Stefan Küng’s time trial prowess saw him assume the overall lead at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, winning the penultimate stage four ahead of tomorrow’s run-in to Valencia.
The Swiss rider finished the 14.3km-long course nearly 11 seconds faster than second-place Nelson Oliveira (Movistar), with Arkéa-Samsic’s Thibault Guernalec rounding out the podium places, a further 28 seconds adrift.
The drama of the day, however, came in the final kilometre of the last rider left out on the course.
Movistar’s Enric Mas started the stage with a 38-second buffer over Küng, and at the intermediate time check was just 19 seconds down on the time trial specialist, meaning it would be touch and go as to who would be in the leader’s jersey at the end of the day.
Disaster then struck for Mas inside the final kilometre as the Spanish rider punctured, and with little time or road left for a wheel change to make a difference, he came across the line in 15th place, having lost 1-27, now in third overall and 36 seconds down on Küng.
TV cameras picked up Mas expressing his frustration, slamming his helmet on the floor before kicking his team car.
Küng now leads Oliveira by six seconds with just the 91.2km stage to Valencia remaining.
Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana 2021, stage four: Xilxes to Playa Almenara ITT (14.3km)
1. Stefan Küng (Sui) Groupama-FDJ, in 16-12
2. Nelson Oliveira (Por) Movistar, at 11 seconds
3. Thibault Guernalec (Fra) Arkéa-Samsic, at 39s
4. Miles Scotson (Aus) Groupama-FDJ, at 41s
5. Arnaud Démare (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 1-03
6. Matis Louvel (Fra) Arkéa-Samsic, 1-08
7. Sebastián Mora (Esp) Movistar, 1-09
8. Alan Riou (Fra) Arkéa-Samsic, at 1-12
9. Xabier Mikel Azparren (Esp) Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 1-13
10. Diego Lopez (Esp) Equipo Kern Pharma, at 1-14
General classification after stage four
1. Stefan Küng (Sui) Groupama-FDJ, in 12-53-26
2. Nelson Oliveira (Por) Movistar, at six seconds
3. Enric Mas (Esp) Movistar, at 35s
4. Victor Lafay (Fra) Cofidis, at 45s
5. Élie Gesbert (Fra) Arkéa-Samsic, at 1-00
6. Luis Ángel Maté (Esp) Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 1-36
7. Rémy Mertz (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB, at 1-53
8. Rémy Rochas (Fra) Cofidis, 2-03
9. Miles Scotson (Aus) Groupama-FDJ, at 2-26
10. Matis Louvel (Fra) Arkéa-Samsic, at 2-42