Vuelta a Espana: Valverde wins stage 4

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) sealed victory on the fourth stage of the Vuelta a Espana, beating Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) in the tricky uphill finish to Vejer de la Frontera. Daniel Moreno (Katusha) pipped Nicolas Roche (Team Sky) for third.

Valverde bided his time inside the peloton, sitting behind his teammate Nairo Quintana on the run to the final ramp of the undulating climb. He launched his winning move from a long way back, skimming past Roche - who was flagging after an earlier attack – and taking the inside line around the final corner. Sagan was quick to go with the Spanish champion but Valverde’s superior climbing abilities paid dividends and he crossed the line comfortably ahead of Sagan.

“Sometimes it’s our team setting the tempo, like on the first day, today we stayed a bit more calm we know the Vuelta is long and we need to keep strength. We sat with Katusha and they were good but so were we. We didn’t need to accelerate too hard and for the last 200 metres I just flew,” Valverde said after stepping on the podium.

“I knew it was him (Sagan) because I kept getting flashes of his hair. I know in these finishes that Sagan is strong but I knew with 200 metres to go that this was my victory.”

After a predominantly flat day, there was a sharp right-hand turn and the terrain went skywards with just four kilometres to go. Several attacks came off the front but the most concerted of those early moves was one from Pello Bilbao. The Caja Rural rider never got too much rope, dangling in front of the peloton for the next two kilometres.

As Bilbao was reeled in by the efforts of Sagan and the Katusha team, Samuel Sanchez (BMC) immediately countered, taking Roche in his wheel. They were initially helped by a small descent and the pair made it inside the final kilometre but the peloton was close behind and when the road kicked up Sanchez was quickly taken back. Roche pushed on, looking to take the red jersey from Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge) but saw any chance of victory, and bonus seconds disappear moments later.

Roche was caught within sniffing distance of the finish line and while Chaves lost time, he was able to retain the leader’s jersey for at least another stage.

How it happened

From the finish in Malaga on stage 3, the peloton travelled down the coast to Estepona for the start of stage 4. At 209 kilometres, it is the longest that the riders will face in the next three weeks. Mercifully for the riders, there would be little in the way of climbing with just a few unclassified climbs to contend with. However, one of those would come just four kilometres from the line. The tight and twisting roads into Vejer de la Frontera would ensure anything but a straight forward sprint to the line.

The six-man break was very quick to form with the peloton keen to keep their energy for the lengthy day in the saddle. Mickael Delage (FDJ), Bert Jan Lindeman (LottoNL-Jumbo), Nikolas Maes (Etixx-Quick Step), Jimmy Engoulvent (Europcar), Kristijan Durasek (Lampre-Merida) and Markel Irizar (Trek Factory Racing) were the riders who made it away and their advantage quickly grew.

After just 30 kilometres, the escapees had built a lead of over 13 minutes. The team of race leader Esteban Chaves, Orica-GreenEdge – with the help of Katusha and Movistar – worked to manage the distance between the two groups. After peaking at 13:30, the gap was cut by almost half as they reached the midway point of the stage.

In the second half of the stage it was Tinkoff-Saxo that did the majority of the work, no doubt buoyed by Peter Sagan’s victory on Monday. The Slovakian was among the favourites for the stage, even if he had miss-remembered the day’s profile when quizzed about it after his win.

It was a fairly straightforward day in the peloton but a tight corner and smooth roads caught out several riders at 33 kilometres to go. Tejay van Garderen (BMC) was one of those involved and the team had to send three riders back to help return their leader to the pack. The incident did nothing to slow the pace of the peloton as they brought the gap to the escapees to just over a minute.

Engoulvent and Irizar decided that they’d had enough and distanced their other escape companions. The duo dangled out in front of the peloton, gaining little over 30 seconds on the chasing pack, and were final caught before the final, unclassified ascent.

As they had been for most of the day, Tinkoff-Saxo led the bunch towards the crucial turn onto the climb. The tight hairpin bend onto the ascent with four kilometres to go meant that position would be crucial. The attacks came almost immediately, with Tosh Van Der Sande (Lotto-Soudal) taking his chances near the bottom.

Bilbao was the next to go and managed just over two kilometres out front before he too was brought back with just under two kilometres remaining. Sanchez launched a move on the short descent with Roche quick to take his wheel. Aided by the terrain, they distanced the peloton but once it began climbing again in the final kilometre they found themselves within striking distance.

Sanchez was the first to get caught with Roche holding out until the final two hundred metres. There was nothing the Sky rider could do when Valverde soared past him, with Sagan in tow. Valverde led Sagan over the line with Moreno making it into third.

Full results

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#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team5:07:30
2Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-SaxoRow 1 - Cell 2
3Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Team KatushaRow 2 - Cell 2
4Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team SkyRow 3 - Cell 2
5José Gonçalves (Por) Caja Rural-Seguros RGARow 4 - Cell 2
6Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Team KatushaRow 5 - Cell 2
7Julien Simon (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 6 - Cell 2
8Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-SaxoRow 7 - Cell 2
9Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar TeamRow 8 - Cell 2
10Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica GreenEdgeRow 9 - Cell 2
11Romain Hardy (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 10 - Cell 2
12Sergio Luis Henao (Col) Team SkyRow 11 - Cell 2
13Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Giant-AlpecinRow 12 - Cell 2
14Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La MondialeRow 13 - Cell 2
15Christopher Froome (GBr) Team SkyRow 14 - Cell 2
16Pello Bilbao (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGARow 15 - Cell 2
17Mikel Landa Meana (Spa) Astana Pro TeamRow 16 - Cell 2
18Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Etixx - Quick-StepRow 17 - Cell 2
19Fabrice Jeandesboz (Fra) Team EuropcarRow 18 - Cell 2
20Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro TeamRow 19 - Cell 2
21Samuel Sanchez (Spa) BMC Racing TeamRow 20 - Cell 2
22Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing TeamRow 21 - Cell 2
23Mikel Nieve (Spa) Team SkyRow 22 - Cell 2
24Daniel Martin (Irl) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling TeamRow 23 - Cell 2
25Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Astana Pro TeamRow 24 - Cell 2
26Frank Schleck (Lux) Trek Factory Racing0:00:11
27Andre Cardoso (Por) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling TeamRow 26 - Cell 2
28Lawson Craddock (USA) Team Giant-AlpecinRow 27 - Cell 2
29Nelson Oliveira (Por) Lampre-MeridaRow 28 - Cell 2
30Daniel Navarro (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits0:00:14
31Cyril Gautier (Fra) Team Europcar0:00:18
32Luis Mas (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA0:00:24
33Louis Meintjes (RSA) MTN - Qhubeka0:00:29
34Kenny Elissonde (Fra) FDJ.fr0:00:41
35Carlos Verona Quintanilla (Spa) Etixx - Quick-StepRow 34 - Cell 2
36George Bennett (NZl) Team LottoNL-JumboRow 35 - Cell 2
37Bart De Clercq (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 36 - Cell 2
38Diego Rosa (Ita) Astana Pro TeamRow 37 - Cell 2
39Maxime Bouet (Fra) Etixx - Quick-StepRow 38 - Cell 2
40Andrey Amador (CRc) Movistar TeamRow 39 - Cell 2
41Rodolfo Torres (Col) Colombia0:00:45
42Alberto Losada Alguacil (Spa) Team KatushaRow 41 - Cell 2
43Angel Madrazo Ruiz (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGARow 42 - Cell 2
44Romain Sicard (Fra) Team Europcar0:00:48
45Eduard Vorganov (Rus) Team Katusha0:00:50
46Ruben Plaza Molina (Spa) Lampre-Merida0:00:54
47Darwin Atapuma Hurtado (Col) BMC Racing Team0:00:55
48Amets Txurruka (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA0:00:57
49Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 48 - Cell 2
50David Arroyo (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA0:00:59
51Stéphane Rossetto (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits0:01:04
52Ricardo Vilela (Por) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA0:01:10
53Miguel Angel Rubiano (Col) Colombia0:01:20
54Alex Cano (Col) Colombia0:01:28
55Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Trek Factory RacingRow 54 - Cell 2
56Mattia Cattaneo (Ita) Lampre-MeridaRow 55 - Cell 2
57Youcef Reguigui (Alg) MTN - Qhubeka0:01:37
58Adam Hansen (Aus) Lotto Soudal0:01:39
59Juan Pablo Valencia (Col) ColombiaRow 58 - Cell 2
60Riccardo Zoidl (Aut) Trek Factory RacingRow 59 - Cell 2
61Yukiya Arashiro (Jpn) Team EuropcarRow 60 - Cell 2
62Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team EuropcarRow 61 - Cell 2
63Thomas Degand (Bel) IAM CyclingRow 62 - Cell 2
64Pavel Kochetkov (Rus) Team KatushaRow 63 - Cell 2
65Peter Velits (Svk) BMC Racing Team0:01:42
66Martin Velits (Svk) Etixx - Quick-StepRow 65 - Cell 2
67Natnael Berhane (Eri) MTN - QhubekaRow 66 - Cell 2
68Olivier Le Gac (Fra) FDJ.frRow 67 - Cell 2
69Maxime Monfort (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 68 - Cell 2
70Joseph Lloyd Dombrowski (USA) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling TeamRow 69 - Cell 2
71Pieter Serry (Bel) Etixx - Quick-Step0:02:05
72Tsgabu Grmay (Eth) Lampre-Merida0:02:40
73Alex Howes (USA) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling TeamRow 72 - Cell 2
74Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) IAM Cycling0:03:02
75Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spa) Movistar Team0:03:03
76Maarten Wynants (Bel) Team LottoNL-Jumbo0:03:11
77Mike Teunissen (Ned) Team LottoNL-JumboRow 76 - Cell 2
78Vicente Reynes (Spa) IAM CyclingRow 77 - Cell 2
79Marcel Aregger (Swi) IAM CyclingRow 78 - Cell 2
80Matteo Montaguti (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale0:03:17
81Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale0:03:26
82Jay Robert Thomson (RSA) MTN - Qhubeka0:03:36
83Jay McCarthy (Aus) Tinkoff-SaxoRow 82 - Cell 2
84Pawel Poljanski (Pol) Tinkoff-SaxoRow 83 - Cell 2
85Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Movistar Team0:03:39
86Walter Pedraza (Col) ColombiaRow 85 - Cell 2
87Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 86 - Cell 2
88Larry Warbasse (USA) IAM CyclingRow 87 - Cell 2
89Tiago Machado (Por) Team KatushaRow 88 - Cell 2
90Carlos Barbero Cuesta (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGARow 89 - Cell 2
91Tosh Van Der Sande (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 90 - Cell 2
92Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek Factory RacingRow 91 - Cell 2
93Antoine Duchesne (Can) Team EuropcarRow 92 - Cell 2
94Jasper De Buyst (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 93 - Cell 2
95Koen De Kort (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin0:03:44
96Fabio Duarte (Col) Colombia0:03:58
97Dario Cataldo (Ita) Astana Pro TeamRow 96 - Cell 2
98Mikael Cherel (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 97 - Cell 2
99Benjamin King (USA) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling TeamRow 98 - Cell 2
100Davide Villella (Ita) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling TeamRow 99 - Cell 2
101Leonardo Duque (Col) ColombiaRow 100 - Cell 2
102Jérôme Cousin (Fra) Team EuropcarRow 101 - Cell 2
103Salvatore Puccio (Ita) Team Sky0:04:08
104Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Orica GreenEdge0:04:23
105John Degenkolb (Ger) Team Giant-Alpecin0:04:40
106Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica GreenEdgeRow 105 - Cell 2
107Andrew Talansky (USA) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling TeamRow 106 - Cell 2
108Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 107 - Cell 2
109Johan Van Summeren (Bel) AG2R La MondialeRow 108 - Cell 2
110Francisco Ventoso (Spa) Movistar Team0:04:43
111David De La Cruz (Spa) Etixx - Quick-StepRow 110 - Cell 2
112Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Trek Factory Racing0:04:54
113Danny Van Poppel (Ned) Trek Factory RacingRow 112 - Cell 2
114Imanol Erviti (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 113 - Cell 2
115Jerome Coppel (Fra) IAM CyclingRow 114 - Cell 2
116Markel Irizar (Spa) Trek Factory RacingRow 115 - Cell 2
117Joseph Rosskopf (USA) BMC Racing TeamRow 116 - Cell 2
118Pavel Brutt (Rus) Tinkoff-SaxoRow 117 - Cell 2
119Omar Fraile (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA0:05:12
120Tom Stamsnijder (Ned) Team Giant-AlpecinRow 119 - Cell 2
121Stephen Cummings (GBr) MTN - QhubekaRow 120 - Cell 2
122Martijn Keizer (Ned) Team LottoNL-JumboRow 121 - Cell 2
123Brayan Ramirez (Col) ColombiaRow 122 - Cell 2
124Johann Van Zyl (RSA) MTN - QhubekaRow 123 - Cell 2
125Moreno Moser (Ita) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling TeamRow 124 - Cell 2