Sam Bennett was unflinching in the final of stage four of the Vuelta a Burgos as he jumped early to get ahead of a crash and take a thrilling win.
Day four was set up as a sprint stage but with an almost entirely uphill final kilometre, making it one for the more versatile power riders.
This was last chance for the sprinters to get anything out of the race and the approach to the finish was a frantic one, with sprinters teams fighting hard to get the front sport through the tight roads of the Spanish countryside.
A crash just before the one kilometre to go banner, as the riders turned onto the climb, caused chaos at the front and sparked Bennett into life.
Bennett (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) took the win ahead of a small group of eight sprinters led in by Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ), who takes his second runners up spot of the race. Bennett’s teammate, Remco Evenepoel, keeps his lead in the general classification.
How it happened
The riders started the day in Gumiel de Izán and had a 163km flat stage to look forward to in the Burgos region of Spain, finishing in Roa de Duero.
The early break was made up of six riders, Txomin Juaristi (Fundacion Ciclista Euskadi), Diego Sevilla (Kometa-Xstra Cycling Team), Alejandro Ropero (Kometa-Xstra Cycling Team), Riccardo Verza (Kometa-Xstra Cycling Team), Damiano Cima (Gazprom-Rusvelo) and Willie Smit (Burgos-BH).
The day was kept under control by the sprint teams, with Démare’s Groupama-FDJ and Mark Cavendish’s Bahrain-McLaren doing the vast majority.
The break never managed more than three minutes and started to break down with around 25km to go.
Eventually, the break’s constant attacking led to two riders getting away. Team-mates, Ropero and Sevilla pushed on and held onto a 30 second lead for about 5km before the peloton slowly dragged them back.
Thanks to some tight and twisty roads through villages, the two Kometa riders held out until 12km from the finish, where they were swallowed up by the pack, who were now in colour order.
The tight roads did bring some mistakes too with ninth overall, David De La Cruz (UAE Team Emirates) caught out in a crash along with about seven other riders still a few kilometres outside the 3km cut-off.
The last 2km were filled with roundabouts and sharp 90 degree bends which really stretched out the peloton before heading up to switchbacks up to the finishing town.
With 1km to go, some of the leading riders hit the deck. Michael Mørkøv (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) went down first, which took out Démare’s leadout and blocked off other riders, like Cavendish and Matteo Trentin (CCC Team).
The Irish champion capitalised on the crash, launching his attack 900 metres from the line and using the climb to take a superbly powerful win ahead of Démare in second and Giacomo Nizzolo in third (NTT Pro Cycling).
A multiple Grand Tour stage winner, he is no stranger to long distance moves and this move was textbook Bennett.
There was also no sign of stage two winner, Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) in the top positions.
Bennett’s team-mate Evenepoel finished safely in the bunch and still leads the race by 18 seconds over George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma), heading into tomorrow’s final mountain stage.
Vuelta a Burgos 2020, stage four: Bodegas Nabal – Roa de Duero (163km)
1. Sam Bennett (Irl) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, in 3-51-19
2. Arnaud Dêmare (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 5s
3. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) NTT Pro Cycling
4. Davide Cimolai (Ita) Israel Start-Up Nation
5. Lionel Taminiaux (Bel) Bingoal-Wallonie Bruxelles
6. Biniam Ghirmay (Eri) Nippo-Delko-Provence
7. Jon Aberasturi (Esp) Caja Rural
8. Martin Laas (Est) Bora-Hansgrohe
9. Alexander Edmondson (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott, all at same time
10. Rick Zabel (Ger) Israel Start-Up Nation, at 8s
1. Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, in 15-26-47
2. George Bennett (Nzl) Team Jumbo-Visma, at 18s
3. Mikel Landa (Esp) Bahrain-McLaren, at 32s
4. Esteban Chaves (Col) Mitchelton-Scott, at 35s
5. João Almeida (Por) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, at 45s
6. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Team Ineos, at 52s
7. Ben Hermans (Bel) Israel Start-Up Nation, at 1-02m
8. Fabio Aru (Ita) UAE Team Emirates, at 1-13m
9. David De La Cruz (Esp) UAE Team Emirates, at 1-42
10. Mikel Nieve (Esp) Mitchelton-Scott, at 1-45m