Vuelta Travelogue - Quintessential Spain
Stage 4, August 29th, Cuidad Real to Argamasilla, 232.3 km
Stage 4 from Cuidad Real to Argamasilla de Alba is completely flat, but the region is notorious for the winds immortalized in La Mancha . The race will pass many towns mentioned in Cervantes's novel. Every time the race traverses this area we are treated to one of the great spectacles of cycle racing as the bunch is torn apart by the wind and a series of bordures (echelons in the peloton) form right across the width of the road. For the weaker riders, especially those tailed off, their sleek 21st century wheeled-steeds must feel more like Quixote's poor old bony horse Rocinantes . Based on what we have seen in recent years, Team CSC will be in the leading bordure, wreaking coordinated havoc on the field.
Chasing the glory of the day an early breakaway of 4 riders threw caution to the wind and escaped the peloton. They opened an 11'30” lead through the last intermediate sprint before the bunch took notice. Virtual race leader “on the road” Sebastien Joly peaked he curiosity of the peloton and the gap began to fall with 103 km to race.
Breakaway (L to R) Frederic Finot, Chrisophe Edaleine, Leon Van Bon, Sebastien Joly ( Image © Unipublic ).
A soft tailwind helped the chasing pack as the time gap continued to fall. Through Villarrobledo with 50 km to go the breakaway saw their advantage fall to 1'28”. The bunch was riding very fast and teams were positioning their leaders at the front of the peloton. Manolo Saiz's Liberty Seguros team drove the pace trying to split the field, but the lighter than expected winds didn't help Liberty 's effort.
everal small attacks gained a few seconds and with 10 km to go Fassa Bortolo started the “Blue Train” for Alessandro Petacchi. Under the 1 km banner Fassa battled with Lotto and Quick Step for position. Petacchi's last lead-out man Marco Velo pulled off with a long way to the line. Tom Steele, Thor Hushovd led Tom Boonen past Petacchi, but the power of the Italian sprinter drove back past all for the stage win. Hushovd and Erik Zabel were 2 nd and 3 rd respectively in a very close finish. Brad McGee held onto the Golden Jersey.
Stage winner Petacchi Stage Win #2 ( Image © Unipublic )
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