Nicolas Roche just misses out on stage win again

Sky rider fourth in stage four of the Vuelta a España, Dan Martin also in front group

Movistar’s Spanish cyclist Alejandro Valverde rounds the final bend ahead of Peter Sagan and Nicolas Roche to win the fourth stage of the 2015 Vuelta Espana. Photograph: Getty Images

Movistar’s Spanish cyclist Alejandro Valverde rounds the final bend ahead of Peter Sagan and Nicolas Roche to win the fourth stage of the 2015 Vuelta Espana. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Nicolas Roche went tantalisingly close to a Vuelta a España stage win at the end of day four of the race on Tuesday, bridging across to 2008 Olympic champion Samuel Sanchez (BMC Racing Team) inside the final two kilometres and then striking out for home on the uphill push to the line.

Roche gambled that Sanchez would drive the pace and sat on the Spaniard’s wheel before jumping, but the gap back to the chasers was too small and he was passed by three riders inside the final 150 metres.

First to the line was 2009 Vuelta winner Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), who beat Monday’s stage three victor Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Dani Moreno (Katusha).

Roche finished fourth, his strong result adding to the third-place finish he racked up on Sunday.

Compatriot Dan Martin also finished in the front group, netting 24th. He said afterwards that he lost his own chance of going for the stage win due to misfortune. He needed two wheel changes inside the final 25 kilometres and was also delayed slightly by a crash inside the final three kilometres.

Despite that, he was able to finish in the same time as Valverde and thus preserved his high placing in the overall standings.

Colombian rider Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge) placed tenth and holds onto the race lead. He remains five seconds clear of Tom Dumoulin (Team Giant-Alpecin) and 15 ahead of Roche, while Martin stays fourth at 24 seconds.

The Irish duo have made very impressive starts to the race, showing that they have recovered from last month’s Tour de France.

Valverde said after the stage that his team decided to hold back and wait until the end before playing its card. It explained why he didn’t make a move when the Caja Rural rider Pello Bilbao surged at the start of the last climb, four kilometres from the line.

“I saw that neither Bilbao nor Samuel Sánchez and Roche were opening a serious gap, and I kept Sagan under control. As the shadow on the ground showed him on my wheel, I didn’t have to look back.

“I knew he was strong, but into such a finish, with 200m to go, when Majka jumped away and closed the gap... You can suffer some sort of misfortune, but it was clear that this victory was mine, or at least that I had a really strong chance.”

Today’s fifth leg is a flat 167.3 km race between Rota and Alcalá de Guadáira. This seems destined for a bunch sprint, with Sagan likely to try to replicate Monday’s win.

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