Colombian Nairo Quintana (Movistar) staked his claim on the 2016 Volta a Catalunya, placing second on the ‘queen’ mountain stage to Port Ainé behind stage winner Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) to take the overall lead.
De Gendt took a solo victory after spending the day in the break, and managed to hold off the group of overall contenders behind him. It’s De Gendt’s first victory since he won a stage in the same race in 2013.
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Quintana finished one minute and eight seconds behind De Gendt after he had attacked the chasing group of favourites. Defending champion Richie Porte (BMC) just pipped Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) to take third place on the stage.
Quintana now leads Contador by eight seconds overall, with Porte in third at 17 seconds.
Team Sky leader Chris Froome finished in eighth spot at the same time as overnight leader and stage three winner Daniel Martin (Etixx-QuickStep). Unlike the previous day’s stage, Sky riders were noticeably absent in the day’s finale. Froome had said prior to the stage that he was still ‘finding his legs’ in his first major race in Europe this season.
Froome now sits in eighth place overall, one place ahead of 21-year-old British rider Hugh Carthy (Caja Rural) who has made an solid impression on the race’s mountain stages.
Geraint Thomas (Sky) finished 74th on the stage, 14-33 behind De Gendt and is 53rd overall.
With the race’s high mountain stages now completed, the opportunities for riders with general classification aspirations to gain time is significantly reduced. However, Friday’s stage five from Rialp to Valls includes the second-category climb and descent of Alt de Lilla within the final 10km, perhaps offering a springboard for an attack.
The 2016 Volta a Catalunya concludes on Sunday, March 27, in Barcelona.
Volta a Catalunya 2016, stage four: Bagà to Port Ainé, 172km
1. Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto-Soudal in 4-52-04
2. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 1-08
3. Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing at 1-23
4. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff at same time
5. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing at 1-36
6. Pieter Weening (Ned) Roompot Oranje Peloton at same time
7. Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha at 1-41
8. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky at 1-45
9. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r at same time
10. Daniel Martin (Irl) Etixx-QuickStep at same time
General classification after stage four
1. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar in 19-01-43
2. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff at 8 secs
3. Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing at 17 secs
4. Daniel Martin (Irl) Etixx-QuickStep at 24 secs
5. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing at 27 secs
6. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r at 32 secs
7. Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha at 42 secs
8. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky at 46 secs
9. Hugh Carthy (GBr) Caja Rural at 1-01
10. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Cannondale Pro Cycling at 1-16