Australia’s Simon Clarke won the mountainous fourth stage of the Vuelta a Espana on Tuesday, while Spain’s Joaquin Rodriguez took the overall leader’s red jersey.
Clarke edged ahead of Germany’s Tony Martin in the final meters of the 160.6km run between Barakaldo and the Estacion de Valdezcaray ski resort, which ended in the second summit finish of the race.
The 26-year-old GreenEdge rider completed the stage in 4 hours, 30 minutes and 26 seconds, with Martin of the Omega Pharma-Quickstep team just two seconds behind.
“It is my first win as a professional, I’ve been a pro for four years. I have tried so many times, I have so many second and third places, I am just so happy,” Clarke said.
Kazakhstan’s Assan Bazayev of the Astana Pro Team finished in third, 22 seconds behind the stage winner.
Clarke and Martin were part of a five-strong breakaway group early in a stage, which was marked by tough weather with strong winds and temperatures that soared up to 39°C.
The two edged ahead of this group toward the end of the course, setting the stage for the sprint finish.
“It was such a long day with so much wind in the finish. I knew Tony was going to be really strong, but I wanted to make it a really hard climb,” Clarke said. “I was really happy when Tony and I could leave the rest behind and then we just worked together. I really backed myself in the finish. Tony is a really good time trialist, but I thought I could have him in a sprint.”
“So I made sure he was in front with the wind and I just left as late as possible,” Clarke said.
Rodriguez took the lead from Spain’s Alejandro Valverde, who was caught up in a crash involving several cyclists about two hours from the finish that caused him to drop out of the top 10.
Valverde of Movistar crashed just as a group of riders from Team Sky hit the front of the group in a crosswind section.
The Sky riders controversially continued their quick pace instead of waiting for Valverde to get back on his bike.
“I am angry and disappointed, sportsmanship should come above all else,” Valverde told reporters at the end of the race. “Sky formed an echelon and they’re perfectly within their rights to do that. I’m not angry that I lost the lead because of this, but because there was no respect.”
The 21-stage race finishes on Sept. 9 in Madrid.
The Vuelta is one of cycling’s three “major tours” along with the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia.
USA PRO CHALLENGE
Reuters, MT CRESTED BUTTE, Colorado
American Tejay van Garderen pushed ahead in the final 300m uphill climb to capture the second stage and overall lead at the USA Pro Challenge on Tuesday.
Van Garderen, who finished fifth in last month’s Tour de France, captured his first win of the season after completing the 159.3km ride from Montrose to Mt Crested Butte in 3 hours, 52 minutes and 24 seconds.
“I wasn’t confident I was going to win, but I was confident I was going to try,” said Van Garderen, who made his final surge to the ski resort finish suddenly as the early leaders faltered.
Fellow American Christian Vande Velde finished second in the stage in the same time as Van Garderen while, Russia’s Ivan Rovny was third, trailing by six seconds.
Van Garderen, who began the day 17th overall, moved into the race lead with the same overall time as Vande Velde, but became the race leader based on his stage win.
Rovny moved into third overall while defending champion Levi Leipheimer of the US was fourth overall after placing fourth in the stage, trailing by eight seconds.
Yesterday’s third stage of the seven-day race was a 210.1km ride from Gunnison to Aspen, Colorado, that features two climbs approaching 4,000m, the highest elevation in the second-year race.