Pello Bilbao took victory on stage four of the Tour of the Alps 2021 after an astonishing descending display to bridge to the race leaders before beating them in a three-up sprint to the line. Simon Yates finished third behind Bilbao and Aleksandr Vlasov to extend his overall lead of the race with one stage to go.
Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious) was distanced on the final climb by Yates (BikeExchange) and Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech) but managed to use his superior skills on the downhill to get back to the duo up front in the final 2kmm before then attacking around them into the last kilometre to sprint to the win.
The pace was very high throughout the day with Team BikeExchange working hard for Yates to try and extend his overall lead and potentially take the stage.
It took a long time for the breakaway to get away with a group of nine riders finally going clear, including Chris Froome (Israel Start-Up Nation).
Yates managed to extend his lead in the overall standings as second place Pavel Sivakov (Ineos Grenadiers) had a very poor day, dropping down to fifth at the stage finish. Yates now leads by 58 seconds ahead of Bilbao going into the final stage.
Bilbao was very keen to take the win on this stage as April 22 marks the anniversary of the death of his former Astana team-mate Michele Scarponi who died on a training ride four years ago today.
How it happened
Stage four of the Tour of the Alps 2021 started in the finish town of yesterday’s stage, Naturno before the peloton tackled a mountainous 168.6km route, taking on three climbs before the finish Pieve di Bono.
Various riders tried to get up in the break at the start of the day with the first break getting brought back on the initial climb before a nine-man group finally stayed away, pulling out a gap of 2-30 to the peloton.
The nine escapees were Chris Froome (Israel Start-Up Nation), Felix Großschartner (Bora-Hansgrohe), Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier (Trek-Segafredo), Attila Valter (Groupama-FDJ), Márton Dina (Eolo-Kometa), Hermann Pernsteiner (Bahrain Victorious), Luis León Sánchez (Astana-Premier Tech), Nicolas Roche (DSM), and Nicolas Prodhomme (Ag2r-Citroën).
Yates’ squad, Team BikeExchange, were working hard for the British rider who went into the penultimate stage of the race with a 45-second lead over defending champion Sivakov.
The break didn’t manage to hold much of an advantage over the peloton into the closing 40km with the gap yoyoing around 40 seconds to a minute as they headed towards the final climb of the Boniprati.
It was all brought back together with 19km to go just before the final climb as Ineos Grenadiers, Bora-Hansgrohe, Israel Start-Up Nation and Astana-Premier Tech swamped BikeExchange at the front of the peloton on the run into the bottom.
Arkéa-Samsic took over to pace for their leader Nairo Quintana with Winner Anacona leading the Ineos Grenadiers train 15km from the finish. After Anacona dropped off the front it was the return of the Ineos Grenadiers mountain train, setting a hellishly high pace and dropping riders out of the back and discouraging attacks.
Hugh Carthy (EF-Nippo) was the first rider out of the men in the overall fight to put in an attack. His attack put Sivakov in trouble with his team-mate, Dani Martínez having to drop back for his leader with 11km to go to the finish and 4km from the top of the climb.
Yates pulled Carthy back relatively quickly as Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation) took over the pacing with the two British riders relaying through.
Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech) was the next to hit out with 10km to go but Yates bridged across to the Russian. Carthy and Martin struggled to get back on terms with the leaders. Yates then took over the pacing immediately dropping Carthy.
Yates continued to set a vicious pace dropping Martin and putting Vlasov under pressure. Pello Bilbao (Bahrain-Victorious) was trying to bridge across with Carthy as Bilbao tried to hold onto his overall podium place.
Vlasov did work with Yates on the plateau at the top of the climb as they looked to pull away from Martin before starting the descent to the finish at the 7km to go mark. Vlasov led over the top of the climb onto the descent down to the finish with Yates.
Bilbao made it across to Martin on the descent with the Basque rider managing to defend his podium spot. Martin tried to follow Bilbao and crashed on a very tight bend. Bilbao used his accomplished descending skills to bridge all the way back up to Vlasov and Yates with just 2km to go.
Bilbao then decided to attack Yates and Vlasov going into the final kilometre which put Vlasov in difficulty and dropping him off the back. Yates also struggled to follow the Bahrain-Victorious rider in the final 800 metres.
Bilbao opened up the sprint as Vlasov made it back on in the final few hundred metres. Yates sat up after Bilbao moved towards the barriers slightly, allowing Vlasov to come through to take second on the day with Bilbao taking the win. After the stage, Bilbao dedicated his win to his former team-mate Michele Scarponi.
The final stage of the race starts in Idroland before tackling five mountain passes. The last two are the same as the race takes on two laps of a finishing course that includes the 10km climb up the Lago di Tenno before a descent the finish in Riva del Garda after 120.9km.
Tour of the Alps 2021, stage four: Naturno to Pieve di Bono (168.6km)
1. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Bahrain Victorious, in 4-39-42
2. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Astana-Premier Tech
3. Simon Yates (GBr) Team BikeExchange, all at same time
4. Nairo Quintana (Col) Arkéa-Samsic, at 58s
5. Jefferson Cepeda (Ecu) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec, at 1-06
6. Hugh Carthy (GBr) EF Education-Nippo, at same time
7. Ruben Guerreiro (Por) EF Education-Nippo, at 1-16
8. Romain Bardet (Fra) Team DSM
9. Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Trek-Segafredo, all at same time
10. Matteo Fabbro (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 1-22
General classification after stage four
1. Simon Yates (GBr) Team BikeExchange, in 15-31-48
2. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Bahrain Victorious, at 58 seconds
3. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Astana-Premier Tech, at 1-06
4. Jefferson Cepeda (Ecu) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec, 2-18
5. Pavel Sivakov (Rus) Ineos Grenadiers, 2-37
6. Hugh Carthy (GBr) EF Education-Nippo, at same time
7. Nairo Quintana (Col) Team Arkéa-Samsic, at 2-54
8. Ruben Guerreiro (Por) EF Education-Nippo, at 3-12
9. Romain Bardet (Fra) Team DSM, at same time
10. Nicholas Schultz (Aus) Team BikeExchange, at 3-36
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