Chris Froome and Alejandro Valverde involved in late escape group, but race comes back together in a reduced bunch sprint
- Tejay Van Garderen maintains overall race lead
Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) won the sprint at the end of an eventful stage four of the 2017 Volta a Catalunya on Thursday.
Bouhanni took the victory after the route was shortened due to snowy weather and a selection of the general classification hopefuls had launched an ultimately unsuccessful attack in the final 10km.
The Frenchman won ahead of stage one winner Davide Cimolai (FDJ) with Darly Impey (Orica-Scott) in third.
There was no change overall, with Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) retaining the leader’s jersey, 41 seconds ahead of team-mate Samuel Sanchez. Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) sits in third spot at 44 seconds, with Chris Froome (Team Sky) in fifth at 49 seconds.
The stage was shortened from its original 194.3 kilometres after snowfall and adverse weather conditions affected the original start in Llívia, which stands at around 1,200 metres above sea level. The start was shifted 60km further on in the stage, shortening it to 136km.
After the delayed start, five riders formed an escape group: Matteo Bono (UAE Team Emirates), Juan Felipe Osorio (Manzana Postobon), Martijn Keizer (LottoNL-Jumbo), José Gonçalves (Katusha-Alpecin) and Diego Rubio (Caja Rural).
With such a short stage and with a series of climbs in the finale, the break was not allowed much in the way of a lead, and they were caught with around 20km to go.
Just prior to the catch, a crash in the bunch has disrupted the chase with around 35km to go.
After the catch, the pace was kept very high, and as the bunch hit the final testing climb of Turó del Puig a lot of riders started to get dropped. Toward the top of the climb, Romain Bardet (Ag2r) attacked with Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors) on his wheel, and Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) and Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) in pursuit.
The move was pulled back, only for Marc Soler (Movistar) to attack over the top of the climb. He was followed by team-mate Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Froome and David Gaudu (FDJ).
The quartet opened up a gap on the chasing bunch on the fast, technical descent but were caught with 4km to go.
Throughout all of this, race leader Van Garderen maintained his cool, with his BMC team-mates looking after him in the bunch.
Despite the testing final climb and subsequent frantic descent, several sprinters had managed to stay in touch with the lead group, with Bouhanni evidently in the best shape among them.
The 2017 Volta a Catalunya continues on Friday with stage five, the key climbing stage from Valls to the summit of Lo Port. The final climb rears up virtually from sea level to 1000 metres over a distance of over 20km.
It will be a day for the likes of Contador, Thomas, Froome, Martin, Valverde and Adam Yates (Orica-Scott) to make their mark before the final two stages on Saturday and Sunday.
Volta a Catalunya 2017, stage four: Montferrer to Igualada, 136km
1. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis
2. Davide Cimolai (Ita) FDJ
3. Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica-Scott
4. Alexander Edmondson (Aus) Orica-Scott
5. Dion Smith (NZl) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
6. Pieter Serry (Bel) Quick-Step Floors
7. Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
8. Petr Vakoc (Cze) Quick-Step Floors
9. José Joaquín Rojas (Esp) Movistar
10. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo, all same time
11. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar
12. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky
14. Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors
16. Alberto Contador (Esp) Trek-Segafredo
22. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky
13. Adam Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott, all same time
General classification after stage four
1. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing
2. Samuel Sanchez (Esp) BMC Racing, at 41 secs
3. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky, at 44 secs
4. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, at 45 secs
5. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky, at 49 secs
6. Marc Soler (Esp) Movistar, at 1-10
7. Alberto Contador (Esp) Trek-Segafredo, at 1-13
8. Adam Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott, at 1-18
9. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo, at 1-25
10. Jarlinson Pantano (Col) Trek-Segafredo, at 1-25