Subscribe

Simon Clarke Wins Vuelta Stage Four With 160-km Breakaway

By Chris Jasurek
Epoch Times Staff
Created: August 21, 2012 Last Updated: August 21, 2012
Related articles: Sports » Cycling
Print E-mail to a friend Give feedback

Simon Clarke of Orica GreenEdge team celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the Stage Four of the Vuelta a España. (Jose Jordan/AFP/GettyImages)

Simon Clarke of Orica GreenEdge team celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the Stage Four of the Vuelta a España. (Jose Jordan/AFP/GettyImages)

Orica-GreenEdge rider Simon Clarke came from behind to outsprint Omega’s Tony Martin as these last two survivors of a 160-km breakaway fought for the win of Stage Four of the Vuelta a España.

“I t was such a long day, with so much wind at the finish,” Clarke explained on Eurosport.com. “I knew Tony Martin would be really strong, I knew Tony’s a really good time trialist but I thought I could take him in the sprint so I made him take the lead.”

The Australian rider had never won a stage as a pro; taking a Vuelta stage was a great way to open his account. “This is my first win a professional,” he said. “I have been a pro for four years. I am really, really happy.”

Joaquim Rodriguez of Movistar took over the leader’s red jersey, with Sky’s Chris Froome and Saxo-Tinkoff’s Alberto Contador second and third in the General Classification.

Martin and Clarke were part of a break that escaped in the first kilometer of the 160-km stage, with Jesus Rosendo (Andulicia) and Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis,) Assan Bazeyev (Astana) joined then after five km.

The breakaway opened a gap of over 13 minutes; Movistar chased for a while, but no other team joined, so Movistar relaxed, content to lose the red jersey to one of the breakaway riders while saving the team for more important battles later.

Movistar’s plan came crashing down—literally—with thirty km to go.

Stage Four featured two Cat 1 climbs, the 7.7-km Puerto de Orduña after fifty km, and the 13.4-km long haul up to Estación de Valdezcaray which ended the race. This climb averages 5.2 percent, but that doesn’t explain the terrain: the first three km ascended at nine percent, then the road flattened steadily until the final couple km were at one and two percent.

The General Classification contenders knew that this final climb wasn’t steep enough to create any real selections; any time advantages would have to be gained on the approach.

Thirty kilometers from the finish, and 17 km from the final climb, a change in wind direction provided an opportunity to take such an advantage.

A sudden crosswind prompted an acceleration by Team Sky 30 km out. Several riders further back in the peloton collided trying to catch up; the crash and the acceleration split the peloton into several pieces.

Crosswinds often instigate attacks. Riders can ride in line when the wind is from any direction but from the side the lead riders do a third more work breaking the wind, so the lead riders swap places often, but the long lines of riders are extremely aerodynamically efficient.

When a crosswind hits, riders need to form diagonal lines across the road to maintain the aero advantage. These angled roads, called “echelons,” can only be as long as roads are wide; riders need to form several echelons, and the windward rider of each has to work hard to break the wind.

Often after a change in wind direction, a team will take advantage by quickly forming an echelon and accelerating before the rest of the peloton can respond.

When Sky’s Juan Antonio Flecha raised the pace when the wind shifted, several riders several rows back tried hurriedly to form up, but touched wheels and went down. Race leader Alejandro Valverde and four teammates hit the deck, along with a few Liquigas riders and few others.

Race etiquette suggests that riders don’t take advantage of wrecks; when contenders crash, their rivals wait. However, if the acceleration comes before the crash, it is acceptable to keep on. In this case, Movistar riders Juan Jose Cobo and Jonathan Castroviejo asked Flecha to wait, but the Sky rider kept his pace.

This forced Movistar and Liquigas to work very hard to catch the leaders, not what a team would want to do approaching a 13-km climb which would decide the stage winner.

Even worse, the first three km of the climb were by far the hardest, with a gradient of nine percent; after that the slope eased considerably, to one and two percent over the final two kilometers. This meant that the crashed riders had to work extremely hard on the hardest part of the climb, to arrive exhausted at the front just as their rivals could start working hard to drop them again.

This ruined Valverde’s Vuelta. The Movistar rider was working at maximum trying to catch two of the best climbers in the sport. Valverde wasn’t trying to save the red jersey; he had long since accepted that he would lose that. He was struggling hard to save his GC hopes.

Up front the breakaway fractured when it hit the climb; Martin and Clarke pulled away, while Astana’s Assan Bazeyev worked hard to try to keep up; the other two dropped off.

Nine km from the summit, Saxo-Tinkoff made a move; Daniel Navarro picked up the pace, with Alberto Contador on his wheel. Only Sky’s Chris Froomwe and Ag2R’s Nicholas Roche were able to respond. Navarro dropped off after a couple of kilometers, and Nicholas Roche attacked Froome and Contador.

The Irish rider’s timing was right; the other two were only interested in marking each other. Neither Froome nor Contador paid any attention to Roche as he rode away.

Meanwhile a small group had been bridging across from the main group: Linus Gerdemanns (,) Lauren’s ten Dam (Rabobank,) Marcos Garcia (Caja Rural,) and Andrey Zeits (Astana) passed Froome and Contador and caught Roche. Contador and Froome were content to slip back into the peloton; all either cared about was not losing time to the other.

Clarke beat Martin in the final few hundred meters, Basayev held on for third, and Marcos Garcia won the sprint between the members of his four-rider group.

Alejandro Valverde was the day’s big loser. He made a huge effort after the crash to only lose 54 seconds; he ended up ninth, 36 seconds down. He saved an outside—very far outside—chance of a high GC finish, but a minute will be a lot to make up when the real climbing starts in Stage Eight and even harder in the tough final week. A Vuelta podium possibility might have gone away as Valverde went down in the pile-up.

Vuelta a España Stage Four

 

rider

team

time

1

Simon Clarke

Orica-GreenEdge

4:30:26

2

Tony Martin

Omega Pharma-Quickstep

0:00:02

3

Assan Bazayev

Astana

0:00:22

4

Marcos Garcia

Caja Rural

0:00:55

5

Nicolas Roche

AG2R

0:00:55

6

Linus Gerdemann

Radioshack-Nissan

0:00:57

7

Laurens Ten Dam

Rabobank

0:00:57

8

Andrey Zeits

Astana

0:01:01

9

Bauke Mollema

Rabobank

0:01:04

10

Jan Bakelants

Radioshack-Nissan

0:01:04

General Classification after Stage Four

 

rider

team

time

1

Joaquim Rodriguez

Katusha

13:18:45

2

Christopher Froome

Sky

0:00:01

3

Alberto Contador

Saxo-Tinkoff

0:00:05

4

Bauke Mollema

Rabobank

0:00:09

5

Robert Gesink

Rabobank

0:00:09

6

Rigoberto Uran

Sky

0:00:11

7

Daniel Moreno

Katusha

0:00:14

8

Nicolas Roche

AG2R

0:00:24

9

Laurens Ten Dam

Rabobank

0:00:46

10

Juan Jose Cobo

Movistar

0:00:47

 




GET THE FREE DAILY E-NEWSLETTER


Selected Topics from The Epoch Times

Alla Lavrynenko