Sanchez takes Basque queen stage as Valverde holds lead
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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Sanchez takes Basque queen stage as Valverde holds lead

by Ben Atkins at 11:50 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Race Reports and Results

samuel sanchezSamuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) won the tough queen stage of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco between Murgia and Eibar Arrate. He beat Alessandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne) and Robert Gesink (Rabobank) into second and third after the first category climb of the Alto de Uzartza. American Chris Horner (RadioShack) finished fourth.

"Getting the first victory for the team this season is the best possible scenario,” said Sanchez after the stage. “It is a shame that I lost so much time the first day, but oh well...

“I was together with Horner,” he continued, “but Valverde came back in the end."

The break of the day saw five riders escape after 44km. Amets Txurruka (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Jacob Fuglsang (Saxo Bank), Aitor Pérez Arrieta (Footon-Servetto), Ivan Santaromita (Liquigas), Johannes Fröhlinger (Milram) built a lead of 4’05” by kilometre 72, when work from the Lampre-Farnese Vini and Katusha teams began to bring it down.

On the successive climbs Txurruka and Fuglsang proved stronger than the other three in the group and set off together inside the final 40km. Pressure from Gesink, with Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) and Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha) on the Alto de Ixua thinned the peloton to just 40 riders. On the descent the five breakaway riders reformed, now pursued by a group of seven, from which Steve Cummings (Sky) got away alone, but punctured and rejoined the peloton.

The final climb of the Alto de Uzarta saw the breakaway’s lead shrink quickly, while Schleck was the first to attack. He was pulled back by a small group of favourites and Horner was the next to attack, pulling a few seconds clear of the rest. The American was caught by Sanchez before the top of the climb, and the pair was caught by Valverde and Gesink as they approached the finish.

Sanchez jumped again in the closing metres and the Olympic champion managed to hold on to win two seconds clear of the other three.

With his second place on the stage Valverde retains his overall lead, but Horner and Gesink remain poised just one second behind him. "The stage was very fast again just like the other days,” said Valverde afterwards. “But everything went very well for me; I am going well. Winning the stage would have been great, but I am content with keeping yellow.”

With just a second lead over Horner and Gesink, both strong riders in the time trial, Valverde will have to work hard to win the race with a 22km race against the clock on Saturday. “I am not bad at time trialling,” he said, “but not great, either. It'll be difficult."

Result stage 4
1. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
2. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne @ 2s
3. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank @ 2s
4. Chris Horner (USA) Team RadioShack @ 2s
5. Beñat Intxausti (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi @ 33s
6. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) OmegaPharma-Lotto @ 33s
7. Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini @ 40s
8. Andy Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank a 40s
9. Sandy Casar (Fra) Française des Jeux @ 49s
10. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha @ 49s

Standings after stage 4
1. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne
2. Chris Horner (USA) Team RadioShack @ 1s
3. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank @ 1s
4. Jean Christophe Peraud (Fra) OmegaPharma-Lotto @ 32s
5. Beñat Intxausti (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi @ 32s


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