BMC's Darwin Atapuma takes Vuelta lead after classy win by Lilian Calmajane

Fourth red jersey holder in four days after Atapuma and Calmajane capitalise on 20-man breakaway

Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie), in his first season as a pro, rides to victory in stage four of the Vuelta a España (Watson)

(Image credit: Watson)

Lilian Calmajane (Direct Energie) made it two French wins in two days at the 2016 Vuelta a España, taking a brave solo victory in the 163.5km stage four to San Andrés de Teixido.

The 23-year-old beat Darwin Atapuma (BMC) into second place, though the Colombian moves into the overall race lead, finishing 1-51 ahead of the race favourites.

Calmajane had been part of a 20-rider breakaway which had a five-minute advantage over the peloton with 13 kilometres to go. He broke free of his fellow escapees with nine kilometres to ride. Despite repeated attempts from riders such as Atapuma and Pierre Rolland (Cannondale-Drapac) he managed to hold on for the biggest win of his two-year professional career, winning the stage by 15 seconds.

Ruben Fernandez (Movistar), who began the day wearing the leader's red jersey, finished 57th, 2-55 behind Calmajane, having worked hard for his team mates on the 11km climb to the finish.

Darwin Atapuma (BMC) claimed the overall leadership of the Vuelta a España after riding from the break on stage four (Watson)

Darwin Atapuma (BMC) claimed the overall leadership of the Vuelta a España after riding from the break on stage four (Watson)
(Image credit: Watson)

The day began in hectic fashion, with high pace and many attempts at breakaways, and the escape of the day only formed following the first classified climb, after 28km. Second in the mountains classification at last month’s Tour de France, Thomas de Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), crested the climb in first place, before infiltrating the main break on the descent.

The Belgian also gained maximum points on the second classified climb of the day at the head of the group, which also included Brit Scott Thwaites (Bora-Argon18).

So aggressive in the Giro d’Italia, Atapuma was also part of that group and, having begun the day in 14th place and just 1-35 down, assumed the lead on the road. The break built their advantage to around 4-30 before the Movistar team of the red jersey took control of the chase.

The catch did not come, however, and in fact the escapees’ advantage reached 5-30 with just under 25km to race. This despite the breakaway beginning to attack each other, the rouleurs attempting to drop some of the climbers before the final climb to finish.

Behind, it was only when Sky and Tinkoff, riding for Chris Froome and Alberto Contador respectively, joined the pursuit with 13km remaining, did the gap fall below five minutes.

Taking such an advantage into the final climb, the break knew that one of their number would take the victory and the attacks became more aggressive. Axel Domont (AG2R) eventually broke free, but when he was caught two kilometres into the climb, Calmajane launched his stage-winning attack.

Other than Atapuma taking a 29-second race lead and Fernandez dropping from contention, the general classification remains largely the same. The big guns finishes together, preserving the position of Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) in second place and Froome in third, a further four seconds down.

Vuelta a España stage four, Betanzos – San Andrés de Teixido (163.5km)

  1. Lilian Calmejane (Fra) Direct Energie, in 4-05-19
  2. Darwin Atapuma (Col) BMC, at 15s
  3. Benjamin King (USA) Cannondale-Drapac, at 15s
  4. Andrey Zeits (Kaz) Astana, at 19s
  5. Nathan Haas (Aus) Dimension Data, at 23s
  6. Enrico Battaglin (Ita) LottoNL-Jumbo, at 24s
  7. Pierre Rolland (Fra) Cannondale-Drapac, at 33s
  8. Chad Haga (USA) Giant-Alpecin, at 37s
  9. Jaime Roson (Esp) Caja Rural, at 40s
  10. Cesare Benedetti (Ita) Bora-Argon 18, at 42s

Overall classification after stage four

  1. Darwin Atapuma (Col) BMC in 13-23-10
  2. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, at 29s
  3. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky, at 33
  4. Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-BikeExchange, at 39s
  5. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, st
  6. Samuel Sanchez (Esp) BMC, at 1-08
  7. Ruben Fernandez (Esp) Movistar, at 1-11
  8. Leopold König (Cze) Team Sky, at 1-13
  9. Peter Kennaugh (GBr) Team Sky, at 1-15
  10. Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Etixx-Quick Step, at 1-23

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