Fabio Jakobsen of Deceuninck-QuickStep has won stage 4 of the Vuelta a Espana. The Dutchman won ahead of stage 3 winner Sam Bennett of BORA-Hansgrohe and Fernando Gaviria of UAE Team Emirates.
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Stage 4 of the Vuelta a Espana took the field from Cullera to El Puig, a journey of 175.5km and really featured just one significant climb up Puerto del Oronet that peaked with 45.5km to go. An early attack pitted just two riders out in the front of the race, with Lotto Soudal’s Jelle Wallays and Burgos-BH’s Jorge Cubero taking the race on early. In the first hour they succeeded in building a lead as big as 7 minutes, but inevitably the time gaps began dropping from there with the sprinters once again hunting stage honours.
With 60km to go all but around 1.30mins of the break’s lead had been swept up but it was the action at the back of the race that caused raised eyebrows. EF Education First suffered a fall with 57km to go that brought down both Mitch Docker and Rigoberto Uran. The team were quick to wait for the Colombian who had lost around 50 seconds by the time he got going again, but they made light work of the time gap back to the bunch. After getting back within touching distance of the peloton Uran sat up next to the medical car for treatment.
The other notable story to unfold of a sadder nature was the abandonment of Jumbo-Visma’s Steven Kruijswijk. The loss of the Dutchman, third in the Tour de France, was a big one for the team; as Kruijswijk dropped out following injuries sustained in the stage 1 team time trial.
As the riders reached the climb of the day the heavens suddenly opened for a quick short shower that made the roads very slick. Thankfully no riders went down in the sudden turn of conditions, as Sunweb for Nicolas Roche, UAE Team Emirates for Fernando Gaviria, Jumbo-Visma for Primoz Roglic and Astana for Miguel Angel Lopez all jostled for position at the front of the race.
Wallays and Cubero powered on, sensing a potential opportunity to extend their advantage and they reached the top of the climb with their lead sitting at almost 2 minutes; and with Wallays taking maximum points. Behind them the polka dot jersey of Angel Madrazo accelerated from the peloton to take the remaining point on offer and keep a reasonable lead in the KOM classification.
The break’s lead stabilised at 1.50mins on the descent before reducing significantly again under the intensity shown by Deceuinck-QuickStep. But Wallays eventually went solo as a mechanical issue halted Cubero’s momentum. With 27km to go Wallays’ advantage was under a minute and the sprinters teams were ready to shine. Soon enough Wallays was back in the fold as the tempo from the peloton continued to ramp up with Groupama-FDJ and Team Sunweb taking a starring role at the front of the race.
They were succeeded by EF Education First as the race headed towards 15km to go, with the most powerful sprint teams keeping hidden for now. Jumbo-Visma were a force on the front, but a late attack from Remi Cavagna at 6km to go threatened to spoil the entire party for the fast finishers. He got a good gap as well, with a handful of seconds to the peloton with 4km to go.
Forced to rally to pursue him, Team Sunweb had a rider on the front, but Deceuninck-QuickStep were sat on the front behind the Sunweb rider and weren’t going to work. It made for a scintillating finish but by 2km to go it began to look like the momentum had switched to the peloton. BORA-Hansgrohe hit the front with less than 2km to go with Shane Archbold now seizing control of the pack. He led the catch to Cavagna with 1.2km to go and with 1km to go the perfectly positioned wolf pack now took control inside the last kilometre.
They were challenged by Team Sunweb who eventually led out the sprint, with Max Richeze ramping it up for Fabio Jakobsen, with Fernando Gaviria also contesting the win. Out of nowhere, however, Sam Bennett flew towards the line, weaving through the riders and throwing his bike at the line to force a photo finish. Neither rider could be confident of who took the win and even photo finishes initially looked unconvincing before confirming that Jakobsen had just edged Bennett to the win.
Dion Smith of Mitchelton-SCOTT and George Bennett of Jumbo-Visma were the first Kiwis home in 26th and 35th place respectively. Shane Archbold of BORA-Hansgrohe crossed the line having almost played his part in back-to-back victories for his Irish teammate. Sam Bewley finished 2.33mins back, with Patrick Bevin of CCC Team crossing the line 5.12mins back.