Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana 2003 - Special Report
Stage 4: Sagunt to Alt del Campello (Vallada) 158,2 kms
So Perdiguero continues to progress in the peloton. The rider who set European message boards alight when he "rode" for US Postal in last years Vuelta has again confounded every one with a massive triumph.
“Magpie” sends this report from Spain:
Stage 4 was another fast stage and when the TV coverage started there was under 20 km to go. They showed images from the start that morning and despite what must have been a tense day for the Paternina team there were smiles all round, probably due to the unaccustomed interest the team has been getting. Rafa Casero, wearing short sleeves on the first sunny day and sporting a pair of yellow framed sunglasses was surrounded by friends and fans soliciting autographs. The impression was that the team is currently riding on the crest of a wave of confidence and the next few hours would decide if that was to continue.
Dermot Nally managed second place at the intermediate sprint in Alzira, was this going to be a good sign for the team? There were two riders off the front, Colom and Zaballa when the TV coverage started but it was obvious that it was only a matter of time before they would be reeled back in. The stage was basically flat except for the category 1 climb that came at the end and was 14% on the steepest part of the slope. The peloton was keeping the speed high and it looked like the plan was to arrive at the foot of the climb together.
Just as the gradient started to go upward, Cipollini went to the front and was pulling the group behind him, quite a sight, the world champion's jersey at the head of the peloton at the start of a climb. My initial thought was that he was stretching his legs in preparation for Milan San Remo but maybe it was part of a bigger picture.
At 6 km to go the speed was still high and some of the riders were beginning to drop off the back of the bunch. By 5km to go the number dropping off was increasing and I saw Hondo drifting back towards the 'bus'. The Saeco team had gone to the front of the front group and they were beginning to put the pressure on, perhaps di Luca was going to go for the stage today. At 3 km to go the front group upped the tempo again and more riders drifted backwards.
This time it was the turn of Rafa Casero, the leader, his legs just seemed to go and he was looking very tired, despite his obvious suffering he tried valiantly to keep with the group but his face registered that he knew it was a hopeless task. When the camera dropped back to him a short while later he had gone down onto the small chain ring and was looking a bit more comfortable and riding within himself to get the rhythm back but the damage had already been done.
Up at the front with 2 km to go Dario Frigo demonstrated his strength and just pulled away from the front of the group, as the gap got bigger only David Bernabeu of the Milaneza team was able to get on his wheel and stay with him. With 1 km to go Frigo had an advantage of 49 seconds over Casero. Javier Pascal Llorente and Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero had attacked of the front of the bunch but the cameras weren't covering this, so the running commentary of the commentators helped heighten the tension. Frigo was looking strong and didn't miss a beat, so when Bernabeu put his foot down and went to the front, Frigo just stayed with him looking comfortable and confident. At this point the climb had leveled out and it seemed like a two man time trial to the line, then suddenly Llorente and Perdiguero were coming up behind them and closing the gap. In no time it was a four man group and this changed the rhythm, initially the new arrivals hung on the back for a short breather and then Perdiguero went for the sprint and no one could match him.
It was a strange end to the key mountain stage of this tour as Perdiguero who rides for Cippolini's Domina Vacanze team, is better known as a sprinter. Millar finished in the second group 16 seconds down and while losing time on the new leader Frigo he has moved up a place into 4th position. Cadel Evans who has had an anonymous race used this stage to put in a good ride and finished with the 3rd group 28 seconds down. Zulle, who yesterday said that he doesn't have the form he would normally have at this time of the year finished in the 4th group 42 seconds down. Rafa Casero recovered a bit and finished with di Luca at 59 seconds. Tomorrow's stage has 2 category 2 climbs and barring mishap will see Frigo win the race for the first time and will make him a favourite for Paris Nice which he won when he was riding for Fassa Bortolo. That year also saw him riding a strong Giro before the incident which put paid to his days with Fassa.