Samuel Sanchez (BMC Racing) won stage four of the 2016 Tour of the Basque Country on Thursday.
The 38-year-old 2008 Olympic road race champion broke free in the finale of the hilly stage to claim his first win of the season, and his first solo victory since 2013.
Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) came home in second, with Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin) in third. British rider Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEdge) finished in 12th spot.
Wilco Kelderman (LottoNL-Jumbo) took the overall lead after Mikel Landa (Sky) lost eight seconds in the finale. Sergio Henao (Sky) moves up to second place at four seconds, with Landa slipping to third at seven seconds.
The first half of the day was fast-paced, and a large escape group was quickly reined in. After 80km a new escape group of six riders formed: Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis), Simone Petilli (Lampre-Merida), Christophe Riblon (Ag2r), Carlos Verona (Etixx-QuickStep), Angel Vicioso (Katusha) and Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal).
The rolling stage saw the riders tackle three ascents and descents of the second category Alto de Aia, with the last one just 13km from the finish line. It was the steep 20-per-cent section on this final climb of Aia that proved to be the flashpoint
Verona broke free of his escape companions on Aia, with Wellens and Mate in pursuit. Behind them, Henao, Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) split off the front of the peloton. Overall leader Landa was temporarily distanced.
As Verona continued ahead, Henao, Contador and Quintana eased up on the wet descent and were caught again by the bunch along with the remainder of the original six-man escape group.
Wellens and Mate caught back up with Verona with 3.5km to go, but were caught by the peloton containing Landa and all of the favourites with 2.3km to go. Sanchez attacked up and over a small climb with a kilometre to go, gritted his teeth and managed to keep the gap all the way to the line.
Two stages of the 2016 Tour of the Basque Country (Vuelta al Pais Vasco) remain, and both could have a sizeable influence on the general classification. Friday’s penultimate stage features a tough summit finish, and Saturday’s stage is a decisive 16.5-kilometre final individual time trial.
Watch: WorldTour contenders 2016
Tour of the Basque Country 2016: Result
Stage four: Lesaka to Orio, 165km
1. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) BMC Racing in 4-13-12
2. Rui Costa (Por) Lampre-Merida
3. Warren Barguil (Fra) Giant-Alpecin
4. Alexis Vuillermoz (Fra) Ag2r
5. Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky
6. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar
7. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff
8. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo
9. Lawson Craddock (USA) Cannondale
10. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha all same time
General classification after stage four
1. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo
2. Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky at 4 secs
3. Mikel Landa (Spa) Team Skt at 7 secs
4. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) BMC Racing at 8 secs
5. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff at 10 secs
6. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ at 12 secs
7. Rui Costa (Por) Lampre-Merida at 14 secs
8. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 14 secs
9. Robert Gesink (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo at 14 secs
10. Sebastien Reichenbach (Swi) FDJ at 14 secs
21. Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-GreenEdge at 51 secs