Colombia’s Rigoberto Uran took his first win of the season this year – and Sky’s 13th of 2012 – at the end of today’s stage of the Tour of Catalonia. Michael Albasini (GreenEdge) continues as the overall leader.
Uran took a tough but convincing uphill sprint win against double Vuelta a España winner Denis Menchov (Katusha) as a group of around 20 riders tussled for victory at the end of a lumpy 199 kilometre stage.
Constantly on the attack, Uran had formed part of a sextet of riders that went clear on the final climb of the day, the second category Coll Les Paumeres. Other big names in the six-man move, which initially caught out Albasini (GreenEdge), included Euskaltel-Euskadi’s Sammy Sanchez, and American veteran Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-QuickStep).
Five of the riders ahead, Moncoutie being the odd man out, had originally been in a big group of riders who started the day at just 1-32 behind Albasini overall and therefore represented a threat to his lead. Sanchez, together with Uran and Leipheimer, drove the hardest on the sweeping, fast descent back down to the finish. Leipheimer has a sporting score to settle with Catalonia: the American was lying second overall last year at the start of the last day before an old injury flared up and forced him to abandon.
Behind the lead group, Albasini gained some valuable temporary allies from BMC, Lampre and Garmin-Barracuda and in the streets of the finish town of Asco – best known in Spain for housing a massive nuclear power station – the six riders were reeled in by a chasing pack of a dozen, including the Swiss race leader.
Uran claimed the win, but Albasini survived a difficult day’s racing to stay ahead overall. And with each day from here until Sunday in Barcelona, the course gradually gets easier.
The final leg of tomorrow’s 207 kilometre stage from Ascó to Manresa will include a first category climb, the Alt de Montserrat. But although the climb is 10 kilometres long, there are still another 22 kilometres from there to the finish, which means on paper it will have a limited capacity to do any real damage to the general classification.
Fortunately, today there was no need for a repeat of Wednesday’s semi-cancellation of the stage because of the extremely bad weather conditions. That said, five teams (Katusha, Omega Pharma-QuickStep, Ag2r, FDJ-BigMat and Saxo Bank) had difficulties reaching the stage start in Tremp because the snow.
Their team buses and lorries remained blocked in at the ski station where they staying, but although their riders had to use team cars to make it to the start, they got there on time. The weather, which steadily improved during the day, is forecast to stay warm until Sunday’s finish in Barcelona.
Tour of Catalonia 2012, stage four: Tremp to Ascó La vostra energia, 199km
1. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Sky
2. Denis Menchov (Rus) Katusha
3. Sylvester Szmyd (Pol) Liquigas-Cannondale
4. David Moncoutie (Fra) Cofidis
5. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto-Belisol
6. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
7. Matteo Carrara (Ita) Vacansoleil-DCM
8. Dario Cataldo (Ita) Omega Pharma-QuickStep
9. Julien Simon (Fra) Saur-Sojasun
10. Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Astana all same time
Overall classification after stage four
1. Michael Albasini (Swi) GreenEdge
2. Steve Morabito (Swi) BMC Racing at 1-32
3. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto-Belisol at 1-32
4. Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Barracuda at 1-32
5. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 1-32
6. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Sky at 1-32
7. Sergio Pardilla (Spa) Movistar at 1-32
8. Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-ISD at 1-32
9. Thomas Danielson (USA) Garmin-Barracuda at 1-32
10. Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Astana at 1-32
Rigoberto Uran comes out on top in the climbers’ sprint finish
Michael Albasini doggedly holds on to the race lead
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Tour of Catalonia 2012: Stage reports
Stage three: Brajkovik wins shortened stage; Albasini remains leader
Stage two: Albasini claims second stage win
GreenEdge win again as Albasini takes Catalunya opener
Tour of Catalonia 2012: Coverage index