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"We saw last year that someone like Alexis Gougeard could win in his first year as a pro. Grand Tours are races in which breakaways are more often successful than in one-day races."

Photo: Sirotti

VUELTA A ESPAÑA

RACE PROFILE
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23.08.2016 @ 22:39 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie) confirmed that he is the next big French climber when he claimed an impressive neo-pro win on just his fourth day of racing in his debut grand tour at the Vuelta a Espana. In the second summit finish of the race, he emerged as the strongest from a big 20-rider breakaway as he held off the late comeback from Darwin Atapuma (BMC), Ben King (Cannondale) and Andrey Zeits (Astana). Second place was enough for Atapuma to take the red jersey while all the big favourites finished in the same time.

 

We have gathered several reactions.

 

Lilian Calmejane: Gougeard showed that it was possible to win in a grand tour debut

“It’s a very great feeling. I started the Vuelta with a lot of ideas in my head but to win a stage so soon in the Vuelta is just awesome. Yesterday I was feeling good but only seven guys got in the breakaway and I didn’t think it would go to the finish. But today I just thought: ‘Breakaway, breakaway, breakaway’ so I would have no regrets,” Calmejane said.

 

“I’m not really a good, good climber, but when the climb is between 10 and 30 minutes, I’m ok. This is my first Vuelta, my first Grand Tour. The goal was to win a stage. And now everything else is a bonus. I feel very good.

 

“I had good sensations coming here. I had to try things, to take chances. I believe it's what I did. I was not sure at all I could go all the way. In the small clim, 30 km from the finish, I saw that riders like De Gendt were not at ease. I saw it was possible. But to win the stage was something else. Then in the car they cheered me up, it helped me believe in my chances. It was hard, but I needed to seize my opportunity. It was risky, because it they had counter-attacked, I could have gone through the window. It was a chance to take and it paid off.

 

”I didn't necessarily think Atapuma was the stronger guy. The last climb was ten kilometers with consistent percentages, it was an effort in which a puncher could win. I was more wary of De Gendt or Rolland, who already won stages on Grand Tours and were at the Tour de France. I needed to hit hard to try and upset everyone.

 

“I knew that on the Vuelta, unexpected things can happen. Now it's something that happens to me that I wasn't ready for. But I have had good sensations since the start of the season. You have to take your chances and not make a complex because you're a neo-pro. We saw last year that someone like Alexis Gougeard could win in his first year as a pro. Grand Tours are races in which breakaways are more often successful than in one-day races.

 

“I don't ask myself the question [about my future career]. I won a stage of the Vuelta on my fourth day in my first Grand Tour, but now I feel like continuing to race day by day. I have time ahead of me. I already took a lot of pleasure at the start of the season in Paris-Nice. I like time trials. I ride in all kinds of domains. I would love to discover the Ardennes classics as they suit my profile. I don't want to set myself limits. In the team, we are lucky to have a rider like Thomas Voeckler. He's very nice to me. It's thanks to riders like him who bring you their confidence and experience that you grow up.

 

”I didn't come for the GC. I came to go in the breaks and have fun. Now everything that comes on top of it is extra. I'm going to go on like this, in a good, friendly atmosphere. The GC, some riders are better equipped than I am.

 

Calmejane pointed to the sky when crossing the line, thinking about team-mate Romain Guyot who was killed in a car accident in the beginning of the season

 

“ The first thing I thought about was to zip up my jersey, for me and for our sponsor Direct Energie who took over the team last year. I had a thought for Romain of course, as he was a friend of mine. I think that today he must be happy,” he said.

 

Darwin Atapuma: This jersey feels like a victory

Darwin Atapuma put in an incredible ride on stage 4 of the Vuelta a Espana to cross the line in second place and take the leader's red jersey.

 

Atapuma, who is leading a Grand Tour for the first time in his career, formed part of a 21-rider breakaway that went clear after more than an hour of racing.

 

The breakaway gained a five-minute lead and managed to hold their advantage with 30km to go to give the group a solid chance of making it to the line. The attacks from the breakaway started with 20km to go, during which time Atapuma rode at his own rhythm to stay in the main breakaway group.

 

Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie) launched the winning solo move with 9km to go on the last climb, the Mirador de Veixia, and behind Atapuma attacked to distance himself from the breakaway and bring himself closer to the red jersey.

 

Atapuma had the legs to hold off the General Classification contenders' group and power to second place, to now lead the General Classification by 29 seconds going into stage 5.

 

Samuel Sanchez finished with the main group and holds on to sixth place overall, 1'08" behind Atapuma.

 

Darwin Atapuma said:

 

"It is the best day of my cycling career to now have the red jersey at the Vuelta a Espana. This morning I was thinking to go in the breakaway and it was also the plan from the sports directors. There were a lot of breakaway attempts in the first 50km of racing but the peloton wasn't letting them get away. I had to look at what the right composition for the breakaway, and I managed to jump in the right one that the peloton allowed to go clear. We had a good advantage in the end with a strong group of 21 riders.

 

"I was feeling really confident in the breakaway because my shape after the Tour of Utah is really good. I was also feeling confident because of the uphill finish and when I looked around at the others in the breakaway I could see that they were suffering a lot more than me. I felt good so I knew that I could try something on the last climb. We arrived at the last climb with a three-minute advantage and it was then that I could start dreaming about taking the red jersey, as it was a realistic possibility. In the last 5km I knew the GC group was riding really fast so I didn't know if I could get the jersey, so then I attacked to try and win the stage. In the end I was second on the stage but I took the red jersey which is a dream.

 

“I thought I could win this stage. I came here with this dream, to get one victory in this Vuelta. Now, this leader jersey is like a win to me. I’m happy and grateful to God, my girlfriend, my family and my team BMC, who gave me this opportunity, just to race here. It’s a huge joy and I cannot describe with words this feeling. I want to thank once again the Atapuma family, who gives me all the support I need. I also want to dedícate this victory to my mum, who will be for sure cheering for me as she always used to.”

 

"I think I can keep the jersey after tomorrow because it's not a super hard stage, but to even wear the red jersey for one stage is incredible. I'll take things day by day and continue to work to support the team's ambitions.

 

Ben King: We expected Rolland to have better legs

Took an hour for a breakaway to force clear of the peloton on Vuelta stage four today. When the move finally went, Cannondale-Drapac had two in the move with Ben King and Pierre Rolland. King worked hard on the front of the 20-man escape to keep the gap out before the final climb to the line. In the end, Cannondale put two in the top ten with King in third and Rolland in seventh. Andrew Talansky finished with the group of overall favorites.

 

Ben King said:

 

"We were expecting Pierre to have better legs in the final climb so I had to attack very far out. There are days like this. I'm yearning a new contract for next year so I'm very happy with today. The team is going to go to the fore again. I hope that for the rest of the race there will be opportunities for all of us.

 

”But the main priority is to keep Talansky safe and give him the best chance possible for the overall. He has shown tremendous form in the Tour de Suisse and Utah. He looks great, his attitude is great around the team in the bus. He grew up into a real leader. The team respects him. We will work work very hard for him until the rest of the Vuelta."

 

Pierre Rolland: This stage came too early for me

Pierre Rolland said:

 

"It came a little bit early. In two or three days, I'll be a little bit better. After a Grand Tour, you're always like a diesel. Once I was in the front, honestly, I told Juan Manuel (Garate, team director) that I was not on a great day, but that since I was at the front, I would try. Ben King is in great shape. We tried to work together. In the last climb, I attacked behind Lilian, but it didn't work out. The best guy won. There are no regrets. I'm very happy for Lilian and his team, it's a well deserved victory."

 

In-form Andrey Zeits confirms Olympic form in Vuelta mountains

“I will try again,” said Andrey Zeits. “The Vuelta is still very long.”

The Kazakh rider finished fourth at the finish of the 4th stage after a long breakaway of over 120 km. "I feel very good and I think that my condition can still improve,” he added.

 

"We would have needed more luck,” commented sport director Dmitri Sedoun. “Zeits was involved in getting rid of many of his breakaway mates and then rode strongly on the last climb." 

 

Impressive Miguel Angel Lopez limits his losses despite not being able to eat properly

There were good news from Miguel Angel Lopez. The young Colombian arrived close to the best despite feeding difficulties caused by toothache from the aftermath of yesterday’s crash.

 

“It was a really complicated day, because without being able to eat properly, you just end up without strength. My mouth is hurting quite a bit, just like the rest of the body, but I will try to get better. I think I already passed one of the most difficult days I had to face,” he said.

 

Nathan Haas uses instincts to get top 5 in Vuelta mountains

Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka was well represented up front with both Nathan Haas and Merhawi Kudus forming part of the breakaway.  Kudus showed good intent, riding in the first positions in the chase group before following a big attack from Atapuma with 2.5km to go. The Eritrean was not able to get away but his acceleration allowed Haas to follow the wheels in front of him, before finally jumping to a good 5th place finish for the African Team while Kudus rolled home in 13th.

 

In the GC battle a few minutes further down the road, Igor Anton came into a bit of difficulty in the final kilometers but the Basque rider limited his losses to come in just over 30" down on all the favourites. The provisional standings now have Anton and Kudus in 22nd and 23rd overall.

 

Nathan Haas said:
 

“The Vuelta is such a cool race. These roads are amazing and the race is so safe. From the start it was a typical Vuelta stage. Everybody is so hungry for a last minute result and yesterday the break stayed away so already there was blood in the water and the breakaway sharks were out to play again today. I was just trying to stay with the field on the first climb and I was okay doing just that but I didn't have ambitions to go in the breakaway today. I was our option for the finish from the peloton but then 20 guys slip away after the first climb and I was in a good position to go with. Racing instinct always says never hesitate, race by feel and don't overthink things. So I got in there and then we quickly realised it would be the break for the day. I was really struggling with the heat though but it was me and Kudus there so I tried to protect myself.

 

“Today I was really riding for Qhubeka and I was thinking about the difference we make and every time we put ourselves at the front of the race we are doing a great thing for Africa. Today was a good opportunity to do just that so I thank them for giving me the extra drive and I thank the team for giving me the opportunity to pursue my ambition.”

 

Steven Kruijswijk: If I keep improving like this, I will reach my level

Enrico Battaglin finished sixth in the Vuelta a Espana’s second summit finish to San Andrés de Teixido, stage four, today. The Italian LottoNL-Jumbo rider formed part of a big breakaway, but wasn’t able to follow stage winner Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie) in the final part of the stage. Darwin Atapuma (BMC Racing Team) is the new overall leader. Steven Kruijswijk lost 34 seconds on the group with the overall favourites on the final climb.

 

“We were a little bit unsure about Steven Kruijswijk’s shape after yesterday’s stage,” Sports Director Jan Boven said. “Today, it was less steep and less explosive, but at the beginning of the climb, they gave it all. That’s where Steven had difficulties, but he took it easy and focussed on the climb.”

 

“I felt better than yesterday,” Kruijswijk added. “That’s a positive thing. I didn’t expect to stay with the best today, but it wasn’t bad at all. If I keep on improving like this, I might be able to reach the level I aimed for in this Vuelta.”

 

Battaglin fought for the stage victory.

 

“It was a hard day,” the he said. “It was a tough stage. I did the best I could on the final climb. My legs are feeling good and I’m confident with my performance. Tomorrow should also be an interesting day for me.”

 

Giant-Alpecin: We will have more top results from Chad Haga in this race

Team Giant-Alpecin’s Chad Haga did a strong ride in the breakaway to finish 8th on the day. He kept pace with the leaders behind until the very last, eventually rolling over the line in 8th place, 37 seconds down on the winner.

 

Coach Luke Roberts said after the stage: “The goal today was to try to get Chad into the break away. This worked well from the beginning when we had an 18 rider breakaway with Chad a part of it. He did a good race, conserved his energy and came into the final climb with the breakaway group. He did a good final climb and showed good legs, in reach of the stage victory. In the end he finished eighth so it was a good result, and it showed he has good condition so we should see some more top results from him during this race.”

 

Roson confirms his potential, Mas hurts his hip in post-stage crash

Caja Rural - Seguros RGA’s Grand Tour debutant Jaime Rosón showed great shape and determination as he climbed to 9th place on the uphill finish on stage 4 of Vuelta a España. Together with his teammate Ángel Madrazo, Rosón was part of the winning breakaway, which saw Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie) solo to victory.
 
As the breakaway started on the final climb of the day, Madrazo tried to distance his rivals but the group didn’t let him get away. Instead, Calmejane managed to create a gap and take the win, while Madrazo had to settle for 12th place just a few seconds behind Rosón who finished the day on the podium as he was awarded the Fair Play prize of the day.
 
Jaime Rosón said: 

 

“I had already marked this stage prior to the race. Yesterday, I took it a bit easy in order to be ready for today. I knew what I had to do and I almost pulled it off. I would have liked to finish a bit higher up but seeing how it’s my first Vuelta and everything, I have to be satisfied with this ninth place”.
 
Unfortunately, the day didn’t end well for Caja Rural - Seguros RGA as Lluis Mascrashed while descending towards the team busses after concluding the stage. The 27-year-old Spaniard dislocated his hip and was taken to hospital for further examinations. The team will update on the situation when more information becomes available.   

 

Cesare Benedetti satisfied with 10th place at the Vuelta

For Bora-Argon 18, Cesare Benedetti and Scott Thwaites managed to jump into the right group of 21 riders after the first KOM of the day. Cesare Benedetti did the final kilometeres at his own pace and crossed the line in 10th place, Scott Thwaites finished 17th.

 

José Mendes delivered a strong performance again. The national Champion from Portugal finished just 16 seconds behind the group of favourites and moved up to 26th place in the GC.

 

“The race started pretty fast today and we had to suffer a little bit. But the group worked really good together. I think we were 20 guys and so it was really a surprise because everyone worked and that’s not nor mal in a big group like we had today. Scott was in the front on the first climb and did a good job, I jumped a little later with some other guys. On the last climb they all started to attack and I lost contact to the first group, but I went at my own tempo and in the end I am happy with the 10th place,” Cesare Benedetti  said.

 

Final climb too hard for Zdenek Stybar, Gianluca Brambilla feels better and better

Fifth in the team time trial, victorious with Gianni Meersman on Sunday's flat finish, represented in the escape by Pieter Serry during the stage which concluded on the cruel ramps of Mirador de Ezaro and now visible once again at the front with the likes of Zdenek Stybar – that's how Etixx – Quick-Step's Vuelta a España looked so far in the opening week, our team earning plaudits for its aggressive approach and strong results.

Tuesday awaited the riders with another uphill finish, albeit easier than the one tackled on the previous stage, and after a fast first hour in which Movistar controlled all the moves, 21 riders made it into the day-long breakaway. A stage winner at the Tirreno-Adriatico this year, Zdenek Stybar was there, sporting the colors of the team and helping the group extend their advantage to a gap of 5:30. In the final 30 kilometers, when the maximum advantage was reached, several riders tried to get clear, but Stybar countered every move and kept the group together. The former Czech champion came in 16th place.

 

An exhausted Stybar explained at the arrival how things unfolded on the fourth consecutive day spent by the peloton in Galicia:

 

"It was a big battle from the start to make it into the breakaway and it took more than an hour for one to establish. Once it did, we rode well and worked together. The final climb was a bit too hard for me, but I still wanted to try something, because I didn't want to ride for 5th or 6th place. Sometimes, the best defensive is to go to the attack. Didn't work out today, but there are plenty of stages left."

 

Helped by Maxime Bouet and David De La Cruz, who rode selflessly on the second-category climb, Gianluca Brambilla finished the stage with the GC contenders and praised his teammates for their hard work, thanks to which he'll start stage 5 in the top 10 overall:

 

"Today I felt better than yesterday. It was a nice climb and I had good sensations. I must thank Maxime, who brought me into a good position, and David, for escorting me in the last part of the ascent. Now all that I hope is to keep the momentum going and get some nice results for the team."


Thomas De Gendt: At least they chose the right most combative rider

In the finale more and more riders of the breakaway attacked and it was Thomas De Gendt that neutralized them every time. Just before the start of the last climb, Calmejane attacked and continued solo up until the finish at Mirador de Veixia. Thomas De Gendt was dropped by his companions on the last climb and finished eighteenth. His strong performance of the day was rewarded with the prize of the most combative rider.

 

The favourites finished just after De Gendt, but no big differences were made. Bart De Clercq and Maxime Monfort crossed the finish line as 36th and 54th. De Clercq only lost sixteen seconds on the favourites and Monfort 46 seconds.

 

Thomas De Gendt said: 

 

“The legs felt good today. Because there was no breakaway yet when we got to the first climb, I decided it was the right moment to attack. I knew it was likely that a big break would get away. In the end we did have a large enough advantage to stay in front, but actually there was no optimal cooperation. I accelerated a few times before the final climb, hoping we would go clear with a small group. I knew that there were too strong climbers in the group to have a chance to win. But I couldn’t remain in front.

 

”Anyway, this was a good training for what still has to come this Vuelta. I’m racing instinctively and I will grab my chance when I see an opportunity. The combativity award is a consolation prize, but it feels good that they made an honest decision. I was one of the riders who set up the break and I battled for the KOM prizes.”

 

Lampre-Merida sprinter abandons the Vuelta a Espana

Tsgabu Grmay achieved the task which was assigned to him: to join the main breakaways. The Ethiopian rider tried an attack with 17km to go but he could not repeat the attempt on the final climb and he crossed the finish line in 19th place at 1'42".

It was a good performance by Meintjes, who completed the stage in the small group of the top climbers of the Vuelta: the South African rider was 29th at 2'06". In the general classification, Meintjes is 33rd at 3'11".

During the stage, LAMPRE-MERIDA had to face the withdrawal of Federico Zurlo who was hampred  because of a fever from he suffered during the night.

 

Alejandro Valverde: It was always the plan to give away the jersey

The Movistar Team fulfilled their moral mandate to lead the bunch during stage four of the Vuelta a España, after reaching the GC leadership atop the Mirador de Ézaro on Monday. Rubén Fernández's team-mates didn't, though, spend too much energy at the front despite covering almost the entire 164km journey from Betanzos to San Andrés de Teixido driving the pace, at a reasonable gap from the early, long-fought, 21-rider break of the day -which both Dani Moreno and even Fernandez  himself tried to join . A member from the escape, French youngster Lilian Calmejane (DEN), claimed the day's win with a well-timed attack halfway through the last climb of Herbeira, while Darwin Atapuma (BMC), 2nd over the line at 15", became the new race leader.

 

Imanol Erviti and Sutherland completed an excellent job with their combined efforts up to the foot of the final ascent. Following some turns from Orica and Tinkoff plus an infructuous attack from Peter Kennaugh (SKY), the likes of Rojas, Herrada, Castroviejo and Dani Moreno completed the day's task by keeping the pace high to avoid any attacks, a role also taken by Rubén Fernández. The 25-year-old climber from Murcia didn't hesitate to continue with his role pre-Ézaro, pushing and dropping back later on, to finish the day in 7th GC (+1'11"). Alejandro Valverde (2nd, +29") and Nairo Quintana (5th, +39") both keep their places from stage three as more relaxed days should come for them, starting with Wednesday's chance for the sprinters in Lugo (171km). 

 

Alejandro Valverde said:

 

“Conceding the GC lead was written down on our plan for the day. The Vuelta is still four days old, and we knew that such a big break should be sticking. The leader's jersey can weigh a lot, even more so when you try to carry it all the way to Madrid. The important thing for us is that all GC contenders came together at the finish and both my legs and Nairo's felt well - the day's overview is overall positive.

 

“Rubén? Well, as everyone could see, he worked for us again today even in the lead. Just like the other team-mates, he was fantastic. We remain happy about his effort in Ézaro and I'm sure he enjoyed his day in red much. We will all have many days ahead to keep chasing glory and stages."

 

Nairo Quintana: I thought it would be easier

Nairo Quintana said: 

 

“It was a tough one. We thought things would be easier, considering the route was lumpy from the very start, not inviting any big moves. However, the pace was furious from the bang, and it took long to form the day's break. That made things difficult. Hopefully we'll have the next few days to recover and start thinking about the next 'long weekend', with three new mountain stages to come there."

 

Esteban Chaves: I have the strongest team here

Esteban Chaves and ORICA-BikeExchange rode a calm and collected race on stage four of the Vuelta a Espana today with Chaves finishing alongside the other favourites and remaining in fourth on the general classification.

 

Lilian Calmejane (Direct-Energie) took the stage victory with a winning move from the breakaway that saw Darwin Atapuma (BMC) move into the red leader's jersey.

 

“The team were fantastic again today,” said Chaves. “The big guys on the flat and then the climbers on the ascents, our team is really strong and we rode very well to stay in a good position in the race.

 

“Movistar were pulling pretty hard and we matched everything on the final climb. Simon Yates stayed with me for a long way up the climb and it's these small details that are really important and I am very grateful for.

 

"Movistar had the jersey  and for their sponsor it's very important because it's a Spanish company. They pulled all day but the break was big, at some time it reached five minutes.

 

“The guys worked for me fantastic. They are big boys on the flat and also climbers on the last climb. They pull very fast. For the moment, for me, they' re the stronger team here. You can look at the television and think I'm fresh but no. It isn't true.

 

“To have Atapuma in the lead is fantastic. It's good for me because Colombia is like that, so we can go and take another stage."

 

Sport director Neil Stephens was satisfied with how the day unfolded.

 

“We definitely ticked all the boxes today,” said Stephens. “Once the breakaway went clear it allowed us to sit back a little and try to conserve as much energy as possible for the finale.

 

“The team did a great job and rode with intelligence throughout. When we called upon the guys to get on the front and reduce the deficit a bit with 15kilometres to go they were ready and brought the bunch onto the climb.

 

“As far as we’re concerned the situation is pretty similar to yesterday, most of the big favourites finished together and we are happy with our position.

 

“Tomorrow could be an interesting stage due to the long climb in the middle, it could easily be a day for the breakaway again.”

 

 

Chris Froome: Movistar are playing a tactical game

Chris Froome retained third place overall after another strong summit finish performance on stage four at the Vuelta a Espana.

 

The Brit finished in a select group of general classification contenders at the summit of the Alto Mirador de Veixia, retaining his overall position despite the race lead changing hands.

 

While not as steep as Monday's finale, the second-category climb provided a selective finale, with Froome, Leopold Konig and latterly Pete Kennaugh all finishing just over two minutes back on the day's breakaway winner.

Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie) secured a breakthrough result with a stage victory in San Andres de Teixido, pushing on to win the stage by 15 seconds, while second place on the stage was enough to elevate Darwin Atapuma (BMC Racing) into the red jersey.

 

Froome sits 33 seconds back on the Colombian, and remains four seconds behind second-placed Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) after the shake-up.

 

Kennaugh enlivened the finale with an attack underneath the 3km to go banner. The Manxman was reeled in inside the final kilometre, and while losing a few bike-lengths at the line, dug deep to finish on the coattails of the GC group.

 

Konig retains eighth overall, 1:13 back on the new leader, with Kennaugh now ninth on GC at 1:15.

 

After the stage Froome admitted he was content with his current position after four stages, and explained in more detail the strong attack from team-mate Kennaugh on the final climb.

 

"It was just to put a bit of pressure on the Movistar guys," he said. "It was interesting to see the red jersey Fernandez got on the front there when Pete attacked and did his pull. It's good for us to have (Pete) up there. He's still in the top 10 on GC, so we've got myself, Pete and Leo in there.

 

"(Movistar) are playing quite a tactical game at the moment. They seemed quite happy to let the red jersey go today. They weren't in any kind of hurry to bring the break back, even though they had all nine riders there coming into the final. I think they are trying to save their legs a bit thinking about the next few weeks.

 

"I think we're in a pretty good position. We'd prefer to just save a bit for the last half of the race. At the same time I wouldn't turn down the opportunity to go for the leader's jersey, if I had the opportunity, then I'd go for it."

 

"It remains to be seen [what Atapuma can do, whilst he's in the leader's jersey you've got to pay him that respect. I don't think he's been up on the podium of a Grand Tour before, this could be his opportunity."

 

With Movistar measuring their pace to allow the day's 21-man breakaway to contest the stage win, a race within a race ensued. Team Sky took it up on the final climb, with Salvatore Puccio and David Lopez prominent before Movistar wrestled back control. Overnight leader Ruben Fernandez slipped back, as the group gradually whittled down, with the favourites marking each other to the finish.


Alberto Contador: Now I feel optimistic again

After dropping some time to certain GC rivals on yesterday’s steep finishing climb, Alberto Contador bounced back well today with a solid final ascent to the fourth stage of the Vuelta a España. The second uphill finish of this first week, Tinkoff’s GC leader looked calm and ready to respond to any attacks as the road climbed to the finish line atop the Alto Mirador Veixia, an 11.2km final test to the stage.
 
With the day’s early breakaway staying clear in front, the GC group was gradually whittled down by a fast pace set on the front, and by the final push for the line the group was down to just 15 riders. On the day, Contador came over the line in 23rd position, moving down one place to 13th on GC.
 
"The final climb was made complicated by the wind that was blowing hard and although I felt my form well I wouldn't say it was perfect,” explained Contador after the finish. “However, it is important to recover and keep putting efforts in. 
 
“The next important day is stage 8 with its very demanding finish. Our bodies will be more into race mode and we will see there how my legs respond. I came to the Vuelta without an optimal preparation because I didn't have enough time, but I feel confident that in the coming days I will be able to give more."
 

"We knew it wasn't a very difficult final climb, but the important thing is I felt a lot better. Obviously your legs always hurt after an effort like that, but I feel fine and pleased to have got through another stage.

 

"I feel pretty optimistic now. I'll start to try to shake things up a little further on, when I've got the right kind of form that racing can give you.

 

"My non-Spanish teammates have joked a lot about how hard the roads are here, and it's certainly been a tough start for the Vuelta, with a team time trial and two summit finishes. Hopefully we'll start to pull back time on my rivals from here on, in whatever opportunities we get from now on."


Sport Director Steven De Jongh gave his feedback after the stage, saying:

 

“It was a pretty straightforward stage today, with no problems for Alberto or the team. The boys worked hard to put Alberto in position ahead of the final climb and overall it was a better day than yesterday.
 
“The last climb was irregular, with steep sections before a descent then climbing again. There was some wind on the final climb could have played a factor as it was quite exposed but that worked out OK.”
  
As more and more riders dropped off the pace, Contador looked in control, coming into the final kilometre in third wheel before coming over the finish line amongst the favourites. Despite dropping a place on GC, he put time into some of those who distanced him yesterday and can take confidence from the stage.
 
De Jongh continued:

 

“Tomorrow and the following day are quite straight forward, but then from stage 8 it gets interesting again starting with the climb of La Camperona.”

 

Axel Domont: I will try again in stage 6

Ag2r had Axel Domont in the break

 

"The breakaway took a long time to get away. We were twenty with almost all teams represented. The cooperation was good, I knew that we had opportunities to stay away. I attacked after the last sprint. Unfortunately, at the bottom of a rolling climb with the headwind and alone, I knew it would be difficult. I had 20 '' on the group but it was not enough. Obviously, I expected to do better. If I'm in front, it is not only to show myself on TV but to try to win. In two days, we could see that a break is going for the win. I will try my luck again. "

 

Rein Taaramae suffering from stomach problems at the Vuelta

For Team KATUSHA Egor Silin put himself in the early breakaway tentative.

 

”Our goal today was to go in the break. Silin did manage to get in an early break and even took some GPM points. That break was brought back however and another went that ended up being the right break. But it was good to see the riders trying to make something happen. We’ve had some bad luck with Lagutin hurting his finger in an earlier stage, but he does feel better than yesterday so we continue to be optimistic about him. Also Rein Taaramäe has been suffering from stomach problems for two days, but he knows the Vuelta is long and is very hopeful that he can recover, ” said team director José Azevedo.

 

Trek unsure about GC ambitions for Fabio Felline, target stage 5 with Niccolo Bonifazio

For Trek Riccardo Zoidl and Fabio Felline climbed with the favorites group for most of the climb, losing time only in the last part. Zoidl, who continues to show good form in the race, was the first of Trek-Segafredo to cross the line, 23 seconds after the GC favorites, while Fabio Felline arrived 21 seconds later.

 

Director Dirk Demol offered his analysis on Tuesday's race:

 

"It was a surprise again today - the start of this year's Vuelta has been a bit strange. It is unusual after four stages that two times the early breakaway makes it to the finish. It seems like the favorite teams are just watching each other.

 

"Before the breakaway went today there were several attempts we were in, but when the right one went we missed it. It's a pity of course when you see that they made it to the finish. But it is a bit my fault - if I can say fault - that I was not pushing the guys enough to be in the breakaway. So we need to calculate this for the upcoming days and really try and be present."

 

"It's not like we lost 10 or 15mins today, but we will have to see as Fabio again lost a little time to the favorites. At this point we don't give up our ambitions for the GC. Once we are on the first rest day, then we can make a decision as it will be much clearer.

 

"Tomorrow is the second of five possible chances for the sprinters, so we will see about helping to create a bunch sprint for Niccolo (Bonifazio). You never know what the day will bring, but I hope that Niccolo is able to make a better sprint than stage two."

 

Alexandre Geniez: I had wanted to go for more KOM points

Alexandre Geniez (FDJ) defended the polka dot jersey. He said:

 

"I'm very surprised, I never imagined that the break would make it, especially as Movistar looked like they were in control. I thought they were checking the breakaway, especially as it was a finish that could suit Valverde. Later they let the break go and when we was the gap was over three minutes, we knew it was over. Maybe what they wanted was to give up the jersey and save strength for the GC, but I can't say we were expecting this. It was a stage in which you had nothing to hope for if you were not a pure climber so you had to try something.

 

”It's a hell of a performance by Lilian. Congratulations. It's nice to go for a win here as a neo-pro.

 

”At the start, I wanted to go for KOM points but the first "summit at 1 km" sign was badly placed and I got trapped."

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