For the second day in a row, the Vuelta a Espana stage win was decided by the breakaway as Lilian Calmejane (Direct-Energie) took the spoils on today’s 4th stage. Darwin Atapuma (BMC Racing) finished in 2nd place and Ben King (Cannondale-Drapac) was 3rd. Atapuma took the overall race lead after his efforts today.
The 4th stage of La Vuelta saw another summit finish with the final 11km of today’s stage heading mostly uphill. It was a stage where a number of teams believed the break could make it all the way to the line and so there was a big battle to make it into the early move. After 35km, 21 riders manged to put some distance between themselves and the peloton.
Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka was well represented up front with both Nathan Haas and Merhawi Kudus forming part of the breakaway. The peloton slowly let the gap go out to a maximum of 5’30” and being led by Movistar, the Spanish team was content to just ride tempo until the final climb began. This worked out well for the break as it became obvious with around 30km to go that they would decide the stage.
The attacks from the break began almost 20km before the final climb started but it was only on the climb itself were the difference would be made. Calmejane went away with around 8km to go as the remnants of the break tried to organise a chase without giving too much away. There was a slight descent which began at 5km to go before the final 4km ramped up again. This is where Calmejane capitalized, opening up a 25″ lead which would be enough to go on and win the stage.
Kudus showed good intent, riding in the first positions in the chase group before following a big attack from Atapuma with 2.5km to go. Our Eritrean was not able to get away but his acceleration allowed Haas to follow the wheels in front of him, before finally jumping to a good 5th place finish for our African Team while Kudus rolled home in 13th.
In the GC battle a few minutes further down the road, Igor Anton came into a bit of difficulty in the final kilometers but our Basque rider limited his losses to come in just over 30″ down on all the favourites. The provisional standings now have Anton and Kudus in 22nd and 23rd overall.
Nathan Haas – Rider
The Vuelta is such a cool race. These roads are amazing and the race is so safe. From the start it was a typical Vuelta stage. Everybody is so hungry for a last minute result and yesterday the break stayed away so already there was blood in the water and the breakaway sharks were out to play again today. I was just trying to stay with the field on the first climb and I was okay doing just that but I didn’t have ambitions to go in the breakaway today. I was our option for the finish from the peloton but then 20 guys slip away after the first climb and I was in a good position to go with. Racing instinct always says never hesitate, race by feel and don’t overthink things. So I got in there and then we quickly realised it would be the break for the day. I was really struggling with the heat though but it was me and Kudus there so I tried to protect myself. Today I was really riding for Qhubeka and I was thinking about the difference we make and every time we put ourselves at the front of the race we are doing a great thing for Africa. Today was a good opportunity to do just that so I thank them for giving me the extra drive and I thank the team for giving me the opportunity to pursue my ambition.