Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) made it three out of four stage wins in the Tour of the Basque Country 2019, out-sprinting a select group of Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) and Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) who went clear over the final categorised climb.
Schachmann extended his lead in the GC with a 51-second advantage over team-mate Patrick Konrad in second place.
Pogačar kept pushing in the final few kilometres, with Schachmann staying in the wheels until coming round him in the final couple hundred metres before the line to take stage win.
Schachmann faces another tough battle to keep the race lead tomorrow, with the penultimate day of racing featuring a number of first and third category climbs.
Julian Alaphilippe failed to take the start today after crashing on stage three, when he was second place and five seconds down on GC. Michał Kwiatkowski abandoned after 74km of stage four followed a few kilometres later by Nicolas Roche, who was suffering after a crash.
How it happened
Stage four played out in damp conditions, with 163.6km of racing from Vitoria-Gasteiz to Arrigorriaga, just outside Bilbao.
The stage started with two short third category climbs to Campa Hafade and Garate, before the first category climb to Bikoitz Gane, 5.2km in length.
The main breakaway of the day included seven riders, Carlos Verona (Movistar), Stevie Williams (Bahrain-Merida), Maxime Monfort (Lotto-Soudal), Tsgabu Grmay (Mitchelton-Scott), Alessandro De Marchi (CCC), Michael Storer (Team Sunweb) and Mikel Iturria (Euskadi Basque Country – Murias).
Attacks from the GC favourites were expected up to Bikoitz Gane, yet none came as conditions worsened. De Marchi and Verona were the only two to survive from the breakaway up to Bikoitz Gane, and were eventually reeled in by the peloton with 14km remaining, before the peloton went up the final third category climb.
It was on the third category climb to Zaratamo where Adam Yates launched his attack. Pogačar, Schachmann and Fuglsang all followed and the group of four worked together to the finish, taking a nine-second advantage out of the peloton.
Tour of the Basque Country stage four: Vitoria-Gasteiz to Arrigorriaga (163.6km)
1. Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, in 4-03-55
2. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, at same time
3. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team, at 1 second
4. Adam Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott, at same time
5. Marc Hirschi (Sui) Team Sunweb, at 9 secs
6. Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
7. Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
8. Ion Izagirre (Esp) Astana Pro Team
9. Valentin Madouas (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
10. Bjorg Lambrecht (Bel) Lotto Soudal, all at same time
General classification after stage four
1. Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, in 12-38-16
2. Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 51 secs
3.Ion Izagirre (Esp) Astana Pro Team, at 52 secs
4. Daniel Martinez (Col) EF Education First, at 1-07
5. Daniel Martin (Irl) UAE Team Emirates, at 1-08
6. Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 1-10
7. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team, at 1-24
8. Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain-Merida, at 1-30
9. Mikel Landa (Esp) Movistar, at 1-35
10. Sergio Henao (Col) UAE Team Emirates at 1-41