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Bennati takes golden win

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Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) wins

Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) wins (Image credit: AFP)
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The peloton

The peloton (Image credit: AFP)
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Bubbly time for Bennati

Bubbly time for Bennati (Image credit: AFP)
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Kisses for the yellow jersey wearer

Kisses for the yellow jersey wearer (Image credit: AFP)
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Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) celebrates his win in stage four.

Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) celebrates his win in stage four. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) wins the stage.

Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) wins the stage. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Bubbly time for Bennati after winning stage four.

Bubbly time for Bennati after winning stage four. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Kisses for the yellow jersey wearer Daniele Bennati (Liquigas)

Kisses for the yellow jersey wearer Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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The peloton rolls along.

The peloton rolls along. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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The riders round the final corner as the sprinters hit the gas.

The riders round the final corner as the sprinters hit the gas. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Tom Boonen (Quick Step) pats Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) on the back before they reach the line, knowing the Italian has him beat.

Tom Boonen (Quick Step) pats Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) on the back before they reach the line, knowing the Italian has him beat. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Celebration time: Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) finally gets his fourth Vuelta stage win after missing out on the previous day.

Celebration time: Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) finally gets his fourth Vuelta stage win after missing out on the previous day. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) celebrates his stage victory over Tom Boonen (Quick Step).

Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) celebrates his stage victory over Tom Boonen (Quick Step). (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Italian Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) continues to celebrate as he heads on past.

Italian Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) continues to celebrate as he heads on past. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) throws his fist in the air after winning the fourth stage, his fourth Vuelta win.

Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) throws his fist in the air after winning the fourth stage, his fourth Vuelta win. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Daniele Bennati greets a team-mate after the finish line.

Daniele Bennati greets a team-mate after the finish line. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) came in 12 seconds back, but looked as though he'd really worked for the time.

Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) came in 12 seconds back, but looked as though he'd really worked for the time. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Liquigas riders congratulate one another after learning their man brought home a win for the team.

Liquigas riders congratulate one another after learning their man brought home a win for the team. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Damiano Cunego (Lampre) rolls in a disappointing 2.13 minutes behind.

Damiano Cunego (Lampre) rolls in a disappointing 2.13 minutes behind. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) gets on the podium as a stage winner.

Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) gets on the podium as a stage winner. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Champagne shower: Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) bursts the bubbly on the podium.

Champagne shower: Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) bursts the bubbly on the podium. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) continues to lead the Vuelta after his Stage 4 victory.

Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) continues to lead the Vuelta after his Stage 4 victory. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Mmmwah! Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) expects to lose the leader's jersey tomorrow, but he's enjoying it for now.

Mmmwah! Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) expects to lose the leader's jersey tomorrow, but he's enjoying it for now. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) puts on the jersey of the Combinada classification leader.

Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) puts on the jersey of the Combinada classification leader. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) acknowledges the fans from the podium.

Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) acknowledges the fans from the podium. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Italian Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) celebrates in the leader's jersey.

Italian Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) celebrates in the leader's jersey. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Gerolsteiner riders stick together on one of the small climbs.

Gerolsteiner riders stick together on one of the small climbs. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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A bunch of riders make their way up a climb on Stage 4.

A bunch of riders make their way up a climb on Stage 4. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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One down, more to come: Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) was happy with a stage win, but he's not done, according to the Italian.

One down, more to come: Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) was happy with a stage win, but he's not done, according to the Italian. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Dutch rider Robert Gesink (Rabobank) lost 42 seconds on Stage 4.

Dutch rider Robert Gesink (Rabobank) lost 42 seconds on Stage 4. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Liquigas controls the action out front knowing their man is in strong form for a bunch sprint.

Liquigas controls the action out front knowing their man is in strong form for a bunch sprint. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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José Antonio Lopez Gil (Andalucía - Cajasur) won the first two lots of sprint points.

José Antonio Lopez Gil (Andalucía - Cajasur) won the first two lots of sprint points. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The peloton makes its way across a large plain.

The peloton makes its way across a large plain. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Thirsty Paolo? World road champion Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) carries a full load of drink bottles.

Thirsty Paolo? World road champion Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) carries a full load of drink bottles. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Carlos Sastre (Team CSC-Saxo Bank) shows a little leg after getting caught up in a crash in the closing kilometres.

Carlos Sastre (Team CSC-Saxo Bank) shows a little leg after getting caught up in a crash in the closing kilometres. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Boonen second on stage in in GC

Scooping his fourth-ever Vuelta stage win, race leader Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) fortified his grip on the maillot oro when he won a diminished bunch sprint in Puertollano. The Italian beat yesterday's victor Tom Boonen (Quick Step), with Koldo Fernández (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Danilo Napolitano (Lampre) and Erik Zabel (Team Milram) taking places three through to five in the gallop.

"It was a sprint that was suited to me," said Bennati, "straight and without confusion. I had some great help from my team-mates Pozzato, (Manuel) Quinziato, (Claudio) Corioni and (Alessandro) Vanotti. Then I was left on [Wouter] Weylandt's wheel and at 180 meters [to go], it was party decided.

"In Liquigas it is a case of 'all for one, one for all'," he continued. "Everyone respects their roles for the good of the team: this is our strength. Many, for example, doubted the coexistence between me and Pozzato. Instead, we demonstrated that by working together and helping each other, we can win a lot."

Bennati took his sixth season victory today, and the 35th of his career. He is more firmly in the race lead and also has the blue points jersey. However he thinks that things may change tomorrow. "I am glad to still be in front of everyone," he said, "but tomorrow we will have the Ciudad Real time trial and holding on will be tough. I will do my utmost to honour the race lead, but I am certainly not here to win the overall… My goal is to focus on stage victories, and so I have no intention of making do with just today's win."

His victory coupled with his second place in an earlier intermediate sprint saw him finish the day 22 seconds ahead of Boonen, with former leader Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) dropping to third, 48 seconds back.

The peloton was split at the finish due to a crash just outside the final three kilometres, and this accounted for gaps in the bunch. As a result, only a few riders disputed the final sprint. Most of the big gallopers were there, yet Bennati had little problem in beating Boonen, Fernández, Napolitano and three others. Nicolas Roche (Crédit Agricole) brought home the next little group for ninth, some three seconds later.

Former Giro d'Italia winner Damiano Cunego (Lampre) was delayed in an earlier fall and lost two minutes and 16 seconds. Andreas Klöden (Astana) was even more disadvantaged, finishing over four minutes back.

The 170.3 kilometre stage began with the category three climb of the Alto de los Villares, the summit coming just 6.8 kilometres after the start, and there mountains leader Jesus Rosendo (Andalucia – Cajasur) took the prime ahead of team-mate Francisco Jose Martinez, Serafin Martinez (Xacobeo Galicia) and Walter Fernando Pedraza (Tinkoff Credit Systems).

Another Andalucia Cajasur rider, Jose Antonio Lopez, attacked very soon afterwards and quickly pulled clear. He took the second mountains prime of Puerto de la Chimorra (km 46.8) well ahead of Walter Fernando Pedraza (Tinkov Credit Systems), Jesus Rosendo Prado and Manuel Ortega Ocana (both Andalucia Cajasur), and reached his maximum gap of eight minutes six seconds sixteen kilometres later.

He was also first at the day's intermediate sprint in Pozoblanco (71.4km) where, over seven minutes later, Bennati fortified his race lead when he edged out Valverde for second place. The Liquigas, Lampre and Quick Step-led peloton was intent on setting things up for a bunch sprint and started making inroads into Lopez's lead. With 40 kilometres remaining he was 3'36 ahead and by the time he took the final intermediate prime in Almodovar del Campo, 11.1 kilometres from the finish, he was just 39 seconds ahead of Marco Marzano (Lampre) and race favourite Alberto Contador (Astana).

A crash with approximately eight kilometres to go took down several riders, amongst them Cunego and Mauricio Ardila (Rabobank). This did little to disrupt the pace of the peloton and Lopez was finally reeled in a kilometre and a half later. The next crash led to the fragmented final gallop plus the small time differences, but didn’t affect the main sprinters.

The Vuelta a España continues tomorrow with a 42.5 kilometre mainly flat time trial, starting and finishing in Cuidad Real. The general classification will be reshuffled again there, and the pre-race favourites should start to make their form known.

Some will be determined to make up the time they lost today. Igor Anton only conceded seven seconds to Bennati, while Carlos Sastre (CSC - Saxo Bank), Valverde, Alberto Contador and Levi Leipheimer (both Astana) lost 19 seconds. Rabobank's Robert Gesink was a bit further back, 42 seconds down, with Cunego 2'16 in arrears and Andreas Klöden a considerable 4'12 behind.

Cunego didn't sound too disappointed afterwards, probably because he said he is chasing stage wins rather than a high GC place. "I'm happy I could avoid the crash," he said. "I could brake and I didn't fall, but I had to stop and then to chase the bunch. When I was very close to the back of the group, another crash blocked the street and so I could not rejoin the bunch. It's always a pity to lose time, but it's not a drama since my target is to try to do well in some stages."

Sastre was more involved in a crash, but didn't suffer any serious injury. "I was brushing up against a wire fence, which ripped my shorts and gave me some superficial scratches," he said. "But it wasn't anything serious. I was able to finish without losing time with respect to my rivals, which was the most important thing for me looking ahead to tomorrow's stage."

He and the other CSC riders want to ride strongly in the race against the clock. "We're thinking about the time trial tomorrow, which for many of us is the first real test of this race. Today we wanted to conserve our energy and not expend too much energy looking ahead to that stage."

One who doesn't expect to excel there is Alberto Contador. "I am a climber, not a time trialist," said the Astana leader. "You only have to compare the number of victories I have had in climbs, compared to time trials. Besides, this is not a particularly good time trial for me.

"I'm enough of a non-conformist to try anyway, and my main goal would be to gain an advantage over my rivals in the mountains. I expect both Valverde and Sastre to post good times, as each of them are very strong."

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