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With a powerful late attack from a four-rider front group, Txurruka put time into Lopez, Rebellin and Hansen to win stage 4 of the Tour of Norway; Hansen increased his overall lead

Photo: Sirotti

AMETS TXURRUKA

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CAJA RURAL - SEGUROS RGA

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DAVID LOPEZ

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DAVIDE REBELLIN

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JESPER HANSEN

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TOUR OF NORWAY

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23.05.2015 @ 18:47 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Amets Txurruka (Caja Rural) again confirmed that he has turned into a winner since he joined Caja Rural when he took a huge victory far from his home country in the tough summit finish on stage 4 of the Tour of Norway. With a powerful acceleration, he dropped his companions in a four-rider front group and put time into David Lopez (Sky), Davide Rebellin (CCC) and Jesper Hansen (Tinkoff-Saxo) to take a solo victory. Hansen gained time on Edvald Boasson Hagen (MTN-Qhubeka) and defended his overall lead.

 

During his time at Euskaltel, Amets Txurruka was known as a perennial attacker but he was always unable to turn his many attacks into victories. Since he stepped down to pro continental level with Caja Rural, he has turned things around and has taken overall victories in races like Vuelta a Asturias and Tour du Gevaudan.

 

This season he has been close on a number of occasions and has already achieved several podium results, most notably a second place in Asturias. However, he has always come up short in the Spanish mountains and so he had to travel to Norway before he finally opened his 2015 account.

 

After a solid performance in yesterday’s stage where he was taken out of GC contention by a late puncture, Txurruka was ready to strike in today’s second big climbing day of the race which finished at the top of a 2.3km climb with an average gradient of 7.9%. This time he didn’t have the same kind of bad luck and he turned out to be the strongest rider in the race.

 

It was Lotto Soudal who took control as they approached the ascent, with Vegard Breen taking a huge turn before Tosh van der Sande led the peloton onto the lower slopes. Here Anders Skaarseth (Joker) launched an immediate attack while Mathew Hayman started to ride on the front for Orica-GreenEDGE.

 

When the Australin swung off, his teammate Jens Keukeleire took over and he made the peloton explode to pieces. His teammate Caleb Ewan was one of the riders to give up and Bauke Mollema (Trek) was also distanced.

 

With 1.5km to go, David Lopez (Sky) launched a big attack and as Keukeleire swung off, the peloton slowed down. This forced race leader Jesper Hansen to make a big acceleration and he seemed to be at ease as he dropped everybody and sped past Lopez.

 

Lars Petter Nordhaug (Sky) looked strong when he made a big surge to join the Dane and as Hansen started to fade, Lopez also rejoined them. Nordhaug exploded and Hansen and Lopez were left in front.

 

This was the time for Txurruka to make his first attack and with Davide Rebellin on his wheel he made it up to the front group. Lopez quickly realized that he could move onto the overall podium so he started to set tempo on the front while a small group with Edvald Boasson Hagen was fighting hard to get back in contention.

 

Frederik Galta (Coop) did a fantastic performance to bridge the gap but just as he made the junction, Lopez tried to accelerate. He was countered by Txurruka who easily distanced his rivals and rode away with the stage victory. Lopez kept riding hard to take second while Rebellin just managed to edge Hansen out in the sprint for third.

 

Hansen managed to gain time on Boasson Hagen and so extended his advantage over the Norwegian to 54 seconds. He has a big chance to win the Norwegian race as the final stage is one for the powerful sprinters. After a mostly flat stage, the riders end the race by doing four laps of a tough finishing circuit which had a hard climb that leads the a final flat kilometre where Alexander Kristoff sprinted to the win from a very small group 12 months ago.

 

A summit finish

After the first big battle in the mountains, it was expected to be another day for the climbers in stage 4 which brought the riders over 168.3km from Rjukan to Geilo. After a flat start, the riders would tackle a 24km category 1 climb whose summit was located at the 54km mark before they descended to another steep 4.7km category 1 ascent. Then it was back into flat terrain before the riders got to the bottom of the final 2.3km, 7.9% climb which led to the finish where the punchy climbers were expected to shine.

 

There were two non-starters when the peloton gathered in Rjukan for the start as Oscar Landa (Coop) and Norwegian champion Tormod Jacobsen (Coop) were both absent. The rest of the peloton headed out on their ride on another nice sunny day in Norway.

 

Kristoff wins the sprint

With a descending start, it was a fast opening phase with lots of attacks. Amund Grøndahl Jansen (Joker) was the first rider to escape but he was quickly reeled in. The attacking continued and after 18km of racing, no one had managed to get a sizeable advantage.

 

Suddenly, a split occurred when 25 riders got a small gap but it quickly got back together. This allowed Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) to beat Galta, Jarl Salomein (Topsport) and Boasson Hagen in the first intermediate sprint.

 

Jungels and Ligthart take off

The riders had now hit the bottom of the first long climb and here 10 riders briefly managed to escape. However, it was Bob Jungels (Trek) and Pim Ligthart (Lotto Soudal) who used the hard terrain to get clear while Sindre Lunke (Joker) took off in pursuit.

 

At the 40km, the peloton had been distanced by 2.30 while Lunke was dangling just 35 seconds behind the leaders. The Norwegian gradually started to lose ground and finally he decided to wait for the peloton which was now 3.40 behind.

 

The gap grows

At the 50km mark, the gap was 3.55 and it was still on the rise. It reached 4.45 before Tinkoff-Saxo started to stabilize the situation.

 

MTN-Qhubeka took over the pace-setting on the second climb where Ligthart led Jungels over the top before Vegard Robinson Bugge (Sparebanken) took important points by crossing the line in fourth. The gap had now gone out to 5.15.

 

The peloton loses ground

Jungels beat Ligthart in the second sprint while Kristoff took third as the first rider from the peloton. Tinkoff-Saxo were back in control with Juraj Sagan and Evgeny Petrov but they had allowed the gap to go out to 5.45 with 80km to go.

 

Ligthart was suffering as they went up the next climb but he was the first rider to crest the summit. MTN-Qhubeka had again started to work with Tinkoff-Saxo as Nic Dougall and Songezo Jim were trading pulls with Sagan and Petrov. Nonetheless, the gap had gone out to 6.50 when Sparebanken led Bugge out in the KOM sprint to allow him to pick up third-place points.

 

The peloton hits the panic button

The four domestiques worked well together but as they entered the final 50km, the gap was still 6.30. Meanwhile, Ligthart got dropped on a small climb. In the peloton, things only got more hectic when Boasson Hagen suffered a puncture and had to fight his way back.

 

Tinkoff-Saxo added more firepower to the chase as Nikolay Trusov also started to work but with 30km to go, the gap was still a massive 5.30. This was now time to hit the panic button and Chris Anker Sørensen, Pavel Brutt, Jaco Venter and Jay Thomson were now also working hard in the peloton.

 

Jungels fades

This had a big effect as the gap to Jungels was now melting away. With 20km to go, it was still 3.30 but 5km later he only had 2 minutes in hand. At this point, the chase work was left to Thomson, Venter, Sørensen, Brutt and Sagan.

 

With 12km to go, the riders hit a small climb and here Andrew Fenn (Sky) launched a small attack. He was countered by van der Sande who was joined by Marco Minnaard (Wanty) and they flew past the fading Jungels. Sørensen worked immensely hard in the peloton and he brought van der Sande back when the Belgian got distanced.

 

With 8km to go, Minnaard still had an advantage of 15 seconds but he had no chance again the Orica-GreenEDGE machine which had taken control. Kristoff even came to the fore on the descent before Hayman brought Minnaard back. Moments later Lotto Soudal took over and then the scene was set for the exciting finale.

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