Luis León Sánchez sprints into the lead with second straight Romandie stage
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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Luis León Sánchez sprints into the lead with second straight Romandie stage

by Ben Atkins at 12:16 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Race Reports and Results, Tour of Romandie
Time bonuses after Sion mountain stage put Rabobank’s Spaniard into yellow ahead of final time trial

luis leon sanchezA second straight victory for Luis León Sánchez (Rabobank), in the fourth and toughest stage of the Tour de Romandie between Bulle and Sion, saw the Spanish rider take the yellow jersey. Sánchez was fastest of a much depleted peloton that arrived at the finish line after a day off attacks on the climbs, and descents of the surrounding mountains; taking to the front as it entered the final straight and holding on to take the victory.

In second place was Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale), who had been on the attack inside the final 25km of the 184km stage, with an aggressive Branislau Samoilau (Movistar) in third.

Race leader Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) finished safely in the group, in the same time as Sánchez, but a ten-second time bonus on the line for the Spanish rider - who started the day just one second behind - put the Rabobank rider into the yellow jersey.

The stage was characterised by a six-strong breakaway from Johann Tschopp (BMC Racing), Petr Ignatenko and Eduard Vorganov (both Katusha), Guillaume Levarlet (Saur-Sojasun) Jorge Azanza (Euskatel-Euskadi) and Jean-Christophe Péraud (AG2R La Mondiale), who escaped on the first climb of the day.

With Tschopp just 25 seconds behind Wiggins overall, Team Sky kept the group on a short leash along the valley road that followed. Tschopp, Ignatenko and Levarlet left the others behind on the penultimate climb in Veysonnaz, but on the final climb to St-Martin they were caught by a counterattacking group of Peter Stetina (Garmin-Barracuda), Laurens Ten Dam (Rabobank), Rui Costa (Movistar) and Giampaolo Caruso (Katusha), before the British team closed it down again.

Close to the top of the climb, a five man group of Mikel Landa (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Nocentini and AG2R La Mondiale teammate John Gadret, Jesus Hernandez (Saxo Bank) and Roman Kreuziger (Astana) got away. It was caught on the descent however, and, despite a number of solo attempts to escape, the remains of the peloton came into the finish together.

Reactions to follow

Six men get away but Team Sky keeps them close

After a few early flurries, Tschopp, Ignatenko, Vorganov, Levarlet, Azanza and Péraud escaped on the 1st category climb to the Col des Mosses, which topped out after 36.5km. Close to the top they had a lead of three minutes, which came down a little on the descent that followed.

Tschopp was the biggest threat to Wiggins overall, as he started the day in 44th place, just 25 seconds in arrears. For this reason, the British team would not allow the leaders to get too far away, but a headwind in the valley meant that, in periods, it could only manage 20kph in its pursuit.

As they passed through Sion for the first time after 110km, the sextet’s lead was slipping down to the two minute mark. The tough mountain course was proving too tough for two of Wiggins’ teammates though, and World champion Mark Cavendish and prologue winner Geraint Thomas - having only just returned to the road after a spring on the track - both abandoned the race.

As they hit the start of the 2nd category climb to Basse-Nendaz, the leaders’ advantage was just 1’22” but, as Team Sky eased its pace a little, the gap opened up a little, and was approaching two minutes again as they rolled over the top after 128.6km. Tschopp, Ignatenko and Levarlet had left Vorganov, Azanza and Péraud behind, and the three dropped riders were quickly picked up by the peloton.

The 1st category climb to the Piste d’Ours in Veysonnaz began almost immediately, and a group that included Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale), Davide Malacarne (Europcar), and Laurens Ten Dam (Rabobank) briefly broke away. As they were pulled back Peter Stetina (Garmin-Barracuda) attacked; a small, low speed crash at the front of the peloton - involving Vuelta a España winner Juan Jose Cobo (Movistar) - briefly disrupted things and the American was able to open up a healthy gap.

Stetina was joined by Ten Dam, Rui Costa (Movistar) and Giampaolo Caruso (Katusha), and the four riders set off in pursuit of the leaders.

Levarlet was left behind as the three leaders approached the top, and then Ignatenko attacked Tshopp with 47km to go to take the climb alone. The three were back together again though, as they took on the fast, winding descent. The four chasers passed over the top of the climb 1’22” behind the leaders, with the peloton another 30 seconds further back.

On the long, sweeping road to the foot of the final 1st category climb to St-Martin, the four counterattackers steadily reeled in the three leaders - with Caruso doing no work to chase down his teammate ahead - and caught them up as they passed through Euseigne with 31.5km to go.

The race is back together but the attacks start again

The peloton was just ten seconds behind by now though, with five of the six remaining Team Sky riders lined up on the front. Ignatenko was doing his all to singlehandedly hold off the British team, with the other six lined up behind him, but with 28.5km to go, as the road began to rise again, he was forced to drift back.

Caruso pressed on with Ten Dam though, and Costa and Levarlet fought their way back up. As Tschopp was absorbed by the peloton, his BMC Racing teammate Amaël Moinard tried to replace him, but Europcar joined Sky at the front of the peloton and pulled everybody back.

The pace now set by Malagarne for the French team saw the already reduced peloton shrink further and, with 2.5km still to climb, his teammate Pierre Rolland attacked. Mikel Landa (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and John Gadret (AG2R La Mondiale) went with the young Frenchman, with Moinard and Simon Spilak (Katusha)

Landa struck out alone, and was joined by Gadret, with the others steadily picked up by the peloton, which was led Team Sky’s Richie Porte. The Australian was Wiggins’ only remaining teammate however, and the British champion’s rivals were all lined up behind him.

The peloton was just a few seconds behind the leading pair as Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale) jumped across to join teammate Gadret. Jesus Hernandez (Saxo Bank) and Roman Kreuziger (Astana) quickly joined them, with the Czech rider immediately hitting the front of the five-man group; over the top with just 23.8km to go, they were twelve seconds clear.

On the steep descent the break was holding its advantage - with Nocentini leading - as Sky began to string things out once more. With 16km to go a fallen race moto threatened to bring down the break but they managed to negotiate it safely.

With 11km however, a group that had detached from the front peloton had finally inched its way up to the leaders. Wiggins was present in the new twelve-man lead group, but was the only member of Team Sky to have made it.

Rabobank was leading the chase, just a few seconds behind, with three of the orange and blue team now battling against Janez Brajkovic (Astana), who was singlehandedly leading the front group. There were some attacks from the riders in the lead as the race came together again, notably from Fabrice Jeandesboz (Saur-Sojasun) and Hernandez, but Astana and Team Sky were both keen to close everything down at this point and the shrunken peloton was all together again as it headed into the final, flat five kilometres.

Astana was lined up on the front of the peloton as it flew into Sion but, with just over two kilometres to go, Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Andreas Klöden (RadioShack-Nissan) and Jeandesboz made a brief attempt to spoil the party. BMC Racing pulled it all together into the final kilometre, but Sánchez burst forward and held on to take his second consecutive stage.

Wiggins finished safely in the group but did not contest the sprint, so time bonuses on the line meant that Sánchez took the yellow jersey. With the final day’s time trial to come however, the British rider would be favourite to take it back.

Result stage 4
1. Luis León Sánchez (Spa) Rabobank
2. Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale
3. Branislau Samoilau (Blr) Movistar Team
4. Gorka Verdugo (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
5. Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Team Astana
6. Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar
7. Andreas Klöden (Ger) RadioShack-Nissan
8. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team
9. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Team Astana
10. Fabrice Jeandesboz (Fra) Saur-Sojasun

Standings after stage 4
1. Luis León Sánchez (Spa) Rabobank
2. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Team Sky @ 9s
3. Michael Rogers (Aus) Team Sky @ 16s
4. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank @ 18s
5. Stef Clement (Ned) Rabobank
6. Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Barracuda @ 20s
7. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Rabobank
8. Simon Spilak (Slo) Katusha Team @ 21s
9. Rui Costa (Por) Movistar Team @ 22s
10. Tiago Machado (Por) RadioShack-Nissan


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