Simon Yates finishes with the leaders on stage four of the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco

Fri 8 Apr 2016

The best young rider of the 2015 Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco, Simon Yates finished in 12th place for ORICA-GreenEDGE on stage four after staying with the leaders over the final climbs and contesting the push to the finish in Orio.

Yates has steadily moved up the general classification and now sits in 21st place, 51seconds down on new race leader Wilco Kelderman (LottoNl-Jumbo) going into the tomorrows Queen stage.

Brother Adam Yates finished only a few seconds behind the front group after supporting Simon over the final climbs. Stage four was won by Samuel Sanchez (BMC) after a late solo attack in the last two kilometres of the race.

Sport director Neil Stephens was happy with how the team performed.

“We had a good day today,” said Stephens. “The team did well to protect and support Adam and Simon (Yates) until we got into the serious climbing and of course Simon did great work to get into the lead group and stay there until the finish.”

“The traction on the last climb was horrific, every rider seemed to be having problems with their back wheel on the wet tarmac.

“Simon has been getting stronger each day. He climbed really well today and with the Queen Stage coming up tomorrow we might be able to shake things up a little. Once again our work rate and attitude were excellent, it’s great to see the boys performing at a good level day in day out.”

How it happened:

A fast and aggressive start to stage four of the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco saw two or three escape attempts before a group of thirteen riders formed the early breakaway in the first few kilometres of the race.

ORICA-GreenEDGE were represented in the group by Spanish veteran Ruben Plaza as they developed an advantage of over two minutes and stayed clear for around 60kilometres before being brought back by the fast moving peloton.

After 80kilometres of racing a second breakaway of six riders broke clear of the main bunch and built up a lead of three minutes going into the final climbs of the day. With 40kilometres remaining the six escapees were two minutes ahead of the main field with Team-Sky leading the chase for race leader Mikel Landa.

The six-rider group included Carlos Verona (Etixx-Quickstep) and Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal), whose repeated attacks on the Puerto Garate climb saw the group reduced to four members with under 35kilometres to go. After the following descent, the two dropped riders had once again made contact with the head of the race and as the leaders passed through the finish town of Orio on the coast of the Basque country their lead had returned to over two minutes.

Team-Sky were now joined by FDJ and Tinkoff on the front of the peloton looking to increase the speed of the pursuit on the flat roads of Orio before the race turned back towards the climbs. With two ascents of the Muro de Aia, otherwise known as the Alto de Aia, coming in the final 20kilometres the peloton were intent on reclaiming the escapees whilst they remained within reach.

Tentative attacks began to form as the leaders hit the Muro de Aia. With an average gradient of 12.8% and a maximum of 28% the peloton split completely on the slopes of the short but brutal climb. Race leader Mikel Landa (Team-Sky) struggled to deal with the attacks from Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and lost contact with the leading chasers.

Verona was first over the Aia and flew into the descent alone to build up a lead of 15seconds on the field. Behind, Wellens was taking up the chase with a group around twenty riders only a few seconds back. The group included Simon Yates for ORICA-GreenEDGE and with only five kilometres to go Verona and Wellens were caught.

Contador attacked instantly, trying to take advantage of the slight incline up to the finish, the move splintered the bunch once more.

With less than two kilometres left to race there were three packs of riders chasing towards the line as Sanchez made a solo attack from the left and gained a slim advantage. The group of Yates, Contador and Quintana were chasing hard behind Sergio Henao (Team-Sky) and Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) but could not make contact with Sanchez who crossed the line in first place.

Tomorrow's Queen stage is the big mountain stage of the 2016 race and covers 159kilometres from Orio to Arrate.

Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco stage 4 results:

1. Samuel Sanchez (BMC) 4:13:12
2. Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) ST
3. Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin) ST
12. Simon Yates (ORICA-GreenEDGE) ST 

General classification after stage 4:

1. Wilco Kelderman (LottoNl-Jumbo) 17:52:48
2. Sergio Luis Henao (Team-Sky) 0:00:04
3. Mikel Landa (Team-Sky) 0:00:07
21. Simon Yates (ORICA-GreenEDGE) 0:00:51