in visual form. That's Luke Rowe on the front, and Rohan Dennis in the white of points classification leader (on loan from Yates, who's tucked away here). 

Jonathan Castroviejo is the only other real domestique - Ineos also have Porte second overall and Thomas fourth, not to mention Carapaz in 21st. 

Catalunya Rowe

(Image credit: Getty Images)

85km to go

The gap starts to creep up towards the two-minute mark. 

And now it breaks the two-minute barrier. 

The Volta a Catalunya always takes us into the Pyrenees at the time the Classics riders take on the rather lower-lying Flemish Ardennes. It's E3 tomorrow - a big hit-out ahead of the Tour of Flanders. Van Aert and Van der Poel will both be there and we have an in-depth preview at this link.

The gap continues to creep up, towards the 2:30 mark now. 

The second intermediate sprint is coming up shortly as we make our way towards the final climb. The average speed so far is just over 42km/h

75km to go

De Gendt is first through the intermediate sprint, followed by Lopez and Samitier.

The peloton crosses 2:35 in arrears

67km to go

The breakaway are about to hit the Port del Canto with a lead of 2:30.

For those of you asking about Alasdair's lunch...

"Lunch was a Catalan ham sandwich and some mystery meat in a pot with rice and sweetcorn by the way. But hey, better than nowt."

(No one asked about Alasdair's lunch)

There's a bonus sprint at the bottom of the climb. Lopez is first, ahead of Bouwman and De Gendt. Just bonus seconds on the line there, and Kamna is not amongst them.

As discussed, the early section of this climb is the hardest. It's over 20km in total and becomes much more of a drag later on. 

The gap continues to grow! 3 minutes now...

De Gendt is dropped on the steep section

Kamna attacks! Here we go!

De Gendt is back with the break but Kamna has moved out in front. The peloton is still at three minutes.

58km to go

Kamna has 30 seconds on his former breakaway companions, with well over half of this penultimate climb to go.

Kamna moves a minute clear of the break now. The Ineos-led peloton is 3:35 behind the German. 

Ineos have Castroviejo on the front as we hit the steadier gradients of the Canto. It looks like Rowe's work is done. Dennis, Thomas, Carapaz, Porte, and of course Yates are all there.

The odds are still well against Kamna pulling this off but he has to be credited for his audacity and adventurousness here. 

Kamna was fourth on the opening day, gaining several seconds in a late break. He had a solid TT on stage 2, and placed 19th at Vallter 2000 yesterday, 1:10 down on Yates. 

52km to go

8.5km to the top of Canto and it's basically Kamna against Castroviejo so far. The German is edging it, taking the gap out to 3:37.

Movistar have five riders in line behind the six from Ineos. They have two men up the road in the break and Valverde looking good in fifth overall. 

Bora are behind Movistar. They have Kamna up the road but also Kelderman tied on time with Valverde. 

Kamna is 1:22 ahead of the break now. 3:35 up on the peloton still.

Chris Froome is dropped from the peloton. He' still a long way off the pace but is still insisting he's on track in his recovery from that injury, and on track for the Tour de France. We caught up with him a couple of days ago.

48.5km to go

Kamna is now on the section in the last 5.5km of the climb that's almost flat. He considers putting his arms on the bars but thinks better of it, even if it's still allowed for another few days. He's holding his lead here. 

Rohan Dennis is sat behind Castroviejo and it's his job to distribute the contents of a musette as the soigneurs hand out supplies on this climb. 

3km to the top, and the gradient picks up again. Kamna has 1:35 over the break and 3:39 over the bunch. 

De Gendt has now been caught by the peloton, having been dropped again from the break. 

Kamna looks cool and composed here. This is a long solo effort on a climb that certainly does have big benefits for those in a slipstream. He looks to be managing his effort well, and will have almost 20km of downhill to recover when he crests this climb in 2km time. 

Still it's Castroviejo on the front for Ineos. They're under pressure here but there's no sign of panic. They still have numbers and absolutely no shortage of world-class firepower for the final climb. 

Kamna is nearing the top of the climb now. His lead is undiminished.

43km to go

Kamna crests the Port del Canto as the solo leader of this stage. 

The Jumbo duo of Tolhoek and Bouwman lead the 10 remaining breakaway riders at around two minutes.

And now Castroviejo and Ineos lead what is still a sizeable peloton over the top at 3:30. Now for a long fast descent. 

Supertucks galore here

Dennis takes over from Castroviejo as the road tilts up ahead of the really fast portion of this descent.

I haven't seen Kamna un-super-tucked at any point on this descent so far. You can practically smell the fume in Aigle. 

Kamna untucks for a tighter bend but he's back in his aero position now. The UCI are gently/not-so-gently discouraging riders from doing this but will start issuing punishments from April. Until then, riders are obviously going to keep doing it, especially on a moderate sweeping descent like this were the advantages are clear. 

33km to go

Kamna is losing a little ground on this descent, despite holding close to 80km/h pretty much all the way down. 3:15 now.

Castroviejo is stamping on the pedals on the gentler sections here. He's really pushing on and investing more than Kamna here, who has to measure his effort in view of the final climb.

30km to go

Just 5km to the foot of this descent for Kamna. It has absolutely flown by. 3:05 now as his lead continues to fall.

This is a wide sweeping descent, lots of fast stuff but largely untechnical, with no need to brake and a few sections where you need to be on the pedals. The peloton has the advantage on this kind of terrain.

The other thing that will count against Kamna is the 5km stretch of false flat before we hit the final climb.

Kamna a little earlier

Kamna

(Image credit: Getty Images)

25km to go

Kamna comes to the bottom of the descent. He's down safely but his lead is down to 2:50. 

Kamna emerges into the town of Sort, and will head out for the approach drag to the final climb up Port Ainé. 

Castroviejo leads Ineos into town now, 2:47 down. The 10-man chase group is still in between. 

Kamna is out onto the open road and it's false flat. This is what's really going to hurt him. Ineos have Dennis in reserve who can do real damage on this sort of terrain. And then they've got Carapaz, Thomas, and Porte in reserve for Yates. 

21km to go

2:33 now for Kamna. A brave effort so far but it's hard to see him finishing this off. 

The rest of the break are about to be caught by the bunch. 

19.5km to go

The catch is almost made and Lopez launches one final acceleration

Lopez has a small gap as Ineos continue to set a strong tempo in what's still a big peloton.

18.3km to go

Final climb time!

Kamna takes a right-hand bend and he's now on the road up to Port Ainé. The first couple of kilometres are steep. 

The peloton hit the climb 2:05 after Kamna. 

Dennis takes it up for Ineos on the lower slopes.

Kamna looks to be tiring here. His advantage drops to 1:33 and that means Yates is back in the virtual lead of the race. 

Castroviejo is gone and now it's Dennis, Carapaz, Thomas, Porte, Yates in the Ineos train. 

Froome got back in on the descent but he's dropped again now.

Soler dropped again. He had a decent TT but lost a stack of time yesterday and is off the mark again here.

Kamna was a picture of cool on the previous climb. Well, it's a completely different picture now. His mouth's open, his eyes are stretched in a grimace, and his form on the bike is far shakier than the almost immobile upper body we saw on the Canto. 

His lead is down to a minute

16km to go

45 seconds now. Kamna is really starting to suffer now.

Kamna looks over his shoulder. I think he knows he's close to empty now. Another 15 seconds tumble off his advantage as Dennis continues to lead the reducing bunch.

A reminder of our intel from this climb from Alasdair Fotheringham

"When they get to Ainé, I'd forgotten what a strange climb it is. The first couple of k's are hard, then it flattens out completely for about five kilometres, then there's a bit of a downhill, then the hardest part is in the last five kilometres. 

"The finish is a real uphill grind - no mega steep ramps on the last part, just a long ol' grind, with steady bends in the final kilometre. Some poor road surfaces but mostly ok. No much wind, sunny and snow on the sides of the roads in the last five kilometres but the roads are clear."

Dave Brailsford has made a big deal of his team's new adventurous philosophy, and while they were an attacking force yesterday, the trusty old mountain train seems to be very much out of retirement today. You can see them taking this all the way to the top. Will anyone attack?

Kamna is in sight now. It's almost done for him.

14.5km to go

Kamna is caught. He faded quickly in the end, and might get spat out soon, but chapeau for laying it on the line and giving it a go. 

This looked like a huge stage on paper but the climbs are highly-categorised mainly because of their length. They have been, for the most part, power climbs that suit Ineos' engines like Dennis and Castroviejo. 

13km to go

Still around 40 riders in this bunch.

Dennis is done. He almost grinds to a halt as he finishes his effort and looks for his team car. Carapaz, Giro winner in 2019 and Vuelta runner-up last year, takes it up.

Carapaz has a completely different style to Dennis, springing out of the saddle to lift the tempo. Yates looks super comfortable.

The hardest part of this climb comes in the final 5km. We're just over 11km from the top at the moment and no one sees sense attacking Ineos at this point.

Mechanical for Carapaz

Not sure what happened there. The Ecuadorian isn't done with his turn, but has to stop and sort his bike out.

Carapaz sorts it before neutral service get to him. No excuses to call it a day - he's on his way back to the group.

10.2km to go

Kruijswijk attacks!

Carapaz is around half-way up the group as the Dutchman takes flight.

Kruijswijk was a disappointing 24th yesterday and started today 15th overall at 1:37.

Carapaz is back on the front and chasing down Kruijswijk.

It doesn't look like Kruijswijk is going anywhere here. This might mean Carapaz' turn ends a little earlier than expected but Ineos are still in complete control.

9km to go

Kruijswijk is caught. Still almost 30 riders in this lead group.

Carapaz, Thomas, Porte, Yates. That's the Ineos order, with Movistar having three riders behind them.

8km to go

Carapaz continues his effort, regularly rising from the saddle. He's only just starting his season, having spent the winter in Ecuador. The likes of Yates, Porte, and Thomas are all a little further along in terms of their form.

In fact, Yates is really far along, and he's been so good you start to wonder if he should be held back all the way until the Vuelta.

Kruijswijk is dropped now

Attack from Esteban Chaves!

7km to go

Chaves looked really strong yesterday, when he was second at Vallter 2000. He springs away from the group.

Chaves started the day 9th overall at 1:21. He's tied on time with Simon Yates but yesterday suggested he's the stronger of the BikeExchange men. 

Chaves has opened up a much bigger gap than Kruijswijk managed. Carapaz is still on the front for Ineos.

No one else has decided to go with Chaves here. 

Chaves is away. He's had some difficult years but looks like he could be getting back towards his old self. 

6km to go

16 seconds for Chaves. The GC group is down to 25 riders.

Simon Yates is now at the back of the GC group as his teammate Chaves continues out the front.

5km to go

Into the final 5000m for Chaves and he's climbing out of the saddle, teeth gritted. The gradient stiffens here. He still has 15 seconds.

Carapaz continues to fight with his bike and looks to be fading as the gap goes up to 20 seconds.

Chaves hits a little dip and reaches 60km/h before the road ramps up again. 

4km to go

4 to go and Carapaz continues the pursuit of Chaves. Still 20 riders in that group.

Enric Mas attacks!

Mas started the day 16th overall at 1:40. His teammate Valverde started 6th overall.

Mas has only a small gap. Still it's Carapaz for Ineos. Thomas and Porte are in reserve.

Mas isn't really going anywhere here. Chaves still 20 seconds out front.

3km to go

Quintana moves up now

Quintana is trailed by Mike Woods and flicks his elbow. Nothing doing. Ineos back on the front.

That's Carapaz done.

2.5km to go

Thomas takes it up, followed by Porte and Yates.

Thomas and Porte are both also in the top 4 overall. He won't want to sacrifice that but he's setting tempo and catches Mas. Chaves extends his lead, though.

Chaves has 25 seconds!

McNulty loses contact with the GC group.

2km to go

2000 metres to go for Chaves, whose lead dips to 20 seconds.

Mas takes over from Ineos now, setting pace for Valverde, who could possibly win the stage if they catch Chaves.

But Porte pushes his way past Mas and takes it up

Mas is immediately dropped

1.5km to go

15 riders left in the GC group as Chaves' lead falls to 15 seconds. Masnada dropped.

Porte gets out of the saddle on the snow-lined roads. Chaves is doing the same and he's digging in here but it's coming down slowly.

They can see Chaves but he's still 14 seconds up the road.

1km to go

Flamme rouge!

1000m to go for Chaves. He has 13 seconds and it drags up all the way to the line here. 

Double digit gradients here and Chaves finds more ground! 20 seconds again!

Chaves looks like he's going to pull this off.

18 seconds now as it dips down again. Still Porte leading the GC group.

500m to go now. Chaves is gritting his teeth and looks good here.

Almeida loses contact!

Chaves is into the barriers. Porte still leading that group.

Chaves crests the last ramp and he's going to do this.

He rounds the final bend and starts to celebrate.

Woods sprints to second from that group at 7 seconds in the end. Thomas is third. Yates fourth

Carthy loses a couple of seconds there. Simon Yates loses 10. It's more like 20 for Almeida. 

Esteban Chaves (Team BikeExchange) wins stage 4 of the Volta a Catalunya

Chaves last win came 664 days ago, at the 2019 Giro d'Italia. 

Top 10

1 Esteban Chaves Rubio (Col) Team BikeExchange 4:29:47
2 Michael Woods (Can) Israel Start-up Nation 0:00:07
3 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers
4 Adam Yates (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers
5 Sepp Kuss (USA) Jumbo-Visma
6 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team
7 Richie Porte (Aus) Ineos Grenadiers
8 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe
9 Nairo Quintana (Col) Team Arkea-Samsic
10 Lucas Hamilton (Aus) Team BikeExchange

General classification after stage 4

1 Adam Yates (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers 14:14:15
2 Richie Porte (Aus) Ineos Grenadiers 0:00:45
3 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers 0:00:49
4 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 0:01:03
5 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe
6 Esteban Chaves Rubio (Col) Team BikeExchange 0:01:04
7 João Almeida (Por) Deceuninck-QuickStep 0:01:07
8 Hugh Carthy (GBr) EF Education-Nippo 0:01:20
9 Sepp Kuss (USA) Jumbo-Visma 0:01:29
10 Simon Yates (GBr) Team BikeExchange 0:01:32

Esteban Chaves celebrates his victory at the Volta a Catalunya

(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Let's hear from the winner

"I’m really happy. I’ve never started a season feeling so good and winning like this. It’s a WorldTour win for the team, and the first victory as BikeExchange, so I’m very happy. We've worked very hard. I’ve had some difficult months and years but the team has helped me a lot, as have my family, my girlfriend… It’s a great satisfaction.

"I knew the roads. I live in Andorra and I knew it was a very hard stage. I wanted to try something. I had nothing to lose and a lot to gain. There was a headwind and that was a risk but in the end things turned out very well. I had great legs today and felt good, and showed it with this great victory.

"It gives me a lot of confidence, and a lot of calm. I’ve worked really conscientiously and the work is starting to bear fruit. Winning is always beautiful and special, and I want to thank my team, who did an amazing job today."

Here's our report page, for write-up, results, and photos.

Volta a Catalunya: Esteban Chaves takes his first win in two years on Port Ainé

Esteban Chaves goes deep to win the stage

(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

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