Tour de France (st. 4)
Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde -1 th at Cambrai's finish- both show courage over the pavé, stay into front group in one of the most dreaded stages of the Tour de France. Martin (EQS) takes late attack to fruition, becomes new leader
The seven cobbled sections of stage four in the Tour de France became a successful business for the Movistar Team, whose two main GC references, Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde, got through the day unscathed and without losing any time. The longest route in this year's Grande Boucle -223.5km from Seraing, in Belgium, to Cambrai, back in the race's original country- weren't still exempt from difficult moments for the telephone squad, which had to spend all energy available to keep both Colombian and Spaniard calm into all race phases.
Herrada, Anacona and Castroviejo, doing their duties in the stretch prior to the first two secteurs pavé, and most notably Dowsett, Erviti and Malori into the immediate approach, tried to keep the two Blue leaders safe and in good position. While Nairo solved courageously two dangerous situations on his own -a split into section 3, 25km from the end, with many GC favourites at the front, and a brief complicated moment into the final pavé, 10km away from the line-, Alejandro always rode strong and even made it into an eight-man attack, quickly suffocated by the main field. Invaluable assistance by Castroviejo and Gorka Izagirre between the cobblestones took the Spanish team's work to fruition.
German Tony Martin (EQS) profited from his usual power with an attack into the final 3k, against a disorganized bunch, to take the stage and the yellow jersey, 3" ahead of the group including Valverde (11th) and Quintana (24th), who now sit 16th and 17th overall respectively, just over 2' back on the new leader. The next days, even though wind will always play a factor, should be easier for them as well as more attractive to sprinters, starting with stage five to Amiens on Wednesday (189km).
In turn, the day's main scare -apart from a crash by Anacona, without any major consequences- came as Alex Dowsett took a tumble with 50km to go, while riding into the main field, which caused him a wound to his right-hand forearm. Big stress into a day with cobblestones and extra worries by the Essex rider's condition, which adds danger to any haemorrhages, made the Briton finish more than 26 minutes back, Dowsett later moved to a medical center where he had six stitches put on his arm and his wound conveniently treated.
Alejandro Valverde: “I do think I could have stood a bigger winning chance, but we must stay happy with this result: we always kept the front, stayed really focused and I personally felt really well over the cobbles. Other teams had good sprinters and should have been more interested on bringing back that attack by Martin; I had to play my chances alone and, taking that into account, you can feel I had little to do against that situation."
Gorka Izagirre: “It was a tremendous that, which happily we got through well. For us, it is a victory that nothing bad happened to our leaders; another day that we get through, and this can only get better. Nairo rode really well and 'Bala' will surely progress on his form day by day; we already know how talented he is. We must get through the obstacles in this first week; it's awful that we have this two minutes' loss over us, but there's still a long way to go and everything can change a lot."