Stage four of the Vuelta a España gave the race its fourth red jersey holder, as Colombian Darwin Atapuma (BMC) moved to the top of the general classification.

Atapuma was part of a large breakaway that stayed clear of the peloton, and in the process moved up from 14th to first position.

The Colombian follows Peter Kennaugh, Michal Kwiatkowski (both Team Sky) and Ruben Fernandez as a red jersey holder of the race so far.

Of the main contenders, however, there was little change. Despite an aggressive finish that looked almost like a bunch sprint, none of the big names could open up a gap over each other.

The general classification, then, reflects the outcome of stage three, and its tough finish on the Mirador de Ézaro climb. Chris Froome (Team Sky) rode well alongside Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), but Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) lost significant time to leave him outside of the top ten as it stands.

 

Overall classification after stage four

  1. Darwin Atapuma (Col) BMC in 13-23-10
  2. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, at 29s
  3. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky, at 33
  4. Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-BikeExchange, at 39s
  5. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, st
  6. Samuel Sanchez (Esp) BMC, at 1-08
  7. Ruben Fernandez (Esp) Movistar, at 1-11
  8. Leopold König (Cze) Team Sky, at 1-13
  9. Peter Kennaugh (GBr) Team Sky, at 1-15
  10. Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Etixx-Quick Step, at 1-23

Preview

August 20 – September 11, 2016

>>> Vuelta a España route 2016 confirmed

The 2016 Vuelta a España looks set to be the toughest Grand Tour of the year with ten new summit finishes throughout the three weeks of racing.

As with the 2015 edition the Spanish race will once again start with a team time trial, but the organisers will hope to avoid the controversy that surrounded stage one in 2015.

Opening with the TTT is to the advantage of any GC contenders who might not have the strongest team behind them as there will be 20 more stages for them to make up for any time gaps that appear on day one.

Conversely, it is also wise for anyone with overall ambitions to avoid taking the lead this early on as the mountainous route will not allow for one team to control the whole race.

It’s becoming a trend, and is particularly true of the 2016 Vuelta a España, that the Spanish race does not have much to offer the sprinters. Other than some days that will suit a breakaway or reduced bunch sprint, the final stage is the only one that will likely come down to a standard bunch sprint.



At this stage in the season, choosing the contenders is more complicated than at any other time in the year – especially when riders may have targeted a different WorldTour event in the previous months.

Tour de France winner Chris Froome is set to lead Team Sky at the Vuelta a España, but he was off the pace in the Olympic Games road race so his form will be an unknown on the start line on Saturday August 20.

Alberto Contador (Tinkoff), three time Vuelta winner, is racing his home Grand Tour after crashes and illness ended his campaign at the Tour. He’s likely to be fresher than Froome but is arguably beyond his best years. However, it would be foolhardy to write-off the 33-year-old’s chances at La Vuelta.

The third big name contender is Nairo Quintana (Movistar). Third at the Tour de France was below expectations for the Colombian so he should be on the attach in Spain as he looks for his first Grand Tour win since the 2014 Giro d’Italia.

Four of the contenders for the 2016 Vuelta a España: Contador, Froome, Quintana and Kruijswijk

Four of the contenders for the 2016 Vuelta a España: Contador, Froome, Quintana and Kruijswijk

Others who will be competing for the win are Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) – looking to bounce back after his disastrous crash in the Giro, Esteban Chaves – who gained two stage wins at the 2015 Vuelta, and his Orica-BikeExchange teammate Simon Yates – whose twin brother Adam was a breakthrough success at the Tour.

If the last few years are anything to go by, whatever riders’ reasoning for taking the start line in Laias do Miño on August 20, this will still be a fan favourite.


Key info: 2016 Vuelta route | Start list | Contenders | Live TV guide | Vuelta videos | Brits in the Tours

Previous editions: 2015 Vuelta | 2014 Vuelta


Joaquin Rodriguez, Fabio Aru and Rafal Majka on the podium after the final stage of the 2015 Vuelta Espana. Photo: Graham Watson

Joaquin Rodriguez, Fabio Aru and Rafal Majka on the podium after the final stage of the 2015 Vuelta Espana. Photo: Graham Watson

2015 Vuelta a España final GC top ten

1. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana in 85-36-13
2. Joaquim Rodriguez (Esp) Katusha at 57s
3. Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo at 1-09
4. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 1-42
5. Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-GreenEdge at 3-10
6. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Giant-Alpecin at 3-46
7. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar at 6-47
8. Mikel Nieve (Esp) Team Sky at 7-06
9. Daniel Moreno (Esp) Katusha at 7-12
10. Louis Meintjes (RSA) MTN-Qhubeka at 10-26

Vuelta a España: past five winners

2015 Fabio Aru (Astana)
2014 Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo)
2013 Chris Horner (Radioshack)
2012 Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff)
2011 Juan Jose Cobo (Geox-TMC Transformers)