Clarke gets first pro win as Valverde loses time.21/08/2012 -
Simon Clarke took his first ever professional win in the fourth stage of the Vuelta a Espana. But the big loser was Alejandro Valverde who lost around a minute after crashing.
Simon Clarke of Orica-GreenEdge took his first ever professional win in the fourth stage of the Vuelta a Espana. He outsprinted Tony Martin having been in the breakaway all day.
A group containing Froome, Contador and Rodriguez finished a minute behind.
Alejandro Valverde was the big loser of the day after crashing in the lead up to the final climb. Meaning that Rodriguez took the red jersey by just a second.
Before the crash the stage had looked quiet. The breakaway was safe and the peloton were rolling along. But this was changed when strong cross winds wreaked havoc. Team Sky moved to the front and began to form an echelon. When a sudden gust caused a crash involving a number of Movistar riders, including race leader Alejandro Valverde.
A little controversially Sky kept the pace going at the front and gained around a minute on Valverde. The race leader gave everything to catch up on the climb. But Team Sky and Saxo Bank kept the pace strong. At one point he was within 17 seconds catching the other main leaders. But Froome, Contador, Navarro and Roche attacked forcing Valverde to sit up.
It then looked like Froome, Contador might catch the front runners. But they decided to save energy and drift back to the main group containing Rodriguez and the other leaders. Roche carried on and was joined by Ten Dam, Gerdeman and Garcia. But they were not able to catch the front two of Martin and Clarke, or Bazayev who had been dropped and came third.
Overall it was a excellent stage and Clarke deserved his first professional win in his first grand tour. The excitement will continue tomorrow, with a 168km race around a circuit in the town of Logrono in the Rioja region. It should be completely flat so a sprint finish is almost guaranteed.
Joaquim Rodriguez (KAT) 13h 18' 45"
Christopher Froome (SKY) +1"
Alberto Contador (STB) +5"
Bauke Mollema (RAB) +9"
Robert Gesink (RAB) +9"