Dutch cyclist Wouter Poels secured a tough fourth-stage victory at the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco as Alberto Contador saw his lead trimmed despite the overall leader’s best efforts to break free.
Poels attacked at the summit of the fifth — and final — categorized climb and hung on over the dash to the finish to secure a 1-second victory over Spanish riders Alejandro Valverde and Samuel Sanchez in 3 hours, 39 minutes, 29 seconds.
“At a certain moment Contador, Valverde and a few others started to look at each other. So I tried to take advantage of this situation and I went,” Poels said. “I knew it was possible to pass the final climb and go to the finish. So, I went for it.”
Valverde stuck to the wheel of Contador as the multiple Tour de France champion attempted to break off on several occasions over the 151km leg.
Contador’s Tinkoff-Saxo team controlled the tempo on the final ascent before the Spaniard made one last attempt to break free, but it was Valverde who would burst clear in the closing meters to shave two seconds off of Contador’s advantage, which now stands at 12 seconds from a time of 16:33:35.
“It would have been better not to lose any time to Alejandro, but in the end, the group fell apart,” Contador said. “But I’m happy overall because the team controlled the stage, which was crazy from the first moment, very well.”
Contador was to be on guard for yesterday’s 160km fifth stage to Markina-Xemein, which also featured five major climbs.
“There are few spots to make moves so it will be a day of movement, like today was, requiring incredible effort that I’m sure a lot of cyclists will notice. Me too, I guess,” Contador said.
“We’ll have to see what it’s like and what the weather brings, since there could be rain and that always makes the race a little more wild and wide open,” he added.