Welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of stage 4 of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco
Hello there. We're back for stage 4 of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco and we'll be bringing you live coverage of this 174km leg from Donostia (San Sebastian) to Bilbao - the two main cities of Spain's Basque region.
Here's the stage profile. That late second-category climb should make for aggressive and exciting racing.
As we join the action, the riders are an hour into proceedings, with 40 kilometres covered. No breakaway to speak of yet, despite numerous attempts.
The riders covered 47.5km in the first hour of racing. That's pretty zippy. It seems there's quite a fight to get in the break today, with many sensing the opportunity for a stage win. The powers that be in the peloton, however, won't give the green light if they're not happy with it, and that has made for a strung-out bunch and a full-on start to the day.
Marcel Wyss (BMC) tried his luck a few minutes ago, but to no avail, and now it's the turn of Vasil Kiryienka (Team Sky) and Maxim Belkov (Katusha).
Caja Rural's Jonathan Lastra Martinez senses the opportunity and jumps across.
Correction from race radio: It's Toms Skujins of Cannondale-Drapac who's up the road - not Kiryienka.
Either way, the trio (Skujins, Belkov, Lastra) seems to be pulling away.
BMC's Amael Moinard manages to bridge across now.
The breakaway's advantage rises to nearly three minutes now as things calm down in the peloton.
It's Quick-Step who lead the peloton, taking on the responsibility due to the leader's jersey that sits on the shoulders of David de la Cruz. Here's the Spaniard at the start this morning.
You can catch up on how De la Cruz earned his leader's jersey with our stage 3 report.
@Ride_Argyle Thu, 6th Apr 2017 12:31:50
110km remaining from 174km
The gap is holding steady at the moment at a shade over three minutes. The climbs come later in the race but, even the flat opening section is described by race organisers as 'rompepiernas' - translating literally to 'leg-breaking' - with the terrain undulating more than it might appear to on paper.
102km remaining from 174km
3 minutes 40 seconds is the gap now
There are plenty of sea views on today's route as we track the north coast of Spain. Here's Lekeitio, which the riders have just passed through.
100km remaining from 174km
4:20 is the gap now with 100km left to race.
Have you caught up with the latest episode from our friends at inCycle? It's worth it, as they go exclusively behind the scenes with Peter Sagan at the Classics. There's also stuff on the women's Tour of Flanders and Andre Greipel, the sprinter who can't seem to resist going on the attack on the cobbles. Here's the link:
86km remaining from 174km
Feed zone coming up for the riders. Soon after we'll be heading for the first climb of the day.
The first climb of the day is preceded by the first of three intermediate sprints. They're marked on the profile by what look like wifi icons...
4:45 is the gap for our breakaway quartet now as they track back out towards the coast once again for this intermediate sprint.
A reminder of the composition of the break:
Toms Skujins (Cannondale-Drapac)
Amael Moinard (BMC)
Maxim Belkov (Katusha-Alpecin)
Jonathan Lastra Martinez (Caja Rural)
Team Sky have set up shop behind Quick-Step. They're working for Colombian champion Sergio Henao, winner of Paris-Nice last month.
Movistar's Jose Herrada and the Lotto Soudal duo of Rafa Valls and Louis Vervaeke have all abandoned in the feed zone. More details shortly.
Meanwhile Lastra, the home Pro Conti rider, takes maximum points at the first intermediate sprint, ahead of Belkov and Moinard.
The breakaway riders are through Bermeo and will shortly be heading uphill on the first categorised climb of the day - Sollube. It's 5.2km long with an average gradient of just over 8%
66km remaining from 174km
The leading quartet stay together on the climb, with Skujins leading the way and the others content to stay in the wheel. 4:11 is the gap back to the Quick-Step led bunch.
The peloton are climbing and it's all contained for the time being. Quick-Step are tapping it out, with Ion Izaguirre's Bahrain-Merida and Alberto Contador's Trek-Segafredo also prominent.
Moinard takes over from Skujins now as the breakaway quartet heads towards the KOM point at the top of the climb.
Moinard takes the points at the top of the climb, followed by Skujins, Belkov, and then Lastra. The quartet begin the fast descent.
The peloton crests the climb just over 4 minutes in arrears
55km remaining from 174km
The gap has begun to come down as Astana lead a massively strung-out peloton down this descent, which is run on wide roads with long straight sections. 3:10 it is now.
51km remaining from 174km
Lastra once again picks up maximum points at the second intermediate sprint. The main priority, though, will be to stem the tide as the peloton continues its advance. 2:53 the gap, now, with 51 to go.
We might be enjoying some stage racing this week in the Basque Country, but Paris-Roubaix is never far from our minds, looming large this coming Sunday. To whet your appetite, why not have a read of this feature from the latest issue of Procycling magazine. It contains tactical tips on how to win the Hell of the North from the likes of Tom Boonen, John Degenkolb, and Mat Hayman.
While we're on Paris-Roubaix, the Quick-Step team are currently holding their pre-race press conference, where Tom Boonen, naturally is the centre of attention. It's the last race of the Belgian's career, and he could claim a record fifth title. Our reporters Stephen Farrand and Sadhbh O'Shea are at the press gathering and will be reporting back shortly on Cyclingnews.
Back in the Basque Country and the gap as come down to 2:30. We see Markel Irizar, domestique for Contador, stuffing his jersey with bidons for his teammates. It's a warm spring afternoon out there.
2:10 now the gap as Astana continue to show interest at the head of the peloton. The road is heading gently downhill towards the base of the all-important final climb.
It's net downhill en route to the climb, but a closer look at the stage profile shows plenty of undulations, and the breakaway riders are having to kick up out of the saddle as they encounter one.
Meanwhile back in the peloton we're treated to that wonderful sight of Alberto Contador bobbing gracefully as he rides out of the saddle. The Spaniard was a nail-biting runner-up at Paris-Nice but has been cagey about his chances of overall success here.
38km remaining from 174km
The breakaway's advantage is cut to 1:30 now as they pick up speed once more on another downhill stretch, the TV motorbike's speedometre showing 70km/h.
The break are on the approach to the third and final intermediate sprint. Lastra would move into the lead of the sprint classification if he were to bag the maximum three points once again. His teammate Luis Mas is the current leader on 8 points.
Crash. Rob Power hits a traffic cone and hits the deck.
That was a weird one. The traffic cone was just in the middle of the road and an FDJ rider in front clipped it, with Power unable to see it and unable to avoid it. He's back up and running.
Another crash! More riders down here, including Steve Cummings. They're lying by some plastic bollards - is road furniture to blame once again?
Let's not forget that this is the race where Peter Stetina shattered his knee and almost ended his career a couple of years ago. That was caused by a pathetically signalled bollard and the race was very slow in acknowledging responsibility and apologising to the American. We'll try and get some replays of the crash and see what caused it.
Dani Navarro climbs into an ambulance. Collarbone?
Two FDJ, one Trek, two DiData (Cummings and Morton), along with Darwin Atapuma (UAE) are the riders on the deck. Cummings looks in real pain.
30km remaining from 174km
Meanwhile Lastra leads the break over the finish line for the first time, taking the intermediate sprint and earning the jersey in the process. They'll be heading out for a 30km loop to tackle that final climb.
29km remaining from 174km
The peloton, still led by Astana, crosses the line 50 seconds in arrears.
Replays show the aftermath of the crash, but not the event itself, so it seems we'll have to wait to find out exactly what happened there.
We're hearing that Contador was caught up in that crash. He wasn't one of the riders slowly picking themselves off the tarmac - and must have managed to get himself back into the bunch very quickly.
Indeed, Contador's jersey is torn at the shoulders. The Spaniard looks cool and composed, however, and takes a gel ahead of the final climb.
Cummings, Navarro, and Atapuma have all abandoned the race.
23km remaining from 174km
30 seconds the gap, now, with 23km to go.
Was Julian Alaphilippe caught up in that crash? The Frenchman finds himself off the back of the peloton with a teammate and they're almost a minute down on the peloton. More time loss for the Quick-Step man after his crash yesterday.
Up ahead, Skujins and Moinard have punched clear of Belkov and Lastra. The gap is just 15 seconds now and the catch is imminent.
Moinard is caught as Skujins tries to eek this out for a little bit longer.
And the climb is about to begin. A reminder of the profile.
18km remaining from 174km
Skujins hits the climb but he's immediately caught as a Sky rider clips off the front.
The Vivero climb is 5.6km long with an average gradient of 8.1% and maximum ramps of nearer 9%
Attack from Serge Pauwels (DiData)
Mechanical for Contador!
Contador makes his way back up through the field on a teammate's bike. More bad luck for the Spaniard but this shouldn't cost him too dearly.
Nicolas Roche (BMC) comes to the front now and injects some pace. It's strung out as Contador continues his chase through the bunch.
It looks like Michael Woods on the wheel of Roche. Tim Wellens is there. No big splits for the time being.
Roche attacks. The Irishman eases up and lulls his rivals into a false sense of security, then puts in a really big effort.
16km remaining from 174km
Pauwels is in pursuit tapping it out. There's a gap back to the line-out bunch
Roche is caught. De la Cruz is up near the front.
It's whittling down, with lots of riders losing contact, though no new attacks at the front as Quick-Step control things.
Attack from Roman Kreuziger
15km remaining from 174km
The Orica-Scott man comes from a few places back and opens up a gap, slowly but surely.
Sky are well placed with Henao
Kreuziger weaves across the road as he realises he's about to be caught. It's Enric Mas on the front for Quick-Step with a really assured display so far on this climb.
Henao attacks! There's a flurry of moves here and it's lighting up here.
Izaguirre is on the case, as is Simon Yates, who puts in a dig of his own now.
A few small splits here as we start the descent.
Primoz Roglic attacks now. The LottoNL man put in a dig shortly before Henao and he's decided to go on the move on the downhill now. And he's got a gap.
A small chasing group bunches up behind Roglic. Another 10-man group is behind that desperately trying to regain contact.
Valverde is in the front group behind Roglic. He has to be a top favourite today.
10km remaining from 174km
Roglic is caught as Mas comes to the front once again for De la Cruz.
The small chase group comes back and we now have a front group of around 30-35 riders heading downhill towards Bilbao.
Contador has made it in there after scrambling back over that climb on a teammate's bike.
8km remaining from 174km
Mas hits 80km/h and De la Cruz can barely hold the wheel. The road will flatten out in a couple of kilometres.
Uran is up there behind De la Cruz. Henao is in there with Kwiatkowski. Contador, Sanchez, Valverde all there.
Michael Matthews is there, too - one of a number of Sunweb riders. The Australian must have put in a strong climb and now surely emerges as the fastest sprinter in this group.
5km remaining from 174km
Henao hits the front as the road flattens out. But Enric Mas comes through to keep things under control once again.
Romain Bardet is safely in that group.
An injection of pace from a UAE rider, and things line out before the riders ease up.
171km remaining from 174km
And here goes Roglic again!
De la Cruz has to shut this one down himself. Roglic is a powerful riders who's strong in a time trial
It strings out as Roglic is brought to heel.
But Roglic is not quite caught and he kicks again!
1km remaining from 174km
Roglic leads into the final kilometre. Panic stations for Matthews et al
What a move this is. He could hold on here
Crash! Some of the chasers plough into the barriers at a roundabout. Advantage Roglic
Roglic, arms over the bars, powers down the home straight. He's got a big gap.
Matthews opens up his sprint behind, but it's not going to be enough.
Primoz Roglic wins stage 4 of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco
Contador was one of the riders who crashed. He's coming across the line now. Two crashes and a mechanical for the Spaniard today.
What a display from Primoz Roglic! The former ski jumper is showing few limits as he continues to explore his potential. It's not quite enough to move into the leader's jersey as two seconds is the gap on the official results sheet (he needed three), but he looks delighted with his victory.
1 Primoz Roglic (Slo) Team LottoNl-Jumbo 04:23:46
2 Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb 00:00:02
3 Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Bahrain-Merida 00:00:02
4 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky 00:00:02
5 Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott 00:00:02
6 Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe 00:00:02
7 Rudy Molard (Fra) FDJ 00:00:02
8 Diego Ulissi (Ita) Team UAE Emirates 00:00:02
9 Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe 00:00:02
10 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 00:00:02
General Classification after stage 4
1 David De La Cruz (Spa) Quick-Step Floors 16:38:42
2 Primoz Roglic (Slo) Team LottoNl-Jumbo 00:00:01
3 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky 00:00:03
4 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 00:00:03
5 Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe 00:00:03
6 Rudy Molard (Fra) FDJ 00:00:03
7 George Bennett (NZl) Team LottoNl-Jumbo 00:00:03
8 Ruben Fernandez (Spa) Movistar Team 00:00:03
9 Rigoberto Uran (Col) Cannondale-Drapac 00:00:03
10 Sam Oomen (Ned) Team Sunweb 00:00:03
Spanish reporter Ainara Hernando informs us that Contador didn't come down in that final-kilometre crash - but instead punctured. Here's the bike he finished on, belonging to Julien Bernard.
Here's our stage 4 report page, with brief report and results. Full results and photo gallery on the way very shortly.
@TrekSegafredo Thu, 6th Apr 2017 15:52:33
We should say that Contador will be given the same time as the rest of the front group thanks to the 3km rule.
So tomorrow is when the GC battle begins in earnest. Here's what's in store on the penultimate stage.
Roglic celebrates his victory
That's it from us for today. Thanks for joining us and make sure you do so again for tomorrow's stage - certainly not one to be missed!
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