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62nd Vuelta a España - Stage 4 Live Coverage
By Staff
Date: 9/4/2007
62nd Vuelta a España - Stage 4 Live Coverage

62nd Vuelta a España - Stage 4 Live Coverage
The first gravity test and climbers festival begins as the mountain goats stretch their legs for the first time... Who will make the first selection...

First Mountain top finish on the mighty Covadonga. © Unipublic

Stage 4 04/09 Langreo - Lagos de Covadonga - 182km
Today's stage includes two preliminary ascents, the La Faya de los Lobos (cat-2; at Km. 17.2) and La Llama (cat-3; at Km. 131) before ending in the Hors Categorie Lagos de Covadonga summit finish.

Lagos de Covadonga is without a doubt the most important climb in the modern history of the Vuelta; more often coming later stages. The climb to Lagos de Covadonga is 12.6 kilometres long with an average incline of 7.3%. The La Huesera stretch often proves to be decisive during the ascent, with a sustained climb of over 13% for over half a kilometre. The other zones of the climb Canónigos viewpoint, and the La Reina are no less fierce with section of 11 to 15 %. The stage won’t decide the winner of the Vuelta, but it will tell us who is in the game to win in the next two weeks and who will be eliminated from serious contention of the overall. It will be the first test for Menchov, Sastre, Evans, Cunego, Pereiro and Gómez Marchante to put time on their rivals and the first day of misery for the sprinters to make it over the mountains.

The race started under cloudy skies with the threat of rain present to add to the difficulties to be faced in the next 184 kilometers. Attempts at early breaks were all brought back by the peloton and they reached  the foot of the first 17.2 Cat. 2 climb of La Faya de los Lobos together.

Jurgen van Goolen was the first to separate himself from the group. Goolen led by 25 seconds with the first chase group with a minute on the peloton. So this stage has been dominated by a huge break that got away after about 15 kilometers. Good news for DP Fans: Cofidis has dropped the F-Bomb today, as our correspondent Bingen Fernandez is in the break (and has even attacked on his own once or twice)!

The break went away on the climb of the Cat 2 Alto de la Faya de los Lobos. Some of the names in the break of almost 30 riders: Jurgen Van Goolen and Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel), Bingen Fernandez (Cofidis), Chris Horner (Davitamon-Lotto), Christian Vandevelde (CSC), Giuseppe Guerini (T-Mobile), Leonardo Bertagnolli (Liquigas), Angel Gomez (Saunier Duval), Vladimir Efimkin (Caisse d'Epargne), Joan Horrach (Caisse d'Epargne), Jason McCartney (Discovery Channel), Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis), Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas), Juan Manuel Garate (Quick Step), and Jose Vicente Garcia Acosta (Caisse d'Epargne). That's only about half the riders in the break. 

Over the first summit of Alto de la Faya de los Lobos Van Goolen led, with Alessandro Vanotti, Franco Pellizotti, Joan Horrach, Alberto Ardila, and Ludvic Turpin taking the first points of the day.

First intermediate sprint in Alto de la Madera at 62 km was led by Mickael Delage, followed by David Dapena Garcia and Jurgen Van Goolen.

That group got a lead of about 6' 30". Davitamon-Lotto has been leading the chase in the peloton, working for Evans. With about 58 km left in the race, the riders have just stared the climb of the Alto de la Llama, a Cat 3 climb that will thin the break. Despite having so many riders in the break, Caisse d'Epargne and Saunier Duval have also been helping chase in the peloton. The presence of so many quality riders in this break has clearly caused concern: you don't want to give Pellizotti, Devolder, Garate, Guerini, and a couple of the other guys any time. Especially Devolder, who has been on amazing form and who time trials very very well.

The work of the three teams is having an effect on the break with the gap down to 3:40 over the last thirty kilometers; and pace for the first three hours of the race is 41.2 km/ph.

1552 CET - Gap now: 3' 45" for the 30 leaders. The two Quick Step riders are pushing the pace at the front of this break. They want their climber Garate to stay away. looking at that group, it is 30ish, not 45 and suffered some attrition along the way.

Over the Alto de la Llama summit Carlos Barredo leads for the max points with, Jurgen Van Goolen on his wheel, Rene Mandri 3rd and Joan Horrach taking the final points as the large group of escapees summit and start the descent. The riders are over the summit of the climb. The break have stretched their lead up to 4' 30" on the descent. Now they are on the flattish section leading up to the final climb. Lots of guys are working in that break to try to keep it away. 

Race radio says that a few guys have dropped back from the break to the peloton to help with the chase, especially the Caisse d'Epargne riders. Those Caisse boys are leading the peloton which is all strung out.

Horner is in this break still, and he's sitting on. He's working to help Evans, who is in the peloton behind. If Evans attacks, he'll have a man up the road this way. Fernandez and Chavanel are probably just trying to get a stage win. 

Rabobank and Saunier Duval have a couple of guys working with Caisse d'Epargne in the peloton. You know, Predictor-Lotto don't have guys helping with this chase right now. Maybe they are starting to like Horner's chances for the stage. 

1601 CET - There are about 38 km left. The riders are going full tilt. Both the break and the peloton are strung out, the hammer is down, the sandbags are over the side, and it's really going to hit the fan when they get to the Covadanga climb at the end of the stage.

I looks like Bingen Fernandez giving some other riders an earful at the front of that break. He seems annoyed at the fact that some of the guys in the break aren't pulling their weight. 

1606 CET - The gap is down to 4' 05", but that is still a pretty decent gap. When you consider some of the strong climbers in this break, well, if they hit that final climb with a lead, they won't get caught. Guys like Pellizotti, Garate, and Devolder (not to mention Fernandez) can hold a lead they get on that final climb. 

Yesterday we reported that Zubeldia of Euskaltel-Euskadi had retired from the race after his crash. Not true. It was a faulty graphic from the Spanish producers. He did in fact finish, and he's in the race today. 

Transfer news: Popovych to Predictor-Lotto for next season. Popovych will join Evans and McEwen and the boys for the big races next year. Good signing by Predictor-Lotto for sure. 

Rabobank, working for Menchov, seems particularly concerned to bring this break back. They are really hammering at the front of the peloton. In the break, Quick Step (Engels) and Liquigas and AG2r and Cofidis and Discovery are really pushing the pace. Fernandez is taking turns on the front, so he might be working to set up Chavanel. 

1614 CET - 30 km to go. The peloton is looking pretty big. I don't think a lot of guys have been dropped from the peloton. Most of the riders not in the peloton are off the front in that still-large break. The damage to most will come on the final climb.

3' 12" is the gap for the leaders. They have 17 km to go to get to the final climb. There is a chance that the winner of the day will come from that break! Zubeldia is looking okay in the peloton. Well, maybe not so great... he's near the back of the peloton. But he's hanging on so far, which means he should be able to recover and help Sammy Sanchez later in the race.  The breakaway riders are en route to Cangas de Onís where the second Intermediate Sprint of the day takes place. CSC has joined the chase.

Van Goolen is the Discovery rider helping drive the break. He's working hard while Devolder sits on. Bettini is back at the team car getting bottles for his teammates in the peloton. He stuffs some more bottles up his World Champ Jersey, being a great teammate after his win yesterday. 

1623 CET - Crash in the peloton! Bodrogi of Credit Agricole, a Bouygues Telecom rider, a few others. Jason McCartney of Discovery was in that crash. That means he fell back from the break to the peloton on that last climb. 

Mandri of AG2r and Van Goolen of Discovery still drive the break as they get nearer the final climb. They are only a few kilometers away from starting Covadonga. In the peloton, CSC has started to work for Sastre in chasing this break. Rabobank and Caisse d'Epargne still have riders up there too. That crash was in the middle of the peloton.

1628 CET - 20 km left. Only 7 km to the final climb. The gap is down to 2' 43". The riders in the break have only about 4 km left to go to the climb. They will reach that climb with a lead, so this is really going to be an interesting conclusion today. 35 riders in the break looking very determined to make their mark today on the final steeps.

One guy in great position today: Brajkovic of Discovery Channel. He is a great little climber, and with his strong teammate Devolder up the road, he just has to sit on and follow the counter-attacks. If they catch Devolder, look for Brajkovic to launch. 

We'll see what Sastre of CSC and Pereiro of Caisse d'Epargne have under the hood today too. They could be sitting on great form, but we haven't seen it yet. 

Part 2 of our live coverage continues....

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