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Tejay van Garderen came correct on Thursday, winning stage 4 of Volta a Catalunya after losing significant time in a crash the day before.
BMC’s Van Garderen attacked on the final climb, a category one ascent to the La Molina ski area, and was able to hold off Richie Porte (Sky), and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) who gave chase on the final ramp.
“I have very good memories of this race from last year,” said van Garderen, who won Volta a Catalunya’s stage 4 in 2014. “I have an up and down relationship with this race. It was an unfortunate event yesterday with the crash. Luckily I came away with minimal damage. I changed the tactic from the overall to put everything into winning the stage.
“We stayed positive, so I think we’ll try to go for more breakaways, maybe try to win a stage with someone else.”
The early break again included Cannondale-Garmin’s Tom Danielson, along with Riccardo Zoidl (Trek Factory Racing), Jérome Coppel (IAM Cycling), Loic Chetout (Cofidis), and Jose Herrada (Movistar).
Danielson and Zoidl emerged from the lead group after the day’s progressively harder climbs — first the Alt de Bracons, then the Alt de Coubet, leading into the day’s HC climb, Alt de la Creueta. The 188.4km day finished on the category one La Molina.
Early in the day, Chris Froome was dropped from the main chase group, so Team Sky put all of its chips in for Porte, who was sitting eighth overall and poised to climb the GC with race leader Pierre Rolland (Europcar) dropped on the early climbs.
The lead duo’s advantage was 1:23 with 32 kilometers left. As they approached the final climb, with 15km to go, the gap was down to 40 seconds. Team Sky mercilessly drove the chase behind.
Danielson and Zoidl held on until the final five kilometers. Then, Sky’s Vasil Kiriyenka attacked from the field and caught the leaders.
Kiriyenka crept off the front at the base of the climb, but before long, Dan Martin (Cannondale-Garmin) attacked from the field to attempt a bridge. Then, van Garderen followed with an attack of his own, riding past Martin.
Behind, van Garderen’s teammate Darwin Atapuma rode clear of the group with Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin).
With three kilometers left, van Garderen had caught Kiriyenka.
After waiting in the wings, Contador delivered a fierce acceleration, catching the chasers. Atapuma hopped on the Spaniard’s wheel.
With two kilometers left, Kiriyenka cracked, and van Garderen was off the front alone.
In that time, Porte had responded and rode clear of the group to join teammate Kiriyena and Atapuma, just behind Contador, who was nine seconds behind the American leader.
Porte surged in the final kilometer and Contador went to follow, but it was too late for the stage, as van Garderen rode away with the win. Porte rolled in three seconds behind, and Contador reached the line eight seconds back. Martin was fourth and Kelderman fifth.
“Sometimes it’s really hard not to look behind you, but I tried my hardest just to look at the road in front of me and stay focused, and when I saw 400 meters to go, I just thought: I can’t let anyone deny me of this,” van Garderen said.
“I wanted to play a little from the back, maybe that cost me a little at the end,” said Contador. “But I’m happy. The legs are increasingly better, although it was a little tough.
“What’s important now is to recover and move on.”
Rolland was unable to keep the overall lead after stage 4. Instead, his stage 1 breakaway companion Bart De Clercq (Lotto-Soudal) moved into the GC lead, 21 seconds ahead of Porte. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r La Mondiale), Wednesday’s winner, is 26 seconds behind in third. Martin and Contador round out the top five in that order, 27 and 28 seconds behind, respectively.
“Before the start of this race, I had never thought I would wear the leader’s jersey after the fourth stage,” said De Clercq. “In the first stage, the peloton gave the break I was in a big advantage, but now I will do all I can to grab this opportunity with both hands. I’m not used to lead the overall classification, but I’ll have to be really attentive the next days, follow my opponents and defend the jersey with all I got. The condition is good, I don’t have to be afraid of that.”
The race continues Friday with a 195-kilometer stage from Alp to Valls, a route that includes a category two climb in the final 15 kilometers.