Miguel Ángel López (Astana Qazaqstan) timed his counter-attack against Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) perfectly to secure the win on the fourth stage of the Tour of the Alps.
Pinot sat in a breakaway group for much of the race, but with 10km to go he launched an attack that proved too strong for the front riders to match. The Frenchman built up a gap of over a minute to the peloton, where López was, but the Colombian executed his acceleration from the main group perfectly with less than 4km left in the race.
With Pinot desperately hanging on at the front, López comfortably passed him heading into the final kilometre, managing to take victory by seven seconds. Pinot came second, while Romain Bardet (Team DSM) finished third, scoring four bonus points to put him just two seconds behind GC leader Pello Bilbao (Bahrain-Victorious) going into the final day.
HOW IT HAPPENED
The Tour of the Alps heads into Austria for the fourth day, with a 142.4km race to the imposing Grossglockner mountain.
Despite being categorised as the easiest stage, the fourth is the only which features a summit finish. This summit finish could prove crucial in deciding the race, with the ascent to Kals am Grossglockner the most difficult in the opening 3km, averaging around 9%.
Following a flat section after this first climb, the riders will face another 3km at 6% gradient. Due to its proximity to the finish, this presented a perfect opportunity for riders to make a move, with the final 2.5km of the stage largely a false flat.
Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe) came into the third stage full of confidence after his powerful attack yesterday, but it is Pello Bilbao (Bahrain-Victorious) wearing the leader's jersey. The Spaniard maintained his six second gap over Romain Bardet (Team DSM) in the GC, thanks in part to some well-executed Bahrain-Victorious tactics over the opening three days.
The opening 40km of the race passed without incident, but Bilbao and Bardet, among others, were involved in a minor crash in the peloton at the 100km to go mark. Fortunately, it seemed all riders were able to recover, and the two front runners managed to get back on their bikes relatively comfortably.
Close to halfway in the race, 12 riders attacked, which included Ben Swift (Ineos Grenadiers) and Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ). The breakaway group worked together to create a gap between themselves and the peloton, with the time gap rising to around two minutes.
With 12km left, Omer Goldstein (Israel-Premier Tech) accelerated from the leading riders, with Jonathan Klever Caicedo (EF Education-EasyPost) the only rider choosing to join him. This quickly changed though, with Pinot comfortably bridging across to the pair, before swiftly accelerating past them.
Caicedo dropped back to the main breakaway group, though Goldstein attempted to stick with Pinot. The Israeli rider struggled to hold on for longer than a kilometre as well, and Pinot built a gap of 25 seconds to the breakaway group heading into the final 7km. The main peloton sat a further 45 seconds further back from that, but Ineos Grenadiers started to shift through the gears to reduce the deficit and gain ground on the front of the race.
With Ben Swift and Andrey Amador (Ineos Grenadiers) pulling the peloton in, thye quickly caught the breakaway. With 5km left, the gap stood at 35 seconds on the steep Grossglockner climb.
Pinot continued to grit his teeth at the front, powering up the ascent as he attempted to win his first race since the 2019 Tour de France. Meanwhile, with 3.5km left, Miguel Ángel López (Astana Qazaqstan) accelerated in the peloton, stretching the group out as the Colombian saw an opportunity to catch Pinot.
López's decision worked perfectly, gaining considerably on the Frenchman to bring the time down to seven seconds with 1.5km to go. Pavel Sivakov (Ineos Grenadiers) launched an attack himself too, but without the same efficiency achieved by López.
With 1km to go, López caught Pinot and simply powered past him. Unfortunately for the Groupama-FDJ man he couldn't match the same tempo produced by López, as he won the fourth stage thanks to a perfectly timed attack from the peloton.
Pinot came home in second, while Bardet finished third to gain invaluable bonus seconds. The gap between himself and Bilbao at the front of the race now stands at two seconds, with Bilbao leading going into the final day.
TOUR OF THE ALPS, STAGE FOUR: VILLABASSA TO KALS AM GROSSGLOCKNER (142.4KM)
1. Miguel Ángel López (Col) Astana Qazaqstan, in 3-29-04
2. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 7s
3. Romain Bardet (Fra) Team DSM), at 15s
4. Pello Bilbao (Spa) Bahrain-Victorious
5. Felix Gall (Aut) AG2R Citroën
6. Sean Quinn (USA) EF Education-EasyPost
7. Santiago Buitrago (Col) Bahrain-Victorious
8. Mikel Landa (Spa) Bahrain-Victorious
9.Thymen Arensman (Ned) Team DSM
10. Attila Valter (Hun) Groupama-FDJ
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE FOUR
1. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Bahrain-Victorious, in 15-41-27
2. Romain Bardet (Fra) Team DSM, at 2s
3. Attila Valter (Hun) Groupama-FDJ, at 12s
4. Felix Gall (Aut) AG2R Citroën Team, at 16s
5. Pavel Sivakov (Fra) Ineos Grenadiers
6. Einer Augusto Rubio (Col) Movistar
7. Thymen Arensman (Ned) Team DSM
8. Santiago Buitrago (Col) Bahrain-Victorious
9. Richie Porte (Aus) Ineos Grenadiers
10. Michael Storer (Aus) Groupama-FDJ, all at same time
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