The Caisse d?Epargne team celebrated a double success on Saturday, with Spain?s Joaquin Rodriguez winning the fourth stage at Tirreno-Adriatico and taking the race lead, an hour after team mate Luis Leon Sanchez did the same at Paris-Nice.
Rodriguez won on the same steep finish in last year?s Tirreno-Adriatico and again accelerated away alone on the steepest section of the climb that has recently been twinned with the Mur de Huy in Belgium that characterises Fleche-Wallonne.
The climb is only 1.75km long but starts with an opening section at 12.3%, then eases slightly in the middle before a final 800 metres at a leg breaking 17.4%.
Rodriguez jumped away from a front group 500 metres from the line. He had the power to go clear and hold a gap all the way to the line.
Rodriguez finished a six seconds ahead of Davide Rebellin (Diquigiovanni), with Thomas Lovkvist (Columbia) third at ten seconds.
Thanks to a ten-second time bonus, Rodriguez also snatched the overall race lead from stage one winner Julien el Fares (Cofidis). He is now second at six seconds, with Rebellin third.
The Mur of Montelupone was climbed twice in the last 15km of the race and left riders gasping for breath and in terrible pain despite using gears as low as 36×27. Dan Lloyd (Cervelo) was the best British rider. He was with the leaders until half way up the climb and finished finishing 28th at 1-16. Mark Cavendish (Columbia) was 122nd at 12-31 but finished ahead of many of his sprint rivals. The rest of the 200 rider peloton was spread over 17 minutes, with Andoni Lafuente (Euskaltel) last to the top.
Sunday?s 30km time trial is expected to decide the overall classification of the weeklong stage race, with Lovkvist now favourite for success.
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