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Rodriguez Wins Stage Four, Yellow in Tour of Basque Country

By James Fish
Epoch Times Staff
Created: April 5, 2012 Last Updated: April 6, 2012
Related articles: Sports » Cycling
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Katusha's Joaquim Rodriguez (here riding in Stage Three) took the win and the yellow jersey with an explosive finish in Stage Four of the Vuelta al País Vasco. (Katushateam.com)

Katusha's Joaquim Rodriguez (here riding in Stage Three) took the win and the yellow jersey with an explosive finish in Stage Four of the Vuelta al País Vasco. (Katushateam.com)

After 150 km of racing, Stage Four of the 2012 Vuelta al País Vasco came down to a bitter fight in the last 1300 meters of the extremely steep Cat 1 climb to Bera-Ibardin. Katusha’s Joaquin Rodriguez outpaced race leader Sammy Sanchez of Euskatel-Euskadie to take the stage and the yellow jersey.

The race came down to a head-to-head battle between the two Spanish riders over the last 500 meters, and Rodriguez had more power.

“I´m very happy with this victory, it came just in the right day,” Rodriguez told velonation.com, referencing the fact that it was Team President Igor Makarov’s 50th birthday. “This win is obviously for him and for his effort to bring Katusha Team at the top of world cycling.

“It was a really hard final section, but very suitable to my characteristics: first I was able to slipstream Schleck, then Poels, then I managed to pass him and win. Anyways, I couldn´t win this stage if my teammates didn´t work like they did: they did an incredible job both yesterday and today, so I have to thank each one.”

Stage Five should be a sprint stage, so Katusha should keep the yellow jersey there, but Rodriguez will be hard-pressed to protect his slender lead through the final time trial. He was optimistic, though, because the final stage had some hills, particularly near the end, where his ability to explode up a climb could serve him well.

“I´m happy I have the leader´s jersey for the second year in a row: now we have to do all we could to keep it,” he told velonation. “It won´t be easy because of Saturday´s ITT: races against the clock are not my specialty, but this one will be quite technical, with many ups and downs. It won´t be a classic time trial, moreover now I have a nice gap: so I think I have some chances, at least, to be on the podium in the final general classification.”

Rain and Hills in Stage Four

Stage Four presented five climbs: the Cat 3 Alto de Itziar early in the stage, and three Cat 2s, Aritxulegi, Agiña, and Ibardin, plus a second time up the Alto de Ibardin, with ramps of 18 percent.

Race day dawned cool and damp, as it had throughout the Tour. Rain pelted the riders through the first 100 kilometers, but abated, giving them dry roads for the twisting descents from the later climbs.

The first climb presented a perfect launch pad for an escape, and Astana’s Evgeny Petrov made an attempt, but got nowhere. He tried again on the flat, and opened a gap about 40 km into the stage.

Within 10 km Petrov was joined by Maciej Paterski (Liquigas) and Ruiz Madrazo (Movistar), Diego Ulissi (Lampre) and Marcos Garcia (Caja Rural.) The peloton, led by race leader Sammy Sanchez’s Euskatel team, never let this group open a gap of two minutes; despite the hills and the bad weather, the pace was high.

Two GreenEdge riders tried to bridge on the slopes of the Alto de Aritxulegi; Christian Meier and Wesley Sulzberger spent 10 km chasing the break before finally catching it near the peak of the Alto de Agiña.

A few other riders, inspired perhaps by the success of Meier and Sulzberger, made attempts to catch the lead group after cresting Agiña: Patxi Vila (Utensilnord) and Giampaolo Caruso (Katusha,) Igor Anton and Gorka Verdugo (both Euskatel) set out with about 45 km to go. Only Vila persisted to catch the leaders 31 km from the end, on the descent from the final Cat 2 climb, Alto de Ibardin.

Nicki Sorenson (Saxo Bank) and Michael Albasini (GreenEdge) decided to bridge at about that time; it took them until km 23 to catch the leaders, creating a group of ten 30 seconds ahead of the peloton.

Omega Pharma-Quick Step and Euskaltel-Euskadi pushed the peloton to an even higher pace, and riders started dropping from the breakaway. Garcia, Meier, Sulzberger and Vila fell back; then Madrazo could no longer keep the pace.

Ulissi was the next to crack, then Paterski, then Clarke; Albasini, Sorenson and Petrov (who had started the break more than 100 kilometers back) pressed on up the first slopes of the final climb. With three km to go Albassini set off on his own as he realized the other two were spent; the GreenEdge rider lasted 500 meters before he too was swallowed up by the peloton as the road got ever steeper.

The attacks started in the final 1300 meters. Maxime Monfort (RadioShack) went first, and was ridden down; teammate Frank Schleck made the next move with a kilometer to go, chased by Katusha’s Simon Spilak and Monfort. Within 100 meters Omega’s Tony Martin had passed these riders to take the lead, then Wouter Poels (Vacansoleil) attacked, opening himself a small gap.

With 500 km to go, Sergio Luis Henao of Sky surged ahead, trailed by Katusha’s Joaquin Rodriguez. Rodriguez dropped Henao but Sanchez put on a burst to chase Rodriguez. The Katusha rider was too strong for Sanchez; Rodriguez crossed the line eight seconds ahead, winning the stage and the yellow jersey.

Stage Five, 183 km from Bera to Oñati, has three Cat 3 and two Cat 2 climbs, but the last peak is 23 km from the finish line: plenty of time for the peloton to ride down any dangerous attackers and form up for a bunch sprint. If the right break forms, containing no GC threats, this could be a good stage to stay away, (look for local team Caja Rural to try something,) but likely the end will be a sprint.

The Vuelta al País Vasco will be decided in the final time trial. RadioShack’s Chris Horner lacks 21 seconds; he will have to turn in an exceptional ride to win, but it is not impossible. Astana’s Robert Kiserlovski at 24 seconds, and Lampre’s Michele Scarponi at 28, also have good shots at the podium. So do Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda,) Jürgen Van Den Broek (Lotto,) and Wouter Poels (Vacansoleil) at 29 seconds.

Vuelta al País Vasco Stage 4

 

 

Rider

Team

Time

 

1

Joaquin Rodriguez

Katusha

3:55:56

 

2

Samuel Sanchez

Euskatel-Euskadie

+ 0:09

 

3

Sergio Luis Henao

Sky

+ 0:12

 

4

Robert Kiserlovski

Astana

 

 

5

Lars Petter Nordhaug

Sky

+ 0:16

 

6

Michele Scarponi

Lampre

 

 

7

Jurgen Van Den Broeck

Lotto-Belisol

+ 0:17

 

8

Wouter Poels

Vacansoleil

 

 

9

Simon Spilak

Katusha

 

 

10

Ryder Hesjedal

Garmin-Barracuda

 

 

General Classification after Stage 4

 

Rider

Team

Time

1

Joaquin Rodriguez

Katusha

16:02:02

2

Samuel Sanchez

Euskatel-Euskadie

+ 0:09

3

Christopher Horner

RadioShack-Nissan

+ 0:21

4

Robert Kiserlovski

Astana

+ 0:24

5

Sergio Luis Henao

Sky

 

6

Ryder Hesjedal

Garmin-Barracuda

+ 0:28

7

Wouter Poels

Vacansoleil

 

8

Jurgen Van Den Broeck

Lotto-Belisol

 

9

Lars Petter Nordhaug

Sky

 

10

Michele Scarponi

Lampre

 




   

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