Samuel Sanchez (BMC Racing) won the 4th stage of the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco. Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) was the rider who took 2nd and Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin) finished in 3rd on the stage.
After yesterday’s pleasant weather, the riders were exposed to another cold and wet day at the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco today. The start was fast and frantic with numerous riders trying to jump into the break of the day. The battle would go on for more than 70km as every time a group went clear, one or two teams who missed the move chased the group down again.
Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka were also really active and on two occasion we thought the break would go with one of our riders present. It wasn’t to be, Johann van Zyl and Steve Cumming’s escape attempts were both neutralised. Eventually 6 riders went clear, and they rode to a maximum lead of 2’30”. Team Sky controlled the peloton as the race made its way toward a tough final 35km which included 3 category 2 climbs.
With Team Sky setting their usual high pace on the positive slopes, it wasn’t possible to attack and the gap to the break started to decrease quickly. The final cat 2 climb was the toughest, with gradients of over 20%. Serge Pauwels was our best placed rider, hanging tough while the likes of Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) forced the pace with surging attacks. Over the top of the final climb, 3 of the original breakaway riders still had a 15″ lead on the strung out main group.
A general regrouping took place on the descent which saw the main group swell to a select group of 32 riders, Pauwels included. This chase group was able to pull back the 3 leaders with only 2km to go and then a fresh flurry of attacks followed. Sanchez got the jump on the rest and took the win by a few meters. Pauwels fought hard in the final and eventually came home 13 seconds down in 23rd place.
Alex Sans Vega – Sport Director
Today was a tough, tough stage. Like the other days, we wanted to be in the break but it was a super-fast day and raining from the start. For some reason Sky and a number of other teams didn’t let any of the groups go. At one point there was 14 riders in the front with Cummings, but they also brought this back. The next attack of 6 riders went away but we were already so far into the stage that Sky kept riding fast to keep the gap small. In the steep climbs there was more attacks and the bunch got reduced on each climb. In the final it came together, Serge was in the mix with the best 35 riders. He lost a little bit of time on the final hill before the line but he did really well, it was a super tough day.