Vuelta a España (st. 4)
Following Monday's furious Ézaro climbing, GC contenders don't attack at San Andrés de Teixido, where Atapuma (BMC) took the GC lead after escaping to 2nd place behind Calmejane (DEN). Valverde, Quintana remain 2nd, 5th overall as Rubén Fernández spends day in red working with rest of Movistar Team
The Movistar Team fulfilled their moral mandate to lead the bunch during stage four of the Vuelta a España, after reaching the GC leadership atop the Mirador de Ézaro on Monday. Rubén Fernández's team-mates didn't, though, spend too much energies at the front despite covering almost the entire 164km journey from Betanzos to San Andrés de Teixido driving the pace, at a reasonable gap from the early, long-fought, 21-rider break of the day -which both Dani Moreno and even Rubén himself tried to make -. A member from the escape, French youngster Lilian Calmejane (DEN), claimed the day's win with a well-timed attack halfway through the last climb of Herbeira, while Darwin Atapuma (BMC), 2nd over the line at 15", became the new race leader.
Imanol Erviti and Sutherland completed an excellent job with their combined efforts up to the foot of the final ascent. Following some turns from Orica and Tinkoff plus an infructuous attack from Peter Kennaugh (SKY), the likes of Rojas, Herrada, Castroviejo or Dani Moreno completed the day's task by keeping the pace high to avoid any attacks, a role also taken by Rubén Fernández. The 25-year-old climber from Murcia didn't hesitate to continue with his role pre-Ézaro, pushing and dropping back later on, to finish the day in 7th GC (+1'11"). Alejandro Valverde (2nd, +29") and Nairo Quintana (5th, +39") both keep their places from stage three as more relaxed days should come for them, starting with Wednesday's chance for the sprinters in Lugo (171km).
Alejandro Valverde: “Conceding the GC lead was written down on our plan for the day. The Vuelta is still four days old, and we knew that such a big break should be sticking. The leader's jersey can weigh a lot, even more so when you try to carry it all the way to Madrid. The important thing for us is that all GC contenders came together at the finish and both my legs and Nairo's felt well – the day's overview is overall positive. Rubén? Well, as everyone could see, he worked for us again today even in the lead. Just like the other team-mates, he was fantastic. We remain happy about his effort in Ézaro and I'm sure he enjoyed his day in red much. We will all have many days ahead to keep chasing glory and stages."
Nairo Quintana: “It was a tough one. We thought things would be easier, considering the route was lumpy from the very start, not inviting any big moves. However, the pace was furious from the bang, and it took long to form the day's break. That made things difficult. Hopefully we'll have the next few days to recover and start thinking about the next 'long weekend', with three new mountain stages to come there."
Picture ©: Photo Gomez Sport / Luis Ángel Gómez