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25/08/15 - 11:30
Estepona - Vejer de la Frontera
Vuelta a España • Stage4

Estepona - Vejer de la Frontera

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No change at the top of the standings with Esteban Chaves leading Tom Dumoulin by five seconds, but third place Roche cut his deficit to 12 seconds after taking back three seconds at the finish today.


So Alejandro Valverde took the win ahead of Peter Sagan, with Dani Moreno pipping Nico Roche for third place. Jose Goncalves completed the top five for Caja Rural.


Valverde sweeps past with Sagan on his wheel - but there isn't enough road left and the win goes to the Spanish veteran!


Roche drops Sanchez but the others are coming...


There's a zippy downhill ahead of this final ramp to the line...


Under the flamme rouge and it's still Roche and Sanchez who hold the advantage - they may contest the win.


This duo pass Bilbao and have a small gap of 20m.


Sammy Sanchez attacks for BMC! Roche is chasing him down for Sky.


It kicks up again under the 2km-to-go banner. Rodriguez and Sagan are still there, poised, as is Valverde, Sanchez and Roche, plus Chaves and Majka.


There's a but of respite after a tight u-bend that gives onto a cobbled section as the road flattens out. Bilbao has still not been caught.


Nico Roche is near the front, as is Majka and the red jersey Chaves. Bilbao is about to be caught.


It's Pello Bilbao for Caja Rural - he's struggling something rotten, but has a small gap. Very small, mind. And he'll soon be caught. Losada leads the chase for Katusha.


Van der Sande is caught and passed by a Caja Rural rider. He's hit the wall. Katusha lead the chase. It's very steep this ramp. Sagan is only 10 back in the pack, Valverde is there too.


There's a Cofidis rider out ahead - maybe Tosh van der Sande.


Giant-Shimano lead the pack onto the climb after a tight right-hander.


The final climb to the finish is imminent - prepare for the fireworks...


Perhaps Pozzovivo is feeling up to it today? Ag2R-La Mondiale are right there in the wheels of Tinkoff. Sky, Katusha and Trek are also poised, but Astana are all over the place.


The pace is really high now - up to 70kmph - as Sky come to the front alongside Tinkoff and Ag2R-La Mondiale.


It's all over for the remaining two escapees, who are swallowed up by the pack.


Irizar and Engoulvent have less than 20 seconds now as Tinkoff-Saxo continue the chase. Sagan must be feeling up for this one.


Irizar and Engoulvent share the pacing duties from the break - they have 30 seconds on the pack and are motoring along despite the near certainty of their imminent demise. It's going to get quite feisty soon with the climb coming around 4km from the finish. Every team will want to be on the front.


But now Talansky is on the side of the road - he has a problem with his bike, as does King, and they stop for a change.


The Cannondale-Garmin rider who went down heavily in that fall was Ben King and not Talansky. He's currently riding in the Van Garderen chasing group, which is about to latch onto the back of the peloton.


Veterans Engoulvent and Irizar are the last men standing in the break after the four others call it a day. They have 25 seconds on the pack, which has eased up a little. The chasing group containing Van Garderen is a further 30 seconds back.


Tinkoff-Saxo are now driving a fast pace, reducing ther gap to 30 seconds. Van Garderen is a minute back - either that, or a second pack of riders is a minute back. It's unclear right now.


Yes, Van Garderen came down - he has cuts to his knee and elbow as he rides back with the help of three BMC team-mates.


BMC's Tejay Van Garderen has been caught up in that crash, although it's unclear if he went down or not. Tinkoff-Saxo have taken their foot off the gas a little as a result. Even so, the gap has come down to 45 seconds for the leaders.


CRASH: Half a dozen riders hit the deck on a narrow exit to a sweeping roundabout. It looks like one Cannondale-Garmin rider overcooked it and clipped a spectator - perhaps Andrew Talansky.


So many pinch points and encroaching kerbs and road furniture today - which may explain the jostling for positions in the peloton. The six leaders - Mickael Delage (FDJ), Bert Jan Lindeman (LottoNL-Jumbo), Nikolas Maes (Etixx-Quick Step), Jimmy Engoulvent (Europcar), Kristijan Durasek (Lampre-Merida) and Markel Irizar (Trek) - have 1:10 over the pack. It's a matter of when, not if. My prediction is with 23km remaining.


Now Movistar have taken up the reins on the front. It's a big day for the GC boys - the climb at the end is not very long but many riders will be caught out, especially if they're behind a load of slow riders when the road narrows and then bottlenecks at that tight hairpin.


There's a fair bit of scrapping going on in the break now that they know the game's up.


Here's some more info on the finish - which peaks out at 18% with around 4km remaining.


Sky and Astana have edged to the front of the peloton now as the pace increased dramatically. The gap is down to just 2:40 for the six leaders with the peloton hurtling on a quite some tempo. Not all the Sky riders are there, however - Nico Roche, currently third on GC, is on the back of the pack. The Irishman must have been back with the team car.


Katusha have now upped the tempo on the front for their man Joaquim Rodriguez. News filtering through today that the Russian team is favourite to sign Astana's Rein Taaramae, the winner of the Arctic Race of Norway.


The lead of the six escapees is down to 3:45 as the peloton crests the top of the bridge. Tinkoff-Saxo are still setting the pace. It looks like this bridge has not yet been finished - there's still scaffolding up and the road is incomplete on the other side.


CRASH: Leonardo Duque (Team Colombia) comes down after clipping his wheel on a barrier ahead of a bridge. He wasn't going too fast but he has dropped a load of water bottles he was taking back to his team-mates. Duque's shorts are torn and he'll need a bike change on the bridge into Cadiz.


The final rider in this break is Belgian Nikolas Maes (Etixx-QuickStep) who has become something of a Vuelta specialists: four of the 29-year-old's five Grand Tours have been the Vuelta. He's yet to get a win, fifth place in 2011 being his best stage finish, but he took a victory in the 2009 Vuelta a Burgos, as well as overall in the 2013 World Ports Classic.


Croatian Kristijan Durasek (Lampre-Merida) is making his debut in the Vuelta. The 28-year-old won the Tour of Turkey in May and picked up a stage on the Tour de Suisse in June, so he's in good nick.


Also in this break is Dutchman Bert-Jan Lindeman, who is riding his second Vuelta after finishing 143rd in his debut back in 2012. The 26-year-old LottoNL-Jumbo rider has had a quiet season, his best results coming with second place in the Ronde van Drenth and third in stage four of the Tour of Romandie.


The lead continues to tumble just as the sun continues to burn bright in a cloudless blue sky. 6:10 is the latest gap for the six escapees.


This video posted by IAM Cycling shows just how hard the final few kilometres of today's stage are - check out the punchy ramp, narrow road and tight hairpin bend... It's worth adding that that doesn't appear to be the finish line, but the 2km to go banner, so there's still some more. If you ask me, it looks way to technical for a bunched peloton.


One thing's certain: there will be no change in the polka dot jersey standings today because there are no categorised climbs. Spaniard Omar Fraile (Caja Rural) currently leads the KOM standings after taking maximum points over yesterday's third and first category climbs. Fraile is on 13pts with Colombian Walter Pedraza and Eritrean Natnael Berhane both on 7pts.


Jempy Drucker (BMC): "For us, things couldn't have started any better with our victory in the team time trail. Yesterday there was a chance to take in the sprint and I tried to seize it. Unfortunately I started my sprint from too far. I was like in the 20th or 25th position. I'm happy in these circumstances to finish 4th behind the three great sprinters in this Vuelta. It's up to me to try to sneak in between now. I've just seen the video and today's finale is much too hard for me. I'm going to work to protect our leaders. It'll be much better tomorrow."


Christian Guiberteau (Giant Alpecin DS): "The finale is a little hard for John Degenkolb especially in the last 500 metres at 9%. We tell ourselves that it will be much better today. The team has a few worries. Waeyens crashed and Stamsnijder is sick. We're not going to work too hard. It's not up to us to do it. But maybe Tom Dumoulin can have a card to play today."


Dominique Rollin (Cofidis): "Nacer (Bouhanni) is very motivated but he suffers from the back after his crash yesterday. I couldn't help him in the finale yesterday because I punctured 6 km from the line. But we'll try again tomorrow hoping to snatch one. Today it's too hard."


Many people are expecting Sagan to nab a second successive stage win today but it's a hard one to predict because of that punchy climb before the finish. The official website of La Vuelta spoke to a number of riders and directeurs sportifs ahead of the start this morning, starting with Dominique Arnould (Europcar team DS): "It's a finish for punchers and Cyril Gautier is our man even if I believe like many others that it's a stage for Sagan." Gautier, of course, is leaving Europcar for Ag2R-La Mondiale at the end of the season, what with the uncertainty surrounding Jean-Rene Bernaudeau's team still there.


The gap has now come under the seven-minute mark. There are two Frenchman in this lead group, Mickael Delage (FDJ) and Jimmy Engoulvent (Europcar). Delage, 30, is making his fifth appearance in the Vuelta and is still searching for a maiden major career win. Veteran Engoulvent, 35, is riding his second consecutive Vuelta and had 15 pro wins to his name, the biggest of which coming in the Vuelta a Andalucia in 2011, not to forget his four scalps in the 4 Days of Dunkerque.


The advantage of the break at the feedzone is 7:35 as the Tinkoff-Saxo team-mates of Peter Sagan come to the front of the pack to help lead the chase. Sagan is level on points (25 each) with Chaves in the points standings but wears the green jersey by virtue of the Colombian being in red. Behind them lurks both Nacer Bouhanni and Tom Dumoulin on 20 points.


It's worth mentioning that the maximum lead of the break so far today has been 13:30 - after just 30km of racing - but the Orica-GreenEdge team-mates of Chaves worked on the front of the pack to reduce the deficit.


Trek's Basque veteran Markel Irizar is the best placed rider on GC in this break - a large 7min 23sec down on the race leader Esteban Chaves of Orica-GreenEdge, who holds an overnight lead of 5sec over Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) and 10sec over Nico Roche (Team Sky). That makes Irizar the virtual red jersey on the road - although it will be a surprise if this break maintains that advantage, let alone holds on.


We pick up the race with 115km kilometres remaining and that six-man group has a lead of 8:40 over the peloton, which includes all the leaders of each jersey competition.


An early break formed featuring six riders: Mickael Delage (FDJ), Bert Jan Lindeman (LottoNL-Jumbo), Nikolas Maes (Etixx-Quick Step), Jimmy Engoulvent (Europcar), Kristijan Durasek (Lampre-Merida) and Markel Irizar (Trek).


191 riders took to the start when the riders rolled out of sunny Estepona early this afternoon.


Hola and welcome to live coverage of stage 4 of the Vuelta a Espana - a long 210km slog from Estepona to Vejer de la Frontera which is largely pan flat but features a nasty kicker just ahead of the finish.