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Vuelta a España 2014: Stage 4

Welcome to live coverage of Vuelta a España stage 4 from Mairena del Alcor to Córdoba.

Welcome to stage four. The sun is beating down on the riders once again at the start in Mairena del Alcor and they're in for another hot day.

Team's are having to stock up on bidons as the riders really burn their way through them. Robert Gesink reportedly went through 20 bidons on his own, while Tom Boonen told Belgian media that the Omega Pharma-QuickStep team went through a whopping 200 bidons between them. Understandably, with the heat, the normal drinks rule has been thrown out of the window, along with the bidons.

We're just under 10 minutes away from the ceremonial start, so lets just take a quick look back at what happened yesterday. The uphill finish on stage 3 meant that we had an interesting mix of climbers and sprinters battling it out for the stage victory. In the end, Michael Matthews beat Dan Martin to the line to add yet another Vuelta victory to his palmarès.

 

Here is how things finished yesterday:

 

1 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica Greenedge 5:12:14
2 Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin Sharp
3 Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Team Katusha
4 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team
5 Paul Martens (Ger) Belkin Pro Cycling Team
6 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team
7 Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
8 Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ.fr
9 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Team Katusha
10 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky

The 10 bonus seconds gained for his win, plus some misfortune for race leader Alejandro Valverde, meant that Matthews also went into the red jersey. It's his second leaders' jersey of the season, after spending almost a week in pink at the Giro d'Italia.

 

This is what the GC looks like this morning:

1 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica Greenedge 9:27:53
2 Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar Team 0:00:04
3 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:11
4 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:00:15
5 Damiano Caruso (Ita) Cannondale 0:00:17
6 Jhoan Esteban Chaves Rubio (Col) Orica Greenedge
7 George Bennett (NZl) Cannondale 0:00:20
8 Julian David Arredondo Moreno (Col) Trek Factory Racing
9 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) Trek Factory Racing
10 Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:00:22

We mentioned some misfortune for Valverde. The race leader was actually involved in a crash 20km from the finish, when one of his teammates came down as he was trying to collect a musette. The race leader was quickly back on his bike, which is why we didn't see him on the ground when TV images showed the stricken Movistar riders. While he was uninjured, the crash meant that he was well out of position on the final climb. You can read the full story here.

The riders will be setting off any minute now, but with the temperature outside getting up to 40 degrees the riders are choosing to stay in their air-conditioned buses until the last moment.

There are two climbs today for the riders, one of which is a second category and could play a big role in the result of the stage.

 

A little later than planned, the riders are off and making their way through the 10.5km neutral zone.

Today's terrain should make for a very interesting finale. The second category climb will weed out some of the sprinters, however the brave may be able to make that back on the long descent towards the finish. With the small uphill rise in the final few hundred metres, Michael Matthews will be favourite for victory again if he can make it over that last climb.

 

 

John Degenkolb will be another of the favourites today. However the German didn't look at his climbing best yesterday when he was dropped in the stage finale.

The final climb could also provide a springboard for a small group to make a successful attack. An aggressive rider such as Luis Leon Sanchez could be rewarded for a move here.

We've named a few who might feature today. Who do you think will master stage 4? Let us know on @Cyclingnewsfeed or @SadhbhOS and we will post your predictions here.

Alberto Contador takes the Ice Bucket challenge. The thumbs up at the end cracks me up #LaVuelta https://t.co/V2ffpuwJez

@SadhbhOS Tue, 26th Aug 2014 12:43:47

The flag has been dropped and we are now under way on stage 4.

We've got an escape attempt already. Four riders have gone off the front. They are Francisco Javier Aramendia (Caja-Rural), Gert Joeaar (Cofidis), Sebastien Turgot (AG2R-La Mondiale) and Jimmy Engoulvent (Europcar)

Aramendia has already been in one break this week. The Caja Rural rider was one of six to go clear on stage two. Will it be second time lucky for him?

158km remaining from 164km

For the other three it's first time in the break and first time in the Vuelta. The leaders now have a gap of 2:40 on the peloton.

At the weekend we brought you our first in a series of iconic Vuelta a Espana stages. Our next installment comes from Vuelta stage winner Robert Millar. The Scot describes the day he won at Lagos de Covadonga, which the riders will face on stage 15 this year. You can read the full article and re-live the memorable stage here.

151km remaining from 164km

This quartet aren't hanging about and after 19km they've got a lead of 4:05 on the peloton.

Away from the Vuelta for a moment, and the sad news came through earlier today that former Italian coach Alfredo Martini passed away yesterday. During his 22 years as the national coach, he led the team to six world titles and seven more silver and bronze medals.

As the peloton sets into a rhythm let's have a closer look at the men out front. First up is AG2R-La Mondiale rider Sébastien Turgot. This year's Vuelta a España is his first Grand Tour since 2011. He turned professional in 2008, with Bouygues Télécom and joined AG2R for the 2014 season. The Frenchman is best known for his second place finish at Paris-Roubaix in 2012, when he out-sprinted a surprised Alessandro Ballan.

The second Frenchman in this front group is Europcar rider Jimmy Engoulvent. The 34-year-old turned professional with the Bonjour team in 2001 and has now gone full circle be returning to the team this season, in its current guise as Europcar. Engoulvent's biggest victory is the 2012 Four Days of Dunkirk, where he also won a stage. He won stage five of the race this year. Engoulvent has competed in the Tour de France on four occasions, most recently in 2012 where he was the lanterne rouge.

As the peloton sets into a rhythm let's have a closer look at the men out front. First up is AG2R-La Mondiale rider Sébastien Turgot. This year's Vuelta a España is his first Grand Tour since 2011. He turned professional in 2008, with Bouygues Télécom and joined AG2R for the 2014 season. The Frenchman is best known for his second place finish at Paris-Roubaix in 2012, when he out-sprinted a surprised Alessandro Ballan.

Our third rider is Gert Joeaar. The Cofidis rider is the reigning Estonian time trial champion and finished second in the road race this year. He turned professional with Cofidis last season and outside of his national championships, his biggest victory was the overall classification at the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen earlier in the season.

132km remaining from 164km

After 32 kilometres of racing, the gap has come down significantly to 2:47. GreenEdge are being very cautious today.

Our fourth escapee is Javier Aramendia. Although he has more experience in the Vuelta, with three participations, than the others in this escape group, at 27, he is the youngest. Aramendia joined Caja-Rural in 2012, after spending his first four seasons with Euskaltel.

129km remaining from 164km

After upping the pace about 20 minutes ago, it looks like the peloton is happier with the group staying away and their gap has extended to 2:40.

Over the first hour of racing, the riders have been averaging a speed of 41.6kph. The temperature continues to make life difficult for the riders. The latest report has it at 36 degrees, but it could get hotter in the next hour or two.

Remember that you can find all of our latest videos from the world of cycling on our YouTube page, including our top 10 riders to watch for the Vuelta a España. Don't forget to subscribe too, so you don't miss a thing.

Alberto Contador is still going strong at the Vuelta, despite rumours that he may abandon. The Spaniard is still feeling the effects of his Tour de France crash, but has kept his loses to a minimum so far. Here is what he had to say after yesterday's stage.

After snow at the Giro d'Italia and more rain than you could ever want at the Tour de France, this year's Vuelta couldn't be any more different. Reports coming through that the thermometer has hit 40 degrees at the finish. There'll be a few riders wishing they could take the ice bucket challenge right about now.

Today stage 4 @lavuelta finishes in #Cordoba.Great memories from 2011with four riders in top 5 and @petosagan's win http://t.co/irae37SWjd

@cannondalePro Tue, 26th Aug 2014 14:03:28

As that last tweet suggests, the last visit to Cordoba was a good one. Four Liquigas-Cannondale riders managed to make it away on the descent of the Alto del Catorce por ciento, along with Movistar rider Pablo Lastras. Peter Sagan may have won on that day, but they did make a blunder with Valerio Agnoli pipping Vincenzo Nibali to third and preventing him from taking any bonus seconds for the general classification.

That stage win would prove to be Sagan's first in a Grand Tour. After failing to take a victory at the Tour de France, can he take his first GT win of the season at Cordoba? What do you think? Let us know on twitter on @Cyclingnewsfeed or @SadhbhOS and we'll post some of your suggestions here.

104km remaining from 164km

Fabio Feline has been to see the doctor. The Trek Factory Racing rider came down in a tumble on stage 2 and took some time to get going again.

99km remaining from 164km

The four leaders are approaching the first intermediate sprint of the day, which will be quickly followed by the feed zone. Their advantage currently stands at 2:28.

One man who is confident that he can have the better of Peter Sagan today is race leader Michael Matthews. After his confident victory yesterday, who would bet against him?

 

Here is what the Australian had to say at the start today, "The last two climbs seem to be solid but yesterday, we’ve also showed that our team is solid enough. We should be able to do it again. Even if some pure sprinters overcome the climb, the race will be so difficult before that some sprinters will be tired. It’s going to be a hard man sprint, which suits me really well.”

Omega Pharma-QuickStep will be putting their efforts behind classics man Tom Boonen today, according to directeur sportif Davide Bramati.

 

"Today it’s all for Tom who won twice in Cordoba, once at the Vuelta (in 2008), once at the Ruta del Sol (in 2007). He knows the danger is the downhill of the San Jeronimo. He’ll do his best to avoid a split.”

93km remaining from 164km

The gap to our four escapees continues to grow back out. It now stands at 2:45. With Sébastien Turgot the best placed rider at 2:15, the Frenchman is the leader on the road.

How does @tinkoff_saxo overcome the heat at #LaVuelta? @sportful @osmonutrition Read here: http://t.co/CPqMfT3y9W http://t.co/CX30s6iLi1

@tinkoff_saxo Tue, 26th Aug 2014 14:35:19

Adam Hansen is another rider who we could see make a move later today. The Australian, who attacked yesterday, is currently riding his tenth consecutive Grand Tour, a run that began with the 2011 Vuelta a España. If he completes the race, he will set a new record. Cyclingnews caught up with the Lotto-Belisol rider to talk about the feat.

The leaders have just gone through the first intermediate sprint with Turgot taking full points, followed by Joeaar and Engoulvent. Their advantage currently stands at 2:27.

As you will already be aware, defending champion Chris Horner is not at the race. He was hoping to not only retain his title, but secure himself a new contract for next season. Cyclingnews spoke to his agent Baden Cooke earlier today, who said that he is confident Horner will get a new contract for 2015 and be as good as ever.

Next up on the menu for the riders is the first of two climbs. There are eight points available in the mountains competition today. However, with only the top three across each climb being awarded points  Luis Mas Bonet's lead in the competition is safe if the escapees can stay away over the final climb. Here is how it stands in the mountains competition.

 

1 Luis Mas Bonet (Spa) Caja Rural - Seguros RGA 9 pts
2 Jerome Cousin (Fra) Team Europcar 9
3 Danilo Wyss (Swi) BMC Racing Team 6
4 Nathan Haas (Aus) Garmin Sharp 3
5 Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) MTN - Qhubeka 2
6 Valerio Conti (Ita) Lampre-Merida 1

The sprinters' jersey is also up for grabs today. Nacer Bouhanni managed to keep hold of it yesterday, but he will have difficulty with the final climb of the day. Matthews is his closest rival at the moment. Here is how it looked this morning.

 

1 Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ.fr 33 pts
2 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica Greenedge 29
3 Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin Sharp 20
4 John Degenkolb (Ger) Team Giant-Shimano 20
5 Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Team Katusha 16
6 Roberto Ferrari (Ita) Lampre-Merida 16
7 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 14
8 Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek Factory Racing 14
9 Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 12
10 Paul Martens (Ger) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 12

We brought you the news of the passing of former Italian coach Alfredo Martini earlier today. Some of the Italians in the peloton, including GC contender Fabio Aru, are riding with black armbands today. Veteran Italian rider Paolo Tiralongo paid tribute to the man who is often referred to as the father of Italian cycling.

 

"“The world of cycling will miss him as a person. He has taught so much. He knew how to use the right words at the right time. He was the soul of our community. He was the symbol of Italian sport. He was the last great man of the era of Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali. I’ve known him when I was a young amateur cyclist in Tuscany. I’ll always remember his words," said Tiralongo.

59km remaining from 164km

It looks like the escapees will be able to stay away up to the first climb, which arrives in 3 kilometres. Their gap is now 1:50, but we can expect that to really come down in the valley between the two climbs.

Carlos Betancur is sitting on the back of the peloton at the moment, a regular sight during the Vuelta. He lost 20 minutes yesterday. There's been a picture doing the rounds today of Betancur hiding in the draught of the team car, but it didn't help him back.

There's a slowing at the back of the peloton and a lot of riders having to un-clip as they thread into a narrow road.

55km remaining from 164km

The gap is coming down very quickly right now. Out four leaders have only 31 seconds on the peloton, as they make their way up the first climb of the day.

Up front Turgot has gone off the back of this group of escapees. Only three remain.

There seems to be some discord between the escapees, as Turgot is caught by the peloton. Engoulvent and Aramendia look like they're having a little argument and Aramendia nudges Engoulvent forward.

As the terrain goes up, the temperature follows suit. It's now 42 degrees out there and it will feel much worse as they climb. They'll be begging for the descent soon.

Txurruka has attacked.

The Spaniard has passed the escapees and carries on up the climb. He's on the hunt for the three points available at the top.

Thibaut Pinot has been dropped off the back of the peloton and is currently chasing hard to get back on.

The last of the original escapees has been caught. It's only Txurruka out there on his own.

Txurruka continues alone on this descent as the peloton begins to break up. Pinot is also on his own on this descent, but the Frenchman is well of the back for now.

48km remaining from 164km

Engoulvent has caught up with Txurruka. The Europcar rider is the last of the original escapees out there.

The peloton has split into a number of small groups on that descent. It looks like Sagan and Bouhanni are in the second group on the road.

The riders are now on a dual carriage way and the dropped riders are now joining onto the back of the group. How much energy has that wasted though? We've still got a second category climb to come.

45km remaining from 164km

Our two leaders hold a 20 seconds advantage with 45km remaining

Spanish TV reports that the descent off the final climb today is the same one they have just completed off the third category Alto de San Jerónimo, so a few riders will have been paying keen attention to the parcours more than others.

Engoulvent and Txurruka continue to build on their advantage. They now lead by 43 seconds with 41 kilometres remaining.

39km remaining from 164km

In three kilometres the riders will be passing the finish line for the first time before swinging out of town and heading to the mountains again.

As the two leaders cross the line, the peloton can see them up the road. However, their gap still stands at 36 seconds.

It's the GC teams Tinkoff-Saxo, Sky and Movistar marshalling the front at the moment. and they've brought Txurruka and Engoulvent back to 27 seconds.

The English name for the final climb is the 14 per cent climb. It does go up to that, however, it's maximum is actually 15%.

33km remaining from 164km

The two leaders have been caught and it's all together now, as Peter Sagan languishes at the back of the group.

32km remaining from 164km

We're beginning to see which sprinters can't handle the pace. Jens Debusschere and Yauheni Hutarovich have already gone as Sky put on the pressure.

Fabian Cancellara looks like he's in trouble. Cancellara says that he lost something like 5kg yesterday because of the heat and it looks like he's losing a lot more today.

Six Sky riders sitting on the front at the moment, led by Vasil Kiryienka. He's been sharing duties with teammate Christian Knees.

Nacer Bouhanni is still in this front group, although he seems to be struggling to keep in touch.

While some of the other sprinters have gone pop, the race leader Matthews is still safely inside the lead group. Bouhanni is still clinging on for all it's worth.

28km remaining from 164km

Bouhanni finally blows and Boonen looks like he's standing still on this climb.

Philip Deignan sufferes a mechanical problem and is dropped by the group. He's going to have to wait for the descent to catch up now.

Alberto Contador looking very comfortable on this climb. He's no longer got the tape strapped to his knee that he started the race with. Is he planning something here?

137km remaining from 164km

We're just under a kilometre from the top of this climb. It's a bit of an odd descent. There is some 8 to 10 kilometres of false flats before they hit the descent proper.

Winner Anacona has gone on the attack and he has been joined by Adam Yates.

Yates and Anacona are on the descent now with Sicard chasing them down.

Valverde attacks

24km remaining from 164km

Valder makes his move from the peloton with 24km to go as Cadel Evans suffers a puncture.

142km remaining from 164km

Valverde has now joined Yates and Anacona. The Spaniard is leading them down the descent. A small group of riders, including Tinkoff-Saxo are chasing.

Damiano Caruso has set off in chase of the leaders who have been joined by Sicard.

A mixture of teams, including Katusha, Sky and Giant doing the work in the peloton. The gap to the four leaders is 23 seconds.

So, here we go again. Adam Yates in the wheel of Alejandro Valverde on a deciding descent in Spain. Hopefully he'll have more luck today!

@mrconde Tue, 26th Aug 2014 16:23:22

Alejandro Valverde and Adam Yates were in the break in San Sebastián when Yates crashed on the final descent. Let's hope that he stays upright today.

Valverde is the best placed rider in this front group and will take the leader's jersey should the group make it to the finish and he takes first or second.

The gap is at 15 seconds but we still haven't hit the descent proper. That will be where this leading four will be able to do the most damage, if they're going to do it at all.

Good news for John Degenkolb who was dropped yesterday. The German is still in this group and is sitting near the front, as is Michael Matthews. It looks like it good be a face-off between this pair if it comes to a bunch finish, which still looks likely.

15km remaining from 164km

It is Sicard who is leading the way in this front group and the others are struggling to keep in touch.

The advantage of these four leaders looks like it's balancing on a knife edge. They're keeping it between 10-15 seconds but they'll struggle to do that when we reach the flat.

Disaster for Sicard, who suffers a puncture. That's his chances over after putting in such a big effort on the descent.

10km remaining from 164km

The steepest part of the descent is over now. The road flattens out a little but is still descending. It won't be a straightforward finish either, with the road going back up in the final few hundred metres.

Six seconds left for the front three riders and they're about to get caught.

9km remaining from 164km

It's gruppo compatto and there is a little confusion in the group.

After a lot of looking at each other Orica GreenEdge take up the front, with Tinkoff-Saxo sitting right behind.

There are not a lot of riders left in this front group, somewhere between 40 and 50. Matthews and Degenkolb are still present.

Tinkoff-Saxo are still hovering around the front. They could have a chance with Bennatti, if he's there. Haven't been able to pick him out in the group yet.

The pace has eased up now with 4km to go. There are a few twists and turns in the lead-up to this finish.

Orica-GreenEdge decide to pick things up, they've got two men left for Matthews.

2km remaining from 164km

Giant-Shimano join the party at the front.

1km remaining from 164km

Adam Hansen attacks

Hansen can't hold the group off and he's caught

Degenkolb wins

Michael Matthews came into that final bend too far back and didn't have an answer when Degenkolb launched his sprint. The German won by more than two bikes' lengths.

It's Vicente Reynes who takes second and it looks like Matthews managed to take third. Matthews should keep the red jersey.

It's confirmed, Matthews takes third, with Caruso behind him for fourth and Dan Martin taking fifth.

Here is the top 10 for the stage

 

1 John Degenkolb
2 Vicento Reynes
3 Michael Matthews
4 Damiano Caruso
5 Dan Martin
6 Alexandr Kolobnev
7 Lloyd Mondory
8 Valerio Conti
9 Bob Jungels
10 Fabio Aru

John Degenkolb spoke after his victory, he had this to say: "I love the Vuelta a Espana and also the country. I love being in Spain. Yesterday was quite disappointing not holding on, it was too hard and too explosive. Today was better. I am very happy to have a stage of the Vuelta."

The race organisation has issued this top 10 for the GC, but we've been told that Quintana's omission is a mistake. He is still in second place.

 

1 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica Greenedge 13:30:44
2 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:15
3 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:00:19
4 Damiano Caruso (Ita) Cannondale 0:00:21
5 Jhoan Esteban Chaves Rubio (Col) Orica Greenedge
6 George Bennett (NZl) Cannondale 0:00:24
7 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) Trek Factory Racing
8 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:00:27
9 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team
10 Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team

You will be able to find the complete GC and stage results here when we can get them. A full report and stage gallery will also be available.

That is all from us today. Stick with Cyclingnews for all the reaction from today's stage and tune in tomorrow for stage 5 of the Vuelta a Espana.

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