Froome climbs to second
Day of drama as Rodriguez takes control
Last Updated: August 21, 2012 6:43pm
Froome and Contador mark each other closely
Team Sky’s Chris Froome moved up to second place at the Vuelta a Espana after another day of high drama in northern Spain.
The Olympic bronze medallist matched biggest rival Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff) blow for blow on the final climb up to the Estación de Valdezcaray, and the duo were both part of a sizeable group which crossed the line 1min 04sec down on Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEdge), who had outsprinted breakaway accomplice Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) to take the stage win.
Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) was also in that group of favourites, and took control of the red jersey with a one-second advantage over Froome.
Contador sits four seconds further adrift in third, but the day’s big loser was overnight leader Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), who got caught up in a crash 29km from home and eventually crossing the line 55 seconds down on the group containing Rodriguez, Contador and Froome.
The fourth stage had begun predictably enough with Clarke and Martin forming part of a five-man break that moved clear almost as soon as the start flag had been lowered.
The peloton initially seemed happy enough to let them go, and their lead had stretched to over 13 minutes before Team Sky decided to step up the chase 30km from home.
It was around that time that the crosswinds began to whip up, and when Froome’s team put the hammer down on the front, the ramifications behind caused a large tumble which involved Valverde and several of his team-mates.
With Team Sky, BMC and RadioShack having no choice but to press on if they were going to catch the break, the peloton was split into pieces behind, with several echelons fanning right across the road.
Those groups would merge into three as they began the final climb of the day, but by that time it was becoming clear that the breakaway were going to have their day in the sun.
As the road ramped up, Clarke and Martin made their move and instantly shed their rivals as they pressed on towards the summit. The duo remained clear as they sprinted it out for the line, with Clarke ultimately edging the German by a two-second margin.
The real drama was taking place behind though, and Froome and Contador were still a minute clear of Valverde as they began the 13km drag to the summit.
Marking each other closely, the duo temporarily moved clear with Nicolas Roche (AG2R) before being hauled back in the final 2km by a group of 22 riders including the industrious Rodríguez.
From then on the pack stayed together, with Froome eventually crossing the line in 14th place, and on the same time as Contador. Valverde trailed home less than a minute adrift, but those losses saw him drop to ninth place in the overall standings.