Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) won the fourth stage of the Tirreno-Adriatico, but could not quite gain enough time to take the leader’s jersey from Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-QuickStep).
Contador edged out Nairo Quintana (Movistar) in the sprint, but a group of favourites – featuring the likes of Richie Porte (Sky) and Kwiatkowski – finished only a handful of seconds behind.
It was Tinkoff-Saxo who animated the final climb, with Roman Kreuziger joining Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani) and Benat Intxausti (Movistar) on the lower slopes, before setting a relentless pace and dropping them both.
His lead was slashed however when Contador, Quintana, Robert Kiserlovski (Trek) and Michele Scarponi (Astana) all attacked from the peloton. With this new group approaching, Kreuziger made the unusual move of slowing down and apparently waiting for his teammate, and, when everything came together with a Porte-led peloton swallowing both Kreuziger and Contador’s group, it looked as though Tinkoff had wasted a brilliant opportunity.
But when the road steepened as the finish line neared, it was Contador who proved he has the best legs. Perhaps his only regret will be that he failed to gain more time, as he still has 16 seconds to gain on Kwiatkowski to usurp him as leader. Quintana and Porte, meanwhile, move up to third and fourth respectively.
Earlier in the day, a break of six formed featuring Lloyd Mondory (Ag2r La Mondiale), Alexey Lutsenko (Astana), Matthias Brandle (IAM Cycling), Maxim Belkov (Katusha), Filippo Fortin (Bardiani-CSF) and Alexandre Pichot (Europcar). One by one this group whittled down on the day’s lumpy parcours, with Mondory’s crash on a descent around 30kms out leaving just Lutesnko and Brandle out front alone. This pair was inevitably caught shortly before Kreuziger’s attack.
Battle will commence in tomorrow’s stage, which features another two difficult climbs within the final 40 kilometres.
Tirreno-Adriatico 2014, stage four: Indicatore (Arezzo) to Cittareale (Selva Rotonda), 244km
1. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo in 6-39-56
2. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 1 sec
3. Daniel Fernandez (Spa) Katusha at 5 secs
4. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff-Saxo
5. Richie Porte (Aus) Team Sky at same time
6. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Astana at 8 secs
7. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 10 secs
8. Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Trek Factory Racing at 11 secs
9. Chris Horner (USA) Lampre-Merida at same time
10. Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Katusha at 17 secs
Overall classification after stage four
1. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-QuickStep
2. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo at 16 secs
3. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 23 secs
4. Richie Porte (Aus) Team Sky at 34 secs
5. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 38 secs
6. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff-Saxo at 39 secs
7. Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Trek Factory Racing at 49 secs
8. Moreno Moser (Ita) Cannondale at 1-01
9. Mikel Nieve (Spa) Sky at 1-02
10. Julian Arredondo (Col) Trek Factory Racing at 1-03
Mark Cavendish out of the action as Marcel Kittel crashes in final two kilometres of stage two