Vuelta a Andalucía (st. 4)
Basque climber from Movistar Team takes 5th in Las Allanadas, keeps 20" gap on third place defense for tomorrow's showdown. Froome (SKY) strikes back, takes GC lead
Though Chris Froome (SKY), new race leader, and Alberto Contador (TCS) were unreachable again today, Beñat Intxausti (Movistar Team) showed courage in the climb of Las Allanadas, end of a 198km day four in the 2015 Vuelta a Andalucía soaked with rain, really cold and with muddy roads in the opening stages from Maracena. Without Giovanni Visconti, ill from some days ago and unable to take the start, the riders from the telephone squad focused on helping the Basque out -including Juanjo Lobato, who proved his commitment despite having strong chances for the stage victory on Sunday- and keeping him at front until the foot of the last climb.
At the ascent, Intxausti didn't hesitate to take responsibility and jump across the attacks of Team Sky's Peter Kennaugh, in a warm-up move, and Mikel Nieve, who really tore the group apart. The later acceleration by Froome was impossible to follow by Beñat, who nonetheless kept his pace steady and finished only 1' back, behind Contador, Nieve and Szmyd (CCC), in a fine 5th that keeps him third overall, 2'32" behind the red jersey and 20" ahead of Nieve into the line of the final podium. The race will be decided tomorrow over a short, steep slope in Alhaurín after 170km departing from Montilla.
REACTION / Beñat Intxausti: "It was a fast start, and combined with the rain, the cold we had for most of the stage and some sleet, it all contributed towards the finale becoming much harder. At the final climb, Sky had three GC riders up-front, always attacking one by one and I had to drive the pace into the group to keep the third spot, with Kennaugh and Nieve so close to me. Fortunately, we could stick well to our best pace and we will fight tomorrow to keep this third place, hopefully without any mechanicals nor incidents. Still, we will also work for Juanjo, to keep him well positioned and close this week as we started it off, with a victory.
As well in Mallorca as in this race, I found myself well; this was my first stagerace of the season and I felt strong in both the TT and the mountains. When this is over, I'll focus on Catalunya and País Vasco – we'll keep training at home, though it's true that we will need some altitude training prior to the Giro and we will proceed after the 'Itzulia'."