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Vuelta leadership change thanks to Team Sky
Aug 22nd, 12. When Team Sky put the hammer down to split the field in strong crosswinds they did much more damage than anticipated - Movistar were the victims.
Thanks mainly to Team Sky's move, Katusha's Joaquim Rodriguez is the new leader of the tour.
He finished the 160km Stage 4 with the group of favourites - minus previous tour leader Alejandro Valverde - behind the successful breakaway group from which Simon Clarke (Orica GreenEdge) took victory.
With 30km to go, in temperatures which soared up to 39 degrees, Team Sky showed their strength with a huge turn of pace as the crosswinds made their presence felt.
A crash at the front of the peloton followed and many Movistar riders went down. Valverde avoided crashing alongside his teammates, but he was held up in the resulting carnage.
As Team Sky continued their attack, Alberto Contador (SaxoBank Tinkoff Bank) was just able to avoid being held up and continued on with the main bunch.
Valverde and Movistar battled to chase up, annoyed they were not shown the respect of the peloton by waiting for the fallen tour leader.
The Spaniard eventually finished 55sec back from the main GC contenders who had their own battle up the tour's second consecutive summit finish.
Up the final climb, Contador, together with his teammate Daniel Navarro, tried to attack, he was followed by Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Nicholas Roche (AG2R-La Mondiale).
When the gradient of the climb lessened, the dangerous move was neutralised thanks to the work of Katusha's Daniel Moreno, and the main contenders crossed the finish line together, 1m04s behind Clarke.
The race was characterised by a five-man breakaway: Clarke, Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Assan Bazayev (Astana), Luis Angel Matè (Cofidis) and Jesus Rosendo (Andalucia).
Up the final climb only Clarke and Martin managed to stay ahead and fight for win. In the two-man sprint for the finish line, Martin went first, but Clarke was faster.
"I have been a professional for four years, and this is only my first professional win," said the 26 year old Australian. "It's been a long time coming, and I never imagined it would come in such a big way for me and the team. I couldn't be any happier."
In the General Classification, Rodriguez now leads Froome by 1sec and Contador by 5sec. Rabobank duo Bauke Mollema and Robert Gesink and 4th and 5th, both +9sec.
"I didn't expect to take the jersey today, obviously I'm happy, but I'd rather win yesterday's stage," said Joaquim Rodriguez who lost the Stage 3 win by a mere milimetre.
"Obviously this doesn't change anything: this first position gives me strong motivations in order to achieve my goal, which is a good position in final classification, but the gaps are still very narrow and everything can happen."
Rodriguez said he was at first not aware Valverde was involved in the crash. He found out when a Movistar rider in their bunch told him.
"In the beginning we didn't realise Valverde was involved in the crash, but when Intxausti came to tell me I preferred my teammates stop [leading and pulling the group]. I'm not criticising the choice of other teams, but I thought it was the right thing to do".
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