Matteo Trentin (Quick-Step) continued his team’s scorching form in the Vuelta a España as he claimed the win in the fourth stage bunch sprint. Trentin rocketed past a tiring Juan José Lobato (LottoNL-Jumbo) in the final metres of the stage to add a stage win in the Vuelta to his previous stage wins in the Giro d’Italia (2016) and Tour de France (2013 and 2014).
Quick-Step has so far claimed two of the four stages in this year’s race, along with a second place in the opening team time trial, a day in the leader’s jersey for Yves Lampeart, and David de la Cruz currently holding second place in the overall classification.
Stage four was one of the few stages for the sprinters on this year’s Vuelta, and as expected the teams with fast men in their ranks, such as Quick-Step, Aqua Blue, and Lotto, were paying a fair bit of attention throughout the day. That did not prevent a break from going clear though, with Juan Felipe Osorio (Manzana Postobon), Stephane Rossetto (Cofidis), Diego Rubio (Caja Rural) and team mate Nicholas Schulz going clear early on the stage. The quartet managed to build up a sizeable lead, extending beyond the seven minute mark as Sky managed the pace in the peloton. However, responsibility for the chase soon shifted to the sprinters’ teams, with Quick-Step and a number of others including UAE and Aqua Blue making their presence known at the front.
As the gap started decreasing, there was some disquiet in the leading quartet, with Rossetto instigating a move that only Rubio could follow, with the remaining two dropped riders finding their way back to the peloton. The two leaders extended their suffering as they held on, entering the final 20 kilometres of the race with more than a minute in hand. With the gap shrinking once more, Rubio made a last-gasp effort to go solo, but Rossetto caught back up to him, and in turn became the last man standing as the bunch brought back Rubio, then Rossetto, with some eight kilometres remaining.
This was a signal for the sprinters’ teams to start organising themselves for what promised to be a very technical run in to the line, and Quick-Step seemed well in control of affairs, in spite of some late attacks. Within sight of the three kilometres to go banner, which signals the start of the neutralised zone should a rider be caught out in a crash, AG2R La Mondiale saw their co-leader Dominico Pozzovivo go down in a crash, which saw him drop more than three minutes on the peloton by the end of the stage.
There was some disorganisation at the front of the bunch as the teams tried to position their sprinters for the finale, but Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step) did a stellar job for his team in regaining control of the front of the bunch, before stage two winner Yves Lampaert (Quick-Step) took over to drag Trentin the final couple of hundred metres to the line. As the bunch came through the final bend and Lampaert pulled over to launch Trentin, Lobato managed to sneak into the lead as he found a better line through the bend. This did not seem to bother Trentin too much as he calmly latched onto Lobato’s wheel before sprinting past the LottoNL-Jumbo rider to claim the stage win. Lobato was left frustrated at what might have been, with Tom van Asbroeck (Cannondale-Drapac) taking third.
Among the Kiwis, Tom Scully (Cannondale-Drapac) finished in the leading group after doing his bit to help Van Asbroeck to a podium finish, with Aaron Gate (Aqua Blue) finishing just behind after his work for team sprinter Adam Blythe. Sam Bewley (Orica-Scott) and George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo) finished together in a group 3:45 down, with the latter focussed on challenging for a stage win later in the race. Lost time early on will mean that Bennett, usually viewed as a general classification threat, will be given far more leeway by other teams when it comes to joining breaks, whereas otherwise they would have attempted to manage any time gains far more carefully.
In the overall classification, Chris Froome (Sky) managed to hold on to his narrow two second lead over David de la Cruz (Quick-Step) in second, with Nicholas Roche (BMC) and his team mate Tejay van Garderen also on the same time in third and fourth respectively.