VUELTA’16 St.4: Conquering Calmejane
Race Report: Another win for the break of the day and another win for France on Vuelta stage 4 in Galicia. In the mould of stage 3, Direct Energie’s first year pro, Lilian Calmejane, joined the escape and attacked at just the right moment for the stage win. Behind the young Frenchman; Darwin Atapuma held off the chase of the race favorites to take the overall lead.
Twenty-one riders made up the break that succeeded to escape the peloton in the second hour of the stage, behind them the Movistar team held them close, but it was not close enough to save the overall lead of Ruben Fernandez or put teammate Alejandro Valverde in the red jersey. BMC’s Darwin Atapuma was up the road, he finished second to Calmejane and took the overall lead from under the noses of the Movistar team.
The fourth stage of the 2016 Vuelta keeps the riders on the Atlantic coast in the Galician region for a 161km rolling route between Betanzos and San Andre de Teixido. The finish is atop the second category Mirador Vixia de Herbeira but that’s not the only difficulty of the day. The riders will face two third category climbs within the first 60km, including the Alto Monte Caxado which at 670m marks the high-point of the day. The next 80km don’t feature any categorized climbing but the road rises and falls all the way to Cedeira which marks both the intermediate sprint and the start of the final climb. The final climb features two sections, each 4km in length which take the riders from the beachfront to the 600m high finish line. They will have a brief bit of respite thanks to a short descent midway up the final climb. This will be the second of an astonishing 10 hilltop finishes that will greet the riders in this year’s Vuelta.
The day began with 197 riders taking to the start line. So far the only abandonment is Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin) who climbed off yesterday after suffering from sinus problems. Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) continued despite suffering a horrible crash in the finale of the third stage which left him with cuts and bruises and three chipped teeth. Much like his molars, the Colombian’s GC ambitions lie in tatters due to losing 12 minutes to stage winner Alexandre Geniez (FDJ). The peloton were all still together as they topped the first climb of the day with Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) taking maximum points. There had been numerous attempts to get away put it wasn’t until the second hour of racing when a break was finally able to break the elastic and provide everyone with a small rest. The break consisted of; Darwin Atapuma (BMC), Andrey Zeits (Astana), Nikias Arndt (Giant-Alpecin), De Gendt, Zdenek Stybar (Etixx – Quick-Step), Ben King and Pierre Rolland (Cannondale-Drapac), Nathan Haas and Merhawi Kudus (Dimension Data), Larry Warbasse and Marcel Wyss (IAM Cycling), Tsgabu Grmay (Lampre-Merida), Stephane Rosetto (Cofidis), Cesare Benedetti and Scott Thwaites (Bora-Argon 18), Angel Madrazo and Jaime Roson (Caja-Rural-Seguros RGA) and Lilian Celmejane (Direct Energie).
Those 18 riders were supplemented by Chad Haga (Giant-Alpecin), Axel Domont (AG2R-La Mondiale) and Enrico Battaglin (LottoNl-Jumbo). They had a lead of just under two minutes as they hit the lower slopes of the Alto Monte Caxado. As they lazily made their way to the summit the gap had been dragged out beyond the two minute mark which temporarily gave Darwin Atapuma the red leader’s jersey. De Gendt was again the first to the top of the categorized climb to add another three points to his tally.
Soon the race was reduced to 196 as 22 year old Federico Zurlo (Lampre-Merida) abandoned in the first Grand Tour of his career. Soon after the break was also reduced as Nikias Arndt was kicked out the back of one of the many uncategorized rises.
The riders were enjoying the easier middle section of the stage and the Movistar led peloton were happy to allow the leaders more rope. Their advantage leapt out to 4.40 with 50km left to ride and only the final climb left to face. Rory Sutherland (Movistar) was doing most of the chasing for team leaders Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana and the red jersey wearer Ruben Fernandez. He wasn’t really doing much to close the gap on the twenty riders up front.
With just 28km left to ride the gap had extended out to the five minute mark and Atapuma had one hand on the leader’s jersey. There was also a stage win firmly up for grabs and the break were beginning to attack each other with the intention of dislodging the pure climbers. Axel Domont was very visible with almost continuous attacks which consistently brought De Gendt to the front of the break to maintain order. De Gendt was doing a lot of work as the leaders entered the final 20km of the fourth stage.
Domont was again going clear and this time there was no immediate reaction from De Gendt. Back in the peloton and Orica-BikeExchange had usurped Movistar from the head of the peloton and they were beginning to claw time back. Their leadership was immediately thrown out as Tinkoff took over chasing duties for their leader, Alberto Contador.
Domont had done nothing but attack for 10km and he was finally away as they started the final climb. He had a 20 second lead on the break, who were already beginning to thin out on the ascent.
The combination of Tinkoff, Sky, and Movistar was really eating away at the gap and they had just 3.30 as they headed upwards on the first ramps of the climb. Ben King was doing a lot of work in the lead group and he hauled back Domont only for Celmajane to immediately go over the top.
The young Frenchman continued his push towards the line and he was being pursued by Pierre Rolland. They both had a healthy lead over the chasing group who were led by Domont. Darwin Atapuma was doing almost all the work in the group but he couldn’t break away to hunt down the French duo.
The first step of the climb was almost complete and Calmejane had 20 seconds on his countryman and another 10 on the Atapuma group. The descent was welcome relief for everyone and there was now just 4km left to ride to the finish and stage glory. Rolland had made inroads quickly into the Direct Energie rider’s lead but he was no longer making any impression. In fact, Rolland was now going backwards into the clutches of the Atapuma group.
So far there were no attacks from the GC favorite group as they hung on 3:30 back, not close enough to prevent Atapuma from taking over the red jersey. The little Colombian attacks again as soon as Rolland is caught, but it will be too late to catch Calmejane.
Sky’s Peter Kennaugh rode off the front of the peloton, no one joins him, but it could have been to soften things up for his team leader Chris Froome. At the front Calmejane passed under the 1K banner as Atapuma had Rolland and Zeits with him for the futile chase.
First year pro and Grand Tour virgin, Calmejane, managed to zip up his jersey on the short flat section before the line for his big win. Atapuma won the sprint for second place from Ben King 15 seconds later, but had to wait for the favorites to come in before he could be sure of the leaders red jersey.
Valverde led what was left of the peloton across the line with Froome, Brambilla, Contador, Chaves and Quintana all together, but the red jersey of Fernandez was missing and so Darwin Atapuma moved into the overall lead with 29 seconds over Valverde and 33 on Froome.
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Vuelta a España Stage 4 Result:
1. Lilian Calmejane (Fra) Direct Energie in 4:05:19
2. Darwin Atapuma (Col) BMC at 0:15
3. Benjamin King (USA) Cannondale-Drapac at 0:15
4. Andrey Zeits (Kaz) Astana at 0:19
5. Nathan Haas (Aus) Dimension Data at 0:23
6. Enrico Battaglin (Ita) LottoNl-Jumbo at 0:24
7. Pierre Rolland (Fra) Cannondale-Drapac at 0:33
8. Chad Haga (USA) Giant-Alpecin at 0:37
9. Jaime Roson (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA at 0:40
10. Cesare Benedetti (Ita) Bora-Argon 18 at 0:42
11. Lawrence Warbasse (USA) IAM Cycling
12. Angel Madrazo Ruiz (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA at 0:46
13. Merhawi Kudus (Eri) Dimension Data at 0:49
14. Marcel Wyss (Swi) IAM Cycling at 0:55
15. Stéphane Rossetto (Fra) Cofidis at 1:04
16. Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Etixx – Quick-Step at 1:35
17. Scott Thwaites (GB) Bora-Argon 18 at 1:38
18. Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto Soudal
19. Tsgabu Grmay (Eth) Lampre – Merida 0:01:42
20. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 2:06
21. Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-BikeExchange
22. Christopher Froome (GB) Sky
23. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff
24. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar
25. Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Etixx – Quick-Step.
Vuelta a España Overall After Stage 4:
1. Darwin Atapuma (Col) BMC at 13:23:10
2. Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar at 0:29
3. Christopher Froome (GB) Sky at 0:33
4. Johan Esteban Chaves Rubio (Col) Orica-BikeExchange at 0:39
5. Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar at 0:39
6. Samuel Sánchez Gonzalez (Spa) BMC at 1:09
7. Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Movistar at 1:11
8. Leopold König (Cze) Sky at 1:13
9. Peter Kennaugh (GB) Sky at 1:15
10. Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Etixx – Quick-Step at 1:23
11. Lilian Calmejane (Fra) Direct Energie at 1:24
12. Daniel Moreno (Spa) Movistar at 1:36
13. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff at 1:53
14. David De La Cruz (Spa) Etixx – Quick-Step at 1:56
15. Simon Yates (GB) Orica-BikeExchange at 2:08
16. Marcel Wyss (Swi) IAM Cycling
17. Andrew Talansky (USA) Cannondale-Drapac at 2:14
18. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Astana at 2:18
19. Ben Hermans (Bel) BMC at 2:28
20. Davide Formolo (Ita) Cannondale-Drapac at 2:35
21. Stéphane Rossetto (Fra) Cofidis at 2:36
22. Igor Anton Hernandez (Spa) Dimension Data at 2:42
23. Merhawi Kudus (Eri) Dimension Data at 2:44
24. Bart De Clercq (Bel) Lotto Soudal at 2:46
25. Pierre-Roger Latour (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale at 2:51.