Vuelta a España stage 4: Primož Roglič scores hilltop sprint, secures red jersey
Jumbo-Visma rider powers away from the pack on the final rise to the line to become the fourth from the team to wear the red jersey.
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Triple Vuelta a España champion Primož Roglič showed he has returned to form after his Tour de France injury, proving strongest on the stage 4 uphill finish on Tuesday.
The Jumbo-Visma rider took over the race lead with a powerful sprint, easily beating Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo), Enric Mas (Movistar), Quentin Pacher (Groupama-FDJ) and Pavel Sivakov (Ineos Grenadiers) to the line in Laguardia.
The stage featured a six man breakaway group which handed Joan Bou (Euskaltel-Euskadi) the lead of the king of the mountains classification when he took the prime atop the second category Puerto de Opakua.
That move built a lead of over three minutes but everything was back together just after the intermediate sprint 34.2 kilometers from the finish line. Pedersen and double stage winner Sam Bennett were best of the peloton there, netting fourth and fifth, but Bennett stopped with a mechanical issue almost immediately afterwards and lost any possibility of going for the stage win.
The hilly run in to the final ramp didn’t result in any lasting gaps, resulting in a reduced bunch sprint to the line. Roglič was the strongest there, blazing to the tenth Vuelta stage win of his career, and succeeds teammate Edoardo Affini in the red jersey of race leader.
He ends the day 13 seconds ahead of teammate Sepp Kuss, and 26 clear of Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers), with the latter’s teammates Pavel Sivakov and Tao Geoghegan Hart also on the same deficit.
Roglic was happy with the win and the time bonus at the line, as well as the bonus for first on the category three climb inside the final 15 kilometers.
“It is really just the beginning of the Vuelta,” he said, “but I always say it is better to be some seconds in front rather than behind.
“It was already a hard pace all day, it was a super-fast stage. In the final there was an opportunity to fight for the stage win. I had the legs and I gave it a go.”
Roglič’s leadership marks the fourth red jersey with different members of the Jumbo-Visma team.
“That was the plan, that we change every time the guy with the red jersey,” he confirmed. “Today was my lucky day and we see what tomorrow brings.”
Pedersen’s points gains move him closer to the green jersey but Bennett continues to hold the green jersey. He is nine points ahead, while Bou heads the best climber contest and Hayter stays best young rider.
Breakaway group cheered on by Basque fans
The Vuelta a España resumed after the first rest day with a hilly 152.5 kilometer race from Vitoria-Gasteiz to Laguardia. The race was in the cycling-mad Basque country, ensuring a strong turnout of fans to cheer the riders along.
In contrast to the flat stages of the Netherlands, stage four was much lumpier. A flat opening 50 kilometers was followed by the second category Puerto de Opakua (km 61.9), and then further rolling roads before a sprint at Lagrán (km 118.3), then the day’s other categorized climb, the cat. three Puerto de Herrera. Following a 12km drop down into Laguardia the parcours would conclude with a two and a half kilometer rise to the finish line.
The nature of the finale made it uncertain that the sprinters would have their day, raising the chances of success for a long breakaway move.
Alexey Lutsenko (Astana Qazaqstan) and Alessandro De Marchi (Israel Premier Tech) attacked very early on and were chased by king of the mountains leader Julius van den Berg (EF Education-EasyPost), Jetse Bol (Burgos-BH) and Xabier Mikel Azparren (Eusktaltel-Euskadi).
These were unsuccessful in bridging but four others, Jarrad Drizners (Lotto Soudal), James Shaw (EF Education-EasyPost), Ander Okamika (Burgos-BH) and Joan Bou (Euskaltel-Euskadi) were able to join Lutsenko and De Marchi, making the junction after about 14 kilometers of racing.
Lutsenko had started the day just 46 seconds back and with the gap rising to 2:25 after 30km of racing, became the race leader on the road. The Jumbo-Visma team of race leader Edoardo Affini was limiting their gains for a while, after which Bora-Hansgrohe took over to preserve Sam Bennett’s chances.
Basque fans had two reasons to cheer. Okamika is from the region, as is Bou’s Euskaltel-Euskadi team.
The break raced onto the second category Puerto de Opakua, where Bou gladdened fans by beating Drizners and Okamika to the line and becoming the virtual king of the mountains. Their lead was 3:12 at the summit, but dwindled after that due to the chasing by Bora-Hansgrohe and Jumbo-Visma.
Break fades as climbers test their legs
Okimika was under pressure and was dropped from the break with 73km remaining. The five others persisted but with the gap reducing to just 57 seconds with 60km left, the break had to increase its pace in response. Drizners and Bou duly cracked and were caught by the bunch, with Lutsenko, De Marchi and Shaw persisting but having just 20 seconds with 40km remaining.
Bora-Hansgrohe pulled off the front at that point, handing over to Jumbo-Visma, but the gap went back up to 30 seconds again and this prompted Bora to return again in advance of the intermediate sprint.
The apparent miscalculation saw the leading trio stay clear until just after that prime line, where Shaw led De Marchi and Lutsenko for maximum points.
Pedersen outsprinted points leader Bennett for fourth place, reducing his points deficit slightly. Bennett immediately went to the back of the bunch and frantically signaled that he had a mechanical issue. He received a wheel change but realized the bunch was too far ahead and sat up for the rest of the day.
Race leader Affini was dropped on the category three climb of the Puerto de Herrera, ensuring there would be a new race leader at the end of the day. His Jumbo-Visma team had others ready to take over in the red jersey and set a brisk pace on the climb.
World champion Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step AlphaVinyl) leaped clear just before the summit, prompting a response from Roglič, who took the points and time bonus. The pace was hot on the descent and this opened up several gaps in the peloton. A stall on flatter ground gave Vincenzo Nibali (Astana Qazaqstan) the chance to slip clear with 8.8km left, but he didn’t get far.
The reformed bunch hurtled on into the final 3km and towards the ramp up to the finish line. Alejandro Valverde’s Movistar team maneuvered him into position, with Hayter and Roglič also close.
Roglic launched and was marked by Pedersen, but the Slovenian proved too strong and won, taking the race lead.
He will hold the red jersey heading into Wednesday’s fifth stage, a lumpy 187.2km race from Irún to Bilbao. This contains five categorized climbs, with the final two of those being category two.
Results will be available once stage has completed.