THE FIRST OF the Vuelta’s mountain stages, day four’s 170km ride through the mountains of Andalucia was bookended by two dramatic Category 1 climbs, the second of which, the ascent of Sierra Nevada, ranks among the tour’s most iconic finishes.
Nearly 20km long, with an average gradient of 5.8%, it proved a stern test for the peloton’s climbing experts, particularly given the severe heat in which it was tackled.
It was Katusha’s Dan Moreno who proved worthy of the challenge, outsprinting Saxo Bank’s Chris Anker Sorensen to cross the line fifteen seconds ahead of the remainder of the peloton, which was lead by Ireland’s Dan Martin.
Sylvain Chavanel, slightly unfortunate not to contest a final sprint for yesterday’s third stage, did just enough to take the red jersey after overnight leader Pablo Lastras faded on the slopes of Sierra Nevada, eventually losing a little over five minutes.
Martin sees his General Classification (GC) position improve to eleventh, while his cousin, AG2R’s Nicolas Roche, makes makes his way into the top thirty.
The day wasn’t without a couple of high-profile casualties, however, with Igor Anton, one of the pre-race favourites, losing a precious 1’10″ on his nearest rivals. HTC-Highroad’s Mark Cavendish was also forced to withdraw 40km from the stage conclusion. Having endured a difficult few days in the saddle, the Manxman won’t be contesting his second Grand Tour sprint classification of the season.