Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka put its mark on stage 4 of Vuelta a Burgos with Ben King in the breakaway and Merhawi Kudus fighting with the best in the uphill sprint.
On paper, today’s short stage of 150 km was expected to end in a bunch sprint with the slightly uphill finish in Clunia. However, that didn’t scare off King from showing off his blue intermediate sprints jersey. Just like he did on the first two stages of the race, King attacked right from the beginning of the race to make it into the early breakaway.
Once again, the strong American won all three intermediate sprints, virtually securing the overall win in the competition. Leading by 16 points, with only nine more up for grabs on the final stage tomorrow, King now just have to finish Saturday’s stage in order to win the blue jersey.
As the riders approached the final part of the stage, the peloton upped the pace and with 12 km left to go, it was all back together again. However, King wasn’t done showing incredible strength. Despite being in the breakaway all the day, he still found energy to take the front of the peloton, helping his teammates to get into a good position for the last kilometers.
Heading into the final kilometer, the road started to kick up with 5-7 %, which instantly created a few gaps within the peloton. Kudus was very well-positioned near the front of the pack. With a few hundred meters to go, he was about to try to take the sprinters by surprise but unfortunately, he got boxed in against the barriers. Instead, the pre-race favorites ended up fighting for the win.
Ultimately, Carlos Barbero (Movistar) proved to be the strongest as he out-sprinted Gianni Moscon (Team Sky) and Julian Alaphillipe (Quick Step Floors). Kudus did well to finish in fifth place. Stagiaire and new signing for 2018, Nicholas Dlamini impressed in his first race with the team as he crossed the line in 14th place in the challenging uphill finish.
In the general classification, Mikel Landa (Team Sky) still leads, while Igor Antón sits sixth with Kudus in seventh place. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka is fourth in the team classification.
“The plan was to get in the break again to secure the blue jersey. I could see the teams of the sprinters lining up to block the road at the start so I knew I had to be in the first row. Once our breakaway was established, it was a formality. I saved a little to help the guys with the leadout for the uphill finish and Merhawi [Kudus] did a great sprint for fifth place. It feels good to have made a plan with Bingen [Fernández, sports director] before the race and then to be successful four days later”.