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47th Vuelta al Pais Vasco - Stage 4 Live Coverage
By Fabio
Date: 4/12/2007
47th Vuelta al Pais Vasco - Stage 4 Live Coverage

47th Vuelta al Pais Vasco - Stage Four Live Coverage

The Mountain Men Festival continues with just another hilly ride as the race steps into Big Mig's own Navarra.

Etapa 4: Vitoria/Gasteiz to Lekunberri, 176 km

Hello everyone and Ongi Etorri (or bienvenidos, or just welcome in whatever language you prefer ...) to our live coverage of stage four in the 47th Tour of the Basque Country. Today's leg covers 176 km. from Vitoria/Gasteiz, host town of the Basque Regional Parliament and Government, to Lekunberri in Navarra, the region of five-time TDF winner Miguel Indurain.

The summit of the first category Alto de Azpiroz comes just three km. from the line, and no less than five other categorised thingies come earlier. The Alto de Azazeta (Cat. 2) starts the climbing festival early into the stage and the first category Alto de Ipakua follows in the opening half; the Category 2 Zuarrarrate welcomes the peloton to part two of the journey, with the third category Alto de Huizi coming next. Then there's a long descent to the foot of the equally categorised Alto de Leaburu, penultimate difficulty on the menu, with the climb to the top of the Azpiroz putting end to today's mountain men show. Lekunberri hosts a Vuelta al Pais Vasco stage finish for the seventh time, the last one being three tears ago, when Denis Menchov claimed line honours.

1525 CEST - The action got started a few minutes before 01:00 PM local time as a group of 163 riders rolled out of Vitoria, with Angel Vicioso of the Fuerteventura-Canarias Pro Continental team holding the overall leaders jersey. And without his closest GC challenger, as Bram Tankink (Hol - Quick Step) sitting in second place overall at the end of yesterday's stage, was unfit and made the decision not to take the start line despite regularly being at the sign-on area in the morning. Iban Mayo (Saunier Duval), still far away form his ancient winning form, was the other nonstarter of the day.

As soon as the flag dropped there were continuous attacks, and it didn't take longer than half a dozen kilometres for nine riders to make the gap: Jens Voigt (Ger - Team CSC), Luis Pérez Arrieta (Spa - Caisse d'Epargne), Paolo Tiralongo (Ita - Lampre-Fondital), Addy Engels (Hol - Quick Step-Innergetic), Carl Naibo (Fra - Ag2r), Gorka Verdugo (Spa - Euskaltel- Euskadi), Andriy Grivko (Ukr - Team Milram), Rémy Di Gregorio (Fra - La Française des Jeux) and Vicioso's team-mate Mikel Artetxe (Spa - Fuerteventura-Canarias) broke away as the race hit the Alto de Azazeta slopes. Voigt came first across the top of the mountain, with Pérez and Tiralongo in the other top three spots.

The breakaway continued on the following climbs: Gorka Verdugo, trying to give Euskaltel fans something to cheer for in a so far quite disappointing race for the "home side", won the Alto de Opakua first category mountain prime, with Naibo, Grivko, Pérez Arrieta, Engels and Voigt coming next over the summit. The advantage ballooned to 06 minutes and 43 seconds by the km. 67.5 check (Alsasua Meta Volante Sprint, whose winner was Mikel Artetxe). The frontrunners enjoyed a maximum advantage of about seven minutes while nearing the halfway point of the stage, then finally the gap moved to its dropping ways.

1535 CEST - The escapees and the peloton alike are on the way to the first slopes of the category two Alto de Zuarrarrate, a seven kilometre ascent with 3.71% as average gradient. Ukraine's Andriy Grivko (Team Milram) is the best placed overall member of the nine-man breakaway group, but as his gap to Vicioso was a good 07'24" at the start line the youngster could never assume the status of GC leader on the road.

The toughness of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco is taking a toll on the legs of many good riders. We've got a good bunch of DNFers also in the first half of today's stage. The Aussie Michael Rogers (T-Mobile) was just the latest addition to a list featuring Juan Francisco Mouron (Karpin-Galicia), forced to pull out after he fell, Thomas Dekker (Hol - Rabobank), Fumiyuki Beppu (Jap - Discovery Channel), Oliver Zaugg (Swi - Gerolsteiner), Serge Baguet and Giovanni Visconti (Quick Step). The Belgian team lost no less than three of their riders in the space of a few hours.

1550 CEST - The front group made it to the top of the comparatively easy Alto de Zuarrarrate, with Tiralongo getting to the summit first, Jens Voigt in second, Pérez third and Addy Engels fourth. Remy Di Gregorio couldn't stay with the best ones and quickly lost over half a minute to the frontrunners. But the (now) eight-man breakaway made gains also on the main bunch such that, with the new gap going up to 7 minutes and 46 seconds, Grivko could finally enjoy some time as GC leader on the road.

1556 CEST - France's Di Gregorio regained the wheels of the lead group, whose advantage over the peloton further grew to over eight minutes, making Grivko a more solid leader on the road. Again, the nine frontrunners are Jens Voigt (Ger - Team CSC), Luis Pérez Arrieta (Spa - Caisse d'Epargne), Paolo Tiralongo (Ita - Lampre-Fondital), Addy Engels (Hol - Quick Step-Innergetic), Carl Naibo (Fra - Ag2r), Gorka Verdugo (Spa - Euskaltel- Euskadi), Andriy Grivko (Ukr - Team Milram), Rémy Di Gregorio (Fra - La Française des Jeux) and Mikel Artetxe (Spa - Fuerteventura-Canarias).

1605 CEST - Mikel Artetxe won the Meta Volante as the race hit Lekunberri for the first time at km. 111, Naibo and Voigt followed in the other top three spots. Cooperation amongst the escapees apparently came to an end as the race hit the Alto de Huitzi (Cat.3) and some skirmishes took place in the front group with about 60k to go.

1620 CEST - Jens Voigt was first dropped by some of his breakaway companions, but later regained the front group and counter-attacked. Andriy Grivko and Di Gregorio (again) lost contact to the front group too, but unlike their German colleague they couldn't make their way back to the breakaway.

1630 CEST - Jens Voigt broke away solo! The powerful rider of Team CSC extended his own lead over the other (former) frontrunners to about one and a half minutes. The Teutonic bike-knight just hit the slopes of the third category Alto de Leaburu. Italy's Paolo Tiralongo attacks the first chase group and sets off in pursuit of the German. Saunier Duval and Caisse d'Epargne, but not Vicioso's Fuerteventura, are riding tempo back in the main group, that is about to make it to the first slopes of the ascent. Their gap to the solo leader of the stage is about six minutes at the moment. In the meantime the rain made its appearance at the finishing line at Lekunberri.

1639 CEST - Jens Voigt comes near to the top the climb.

1641 CEST - The German crested and is taking in the next downhill section. His lead over Tiralongo has further gone up to over two minutes. A couple more guys follow a dozen more seconds behind the Italian. Angel Gomez Marchante of Saunier Duval starts the fireworks back in the peloton. He gains a small advantage on the pack.

1645 CEST - Nobody helped the Saunier attacker, and Angel Vicioso himself and a teammate of his looked after covering the move. Such that Caisse d'Epargne could regain the front of the peloton in the end. The peloton cut the gap to Voigt slightly down to 05'42" as they reached the top of the climb. But with the finishing line only 27 kms away, it looks like they are not going to chase the German down anyway. Thankfully the rain quickly stopped falling at the finish, btw.

1650 CEST - The German veteran Jens Voigt (he will turn 36 the next month of September) is on the way to notching up his 62nd victory as a professional rider, and his fourth one in this race. Angel Vicioso of the Relax-GAM team comfortably stays in the wheels of his teammates, who are currently dictating the pace back in the field.

1655 CEST - Caisse d'Epargne takes over the pace-setting job in the peloton, they're trying to give Vicioso a hard time in the last portion of the stage. But it won't be easy, as the yellow jersey wearer looks like having excellent legs in this period. Euskaltel also rushed to the front to help Caisse d'Epargne (and the chase). Jens Voigt holds on to a lead of some five minutes with about 20k to go. The German, with the number 14 on his back, is on his way to the foot of the final climb.

1700 CEST - 15k to go for solo leader Jens Voigt. Euskaltel and Caisse d'Epargne take turns on the front of the pack, leading the chase as well as the attempts to make some damage to Vicioso's legs. But they are unlikely to succeed in either attempts, also because the Angel from Aragon has two excellent "domestiques" like Paco Mancebo and Oscar Sevilla on his side as "world-class helpers". The Lampre guys follow the wheels of the aforementioned teams. The gap to the stage leader stays around five minutes with the finish line about 14 km. away. 

1707 CEST - The distance between Jens Voigt and his fourth career win in this race is just under ten kilometres. The excellent pace set by Caisse d'Epargne helped the peloton bring the gap down to 04 minutes and 45 seconds, but that's a bit too much of a gap for them to harbour any hopes of bringing back the fugitive, in our opinion. Still in between them are three "first chasers": Paolo Tiralongo, Naibo and one more remainder of the past breakaway.

1711 CEST - Jens Voigt made it to the last Meta Volante of the day. And so did Paolo Tiralongo and the two other chasers. And so did the field, that's going really fast now. So fast that they managed to bring the gap further down to about three and a half minutes! Still, there's a ... short way to go for Voigt, Just 7 km left.

1711 CEST - Jens Voigt gets back to uphill riding with half a dozen kilometres left. He's struggling a little bit on the tough Azpiroz (3.5 km/average gradient 8%).  Iker Camaño of Saunier Duval, another guy showcasing a pair of excellent legs these days, attacks the peloton.

1715 CEST - The move from Camaño was quickly covered by the Lampre-led field. In the meantime Jens Voigt is not having a very easy time on the Azpiroz slopes. Not at all. His advantage over the peloton stays a solid 03 minutes and 59 seconds though.

1720 CEST - Vicioso's top helpers Mancebo and Sevilla rush to the front of the peloton in order to pick up the pace a little, but notably avoids moves like the one Camaño just put in. Not too successfully though, as a waterboy of Gerolsteiner, Stephan Schumacher, just had a go at breaking away. The peloton didn't let him take any advantage but when José Angel Gómez Marchante counter-attacked again, Spaniard did make the gap. Tiralongo and all other fugitives (but Voigt of course) have been caught by the way.

1722 CEST - Vicioso didn't respond to Marchante's move, but didn't lose much time either. Also Joaquin Rodriguez attacked the peloton, and so did Koldo Gil. Solo leader Jens Voigt managed to reach the top of the climb; there's only 3 kilometres between the German and stage victory now.

1725 CEST - Gomez Marchante made it to the top of the climb two minutes behind Voigt. But Vicioso is struggling FOR REAL now, losing second after second in the last part of the ascent; the race overall leader is no pure climber at all, and is currently unable to do anything to hide that.


The German soloed to the line and set a winning time of 04h32'14". Gomez Marchante is on the way to a second place finish. He comes in second, 01'31" behind the winner. The first peloton followed about 18 seconds later, with Valverde 3rd, Cunego 4th, Cadel Evans 5th and Alberto Contador, that found back his good legs today, taking 6th ahead of Rebellin and Samuel Sánchez, while Giampaolo Caruso and Stephan Schumacher filled the remaining top ten spots in the stage classification.

Angel Vicioso comes in at 02'13"; he lost 33 seconds to the stage runner-up, but maintains the overall lead (Gomez Marchante is 01'46" down on the GC now); the Relax rider could limit his time losses also as he got some help from a few other riders in the short final descent to the line.

Stage 4 Results
1. 14 VOIGT, Jens GER CSC 4:32:15
2. 1 GÓMEZ MARCHANTE, J. Angel ESP SDV a 1:39
3. 21 VALVERDE, Alejandro ESP GCE a 1:53

4. 51 CUNEGO, Damiano ITA LAM a 1:53
5. 141 EVANS, Cadel AUS PRL a 1:53

6. 41 CONTADOR, Alberto ESP DSC a 1:53
7. 61 REBELLIN, Davide ITA GST a 1:53
8. 151 SÁNCHEZ, Samuel ESP EUS a 1:53
9. 53 CARUSO, Giampaolo ITA LAM a 1:53
10. 62 SCHUMACHER, Stefan GER GST a 1:53

General Classification after Stage 4
1. 204 VICIOSO, Ángel ESP REG 17:14:26
2. 1 GÓMEZ MARCHANTE, J. Angel ESP SDV a 1:46
3. 4 COBO, Juan José ESP SDV a 1:54

4. 55 VALJAVEC, Tadej SLO LAM a 2:09
5. 3 GIL, Koldo ESP SDV a 2:09

6. 22 RODRIGUEZ, Joaquin ESP GCE a 2:11
7. 151 SÁNCHEZ, Samuel ESP EUS a 2:11
8. 61 REBELLIN, Davide ITA GST a 2:11
9. 13 SCHLECK, Frank LUX CSC a 2:13
10. 51 CUNEGO, Damiano ITA LAM a 2:17

Full stage results and classification to follow. Hope you enjoyed the race, thanks for tuning in, and see you tomorrow.

47th Vuelta al Pais Vasco - Stage Three Results
47th Vuelta al Pais Vasco - Stage Three Live Coverage
47th Vuelta al Pais Vasco - Stage Two Results
47th Vuelta al Pais Vasco - Stage Two Live Coverage
47th Vuelta al Pais Vasco - Stage One
47th Vuelta al Pais Vasco - Preview

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