US cyclist Tejay Van Garderen pulled away on the final uphill climb in snow and heavy fog to win the fourth stage of the Volta a Catalunya on Thursday, while Joaquim Rodriguez maintained the overall lead.
Van Garderen of BMC emerged from the cloud enveloping the Vallter 2000 special category summit and edged Romain Bardet around the final turn to claim the 166km ride through the Pyrenees in nearly five hours.
Alberto Contador crossed three seconds later in third, followed by Rodriguez and fellow challenger Nairo Quintana. Tour de France winner Christopher Froome finished seventh, eight seconds behind Van Garderen.
Rodriguez remained in first place in the general classification, followed by Contador at four seconds behind. Van Garderen moved into third place at seven seconds off the pace. Bardet, Quintana and Froome were all within 17 seconds of Rodriguez.
It was Van Garderen’s first individual stage victory on the World Tour.
“I let the other guys do a couple of little attacks first so they could kind of wear each other out,” Van Garderen said. “I got a little lucky, and the cold might have helped me a little bit. I can cope with it a bit better than some of those guys who are 60 kilos.”
Van Garderen downplayed his chances of upsetting the strong group of favorites for the title.
“It’s going to be difficult because there aren’t that many opportunities,” he said. “There is no time trial, there are no more mountain stages. But if we see an opportunity, we are definitely going to take it.”
Spanish Vuelta winner Christopher Horner withdrew from the race before the start of the day’s stage. The veteran American also pulled out of this month’s Tirreno-Adriatico before the finish.
Yesterday’s fifth stage was to be a 218km hilly ride from Llanars Vall de Camprodon to Valls. The seven-day race is scheduled to finish tomorrow in Barcelona.