Maximiliano Richeze (Quick-Step Floors) delivered a popular Argentinian victory on stage four of the Vuelta a San Juan, taking up the mantle as his team's principal sprinter after Fernando Gaviria crashed out.
Richeze had been Gaviria's final lead-out man for his victory on stage one, but stepped up to the plate on stage four to out-sprint Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo) and Matteo Pelucchi (Bora-Hansgrohe) in Villa San Augustín.
The stage had earlier been delayed by an hour as race organisers worked to clear the route after heavy overnight rain caused disruption, but once the race was underway a large breakaway was established.
In the move were: Alex Cano (Coldeportes-Zenu), Gerardo Tivani (Municipalidad De Pocito), Alan Presa (Uruguay), Daniel Juárez (Asociacion Civil Mardan), Pablo Alarcón and José Santoyo (Canel's-Specialized), Daniel Eaton (UnitedHealthcare), Adrian Richeze (A.C.A. Virgen De Fatima), and Robigzon Oyola (Medillin-Inder).
Those riders enjoyed a maximum advantage of a little over three minutes as they crested the major climb of the day midway through the stage, before the gap began to drop as the finish approached.
With 45km remaining a crash in the bunch took down a number of riders, including Gaviria. The Colombian rider abandoned the race immediately, spending the night in hospital with an injured knee, but escaping without any fractures.
With Gaviria out, Quick-Step Floors were content to let other teams take responsibility for the chase, with Trek-Segafredo, Bora-Hansgrohe, and Israel Cycling Academy combining to catch the breakaway with 25km to go, then set up the sprint finish.
However Richeze and Quick-Step again played their cards to perfection, with the Argentinian sprinter coming off the wheel of neo-pro team-mate Alvaro Hodeg with 200m to go and holding off Nizzolo and Pelucchi to take the win.
The general classification remained largely unchanged with Filippo Ganna (UAE Team Emirates) holding on to his overall lead ahead of Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe). However there should be more of a shake-up on Friday's stage five, which features a summit finish to Alto de Colorado.
Vuelta a San Juan 2018, stage four: San José Jachal to Villa San Agustín, 182.8km
1. Maximiliano Richeze (Arg) Quick-Step Floors, in 4-31-48
2. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
3. Matteo Pelucchi (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe
4. Mihkel Räim (Est) Israel-Cycling Academy
5. Niccolo Bonifazio (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
6. Edwin Alcibiades Avila (Col) Israel-Cycling Academy
7. Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Lotto Soudal
8. Mauro Richeze (Arg) A.C.A. Virgen De Fatima
9. Alvaro Hodeg (Col) Quick-Step Floors
10. Travis McCabe (USA) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling, all at same time
General classification after stage four
1. Filippo Ganna (Ita) UAE Team Emirates, in 11-30-25
2. Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 5 secs
3. Oscar Sevilla (Esp) Medellin, at 11 secs
4. Omar Mendoza (Col) Medellin, at 19 secs
5. Jhonatan Narvaez (Ecu) Quick-Step Floors, at 43 secs
6. Kanstantsin Suitsou (Blr) Bahrain-Merida, at 43 secs
7. Mattia Cattaneo (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec, at 45 secs
8. Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal, at 50 secs
9. Rémi Cavagna (Fra) Quick-Step Floors, at 50 secs
10. Rodolfo Torres (Col) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec, at 52 secs
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