It was a long, long stage today at 209km with almost all of the action happening in the last 5km. But Alejandro Valverde kept a cool head while all around him were frenzied and with 200m to go, ‘I knew that this was my victory’. Peter Sagan couldn’t double up on his win yesterday but he did add to his tally of second places.
Tinkoff Saxo did most of the work on the front of the peloton during today’s stage, with Movistar and Katusha keeping their cool for the steep, challenging run into the finish at Vejer de la Frontera. Once the peloton had made the sharp right-hand turn onto the climb, the attacks came thick and fast, with Pello Bilbao (Caja Rural) taking off first and holding out until the final 2km. Once he was reeled in by Tinkoff, Samu Sanchez (BMC) flew off the front with only Nico Roche (Sky) able to keep up. A vicious incline stopped the Sanchez attack, leaving Roche out on his own until Valverde, timing his attack perfectly, swept past him, taking the bend perfectly to stop Sagan from pipping him to take the ninth Vuelta stage win of his career.
Rider of the stage
Today, I’m going to have to go for Nico Roche for my rider of the stage. When Roche first signed for Team Sky, there were many of us who were worried that his talent would be squandered by playing the role of super-domestique and he wouldn’t be given the freedom to ride for himself in any of the grand tours. But in the past two days, we’ve seen him off the leash and he’s done himself proud, while the rest of the Sky train have been fairly quiet. The fact that he made a monumental effort to try take enough time to don the red jersey (although ultimately unsuccessful) shows that he has good form and a lot of desire to shine in this year’s Vuelta. I just hope that he’ll be able to be as free an agent as possible during the next few weeks.
Three things we observed
1 Positioning and timing beats brute strength When the racing gets frenzied, especially on these crazy-steep uphills, it seems that Alejandro Valverde gets calmer and calmer. Today, as riders flew off the front – some, like Samu Sanchez, at alarming speed – he kept his nerve and reeled in the victory just as everyone else was fading. The fact that he knew the victory was his with 200m to go while Sagan was powering away behind him (“I could tell it was him by his hair”) speaks to his experience.
2 Who’s the leader here? We have two teams with two leaders – Astana with Aru and Landa and Movistar with Valverde and Quintana. It’ll all shake out in the high mountains, I don’t doubt, but during these long, uneventful stages, it gives us all something to contemplate at least.
3 Let me ride this thing A blue-shorted, flipflop-wearing, pudgy smoker looked like he wanted to ride away with Ben King‘s bike after the peloton got pinched on a tight corner. That Ben King just stared at him was priceless.
Stage 4 results
1. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) 05:07:30
2. Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) same time
3. Dani Moreno (Katusha) s/t
4. Nico Roche (Team Sky) s/t
5. Jose Goncalves (Caja Rural) s/t
1. Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE) 13:11:34
2. Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) +0:05
3. Nico Roche (Team Sky) +0:12
4. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +0:25
5. Dan Martin (Cannondale-Garmin) +0:27
6. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) +0:32
7. Dani Moreno (Katusha) +0:33
8. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +0:36
9. Chris Froome (Sky) +0:40
10. Fabio Aru (Astana) +0:50
Points leader: Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo)
King of the Mountains leader: Omar Fraile (Caja Rural)
Combined classification leader: Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE)
Team classification leader: Sky
Link: Official race website
Header image: Movistar