Jack Haig beat race leader Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) and Mikel Landa (Bahrain-McLaren) in a sprint finish to take victory on the queen stage of the Ruta del Sol.
The Mitchelton-Scott rider crested the summit of the category one Alto del Purche, which reached gradients of over 10 per cent, alongside Fuglsang and Landa, before biding his time and proving to have the freshest legs of the trio in the finishing straight.
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After missing turns on the 20km descent, Landa finally attacked and opened up his sprint coming out of the roundabout in final kilometre. Fuglsang then came past the Bahrain-McLaren rider before Haig pulled clear to take the stage victory.
Fuglsang, who finished second ahead of Landa, retains his race lead with just the individual time trial on stage five remaining. The Dane leads his Spanish rival by 14 seconds.
The young American Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) finished fourth ahead of Ion Izagirre (Astana) a few seconds later after the pair were dislodged in the final few hundred metres of climbing.
Haig has now put the disastrous finish of stage three behind him, where he and Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-McLaren) went wide on the corner onto the finishing straight, allowing Fuglsang to come through and snatch victory. Teuns failed to take retribution in the same way Haig did as he finished in sixth, leading a large group over the finish line.
The stage race concludes tomorrow with a 13km individual time trial around Mijas.
How it happened
The 125km route of stage four featured a couple of category three climbs on the way from Villanueva Mesia to Granada, but the main action of the day would take place on the first category Alto del Purche. The 8.8km climb had an average gradient of 7.8 per cent, with the opening section reaching 10.7 per cent in places.
A number of familiar faces found themselves in the break for the second day in a row. Jumbo-Visma’s Lennard Hofstede, Silvan Dillier (Ag2r La Mondiale) and James Shaw (Riwal Readynez). With 45km to go the gap was hovering around the one minute mark as Bahrain-McLaren turned the pace up at the front of the peloton.
On the approach to Alto del Purche, Vuelta a España stage winner Ángel Madrazo (Burgos-BH) was the only man in the break left out front, with his gap at 20 seconds with 28km remaining.
The already reduced peloton began to split apart on the opening slopes of the climb, with Teuns dropping to the back as his Bahrain-McLaren team-mate Matej Mohorič pulled off the front, his work done for the day.
Mikel Landa, Jakob Fuglsang and Jack Haig were all looking very fresh, tucked in the front of the group, with the Dane launching an attack halfway up the climb. A group of five led by Landa began chasing him down and within a kilometre Fuglsang was brought back into the fold.
Movistar’s Marc Soler made it back into the group that also contained Brandon McNulty, Ion Izagirre, and Jack Haig, with Fuglsang and Landa arguing at the front over workloads, the Spaniard not willing to help out the race leader after leading the effort to bring him back down the road.
Izagirre offered some respite for Fuglsang with 22km to go as he took over on the front, but a kilometre later he was dropped, with Soler having already fallen back.
McNulty was the next to stretch his legs, with Landa seeming content to let the young American up the road, but Fuglsang took charge and dragged the group back up to the UAE Team Emirates rider.
As Izagirre got himself back onto the group, McNulty attacked again on the slight downhill before the final kick up to the summit, but Fuglsang chased him down once more. Jack Haig finally showed his hand and attacked with 18km remaining, with McNulty being dropped as he paid for his previous efforts.
Fuglsang and Landa were the only two who could follow Haig and the trio descended down winding rounds into Granada keeping McNulty and Izagirre at bay, 30 seconds behind with 3km to go.
The three riders began to look at each other as thoughts turned to the stage victory. Haig took the initiative first, attacking with 1.3km to the finish line. Fuglsang was once again on hand to bring him back in before putting in his own powerful move, temporarily moving clear of the other two.
Coming out of the final roundabout into the finishing straight, Landa attacked, but Fuglsang closed and passed him easily before Haig proved to have the freshest legs and cross the line first to deny the Dane a third stage win.
Ruta del Sol 2020, stage four: Villanueva Mesia to Granada (125km)
1. Jack Haig (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott, in 3-07-35
2. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana
3. Mikel Landa (Esp) Bahrain-McLaren, both at same time
4. Ion Izagirre (Esp) Astana, at 27 seconds
5. Brandon McNulty (USA) UAE Team Emirates, at same time
6. Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain-McLaren, at 1-14
7. Marc Soler (Esp) Movistar
8. Álvaro Cuadros (Esp) Caja Rural – Seguros RGA
9. Harm Vanhoucke (Bel) Lotto-Soudal
10. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Bahrain-McLaren, all at same time
General classification after stage four
1. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana, in 17-30-01
2. Mikel Landa (Esp) Bahrain-McLaren, at 14 seconds
3. Jack Haig (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott, at 35s
4. Ion Izagirre (Esp) Astana, at 1-01
5. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Bahrain-McLaren, at 1-44
6. Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain-McLaren, at 1-45
7. Marc Soler (Esp) Movistar, at 2-41
8. Rubén Fernández (Esp) Fundación-Orbea, at 2-50
9. Harm Vanhoucke (Bel) Lotto-Soudal, at same time
10. Brandon McNulty (USA) UAE Team Emirates, at 2-59