Fabio Jakobsen narrowly denied a surging Sam Bennett to take his first Grand Tour stage victory on day four of the Vuelta a España 2019.
The Dutch national champion was put in perfect position thanks to a textbook final 6km from his Deceuninck – Quick-Step team, launching off of his lead-out train with a straight run for the line.
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Stage three winner Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) put in another remarkable effort to surge from behind and threaten Jakobsen, but the 22-year-old held on at the bike throw to take the day.
Bennett took second with Sunweb’s Max Walscheid settling for third.
Nicolas Roche (Sunweb) finished comfortably in the bunch on fairly relaxed day, holding his race lead once again.
How it happened
Stage four of the 2019 Vuelta a España looked to be the most straight forward sprint stage of the opening week, over 175.5km starting from Cullera on the coast and heading north around Valencia and closing out in El Puig.
After a flat 35km run to start, there were some minor lumps to contend with in the middle 100km, leading into the only notable test of the day – the third category Puerto del Oronet (5.7km at 4.5 per cent).
The stage ended with a long descent before a flat and fast final 25km to the line.
Teams were confident in the sprint finish as two riders attacked immediately at the drop of the flag, 2018 Vuelta stage winner Jelle Wallays (Lotto-Soudal) and Jorge Cubero from Burgos-BH.
The peloton immediately accepted the situation and the duo extended their advantage to more than three minutes in the opening 10km.
Sunweb controlled to start the day with Bora-Hansgrohe also starting to contribute as the gap hit seven minutes in the opening 40km.
Racing was quiet in the middle section, with the only drama coming when Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma) abandoned the race because of a knee injury suffered on stage one.
The gap between peloton and breakaway rapidly began to fall and was down to 1-12 with 58km left to race.
EF Education First were hit by misfortune as Mitchell Docker and their leader Rigoberto Urán fell, but with plenty of team-mates around they were able to remount and chase back onto the peloton.
Heading onto the climb, the race was drenched by a flash downpour and Wallays and Cubero still had strength to extend their lead to almost two minutes as the road turned upwards.
Movistar led the chase on the descent as the skies cleared and the gap slipped to 1-42 with 40km left to race.
Disaster then struck Cubero with around 30km to race when he suffered a mechanical, leaving Wallays to push on alone at the front of the race with a 1-10 advantage over the peloton.
Cubero was quickly caught by the bunch as Wallays powered ahead in the hopes of recreating his dramatic breakaway stage win during the 2018 edition, but it wasn’t to be as he was caught just inside 20km.
The GC teams led the charge inside 10km, before Rémi Cavagna (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) fired away from the peloton alone with 6km to race.
It was a formidable attack and the Frenchman was assisted by a flurry of roundabouts, with Cavagna holding around 10 seconds up to the 3km mark.
But he was denied just over a kilometre from the line as the peloton surged past him and Quick-Step’s lead-out train hit the front.
Sunweb led into the final turn with Quick-Step lead-out rider Max Richeze in second wheel, Jakobsen just behind, while Bennett was back in seventh place.
Richeze launched his supporting sprint on the right hand side of the road and Jakobsen quickly fired up his engine.
Bennett was still well out of the game at this point, but he launched in pursuit of Jakobsen, tagging onto his back wheel and then moving left to try and come round.
Jakobsen also moved right and increased the distance for Bennett to cover and it was the younger man who held on to take victory by a tyre width.
Bennett took second while Walscheid was the fastest of the remaining riders behind.
Vuelta a España 2019, stage four: Cullera to El Puig (175.5km)
1.Fabio Jakobsen (Ned) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, in 4-04-16
2. Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Hansgrohe
3. Max Walscheid (Ger) Sunweb
4. Fernando Gaviria (Col) UAE Team Emirates
5. Luka Mezgec (Slo) Mitchelton-Scott
6. Marc Sarreau (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
7. Szymon Sajnok (Pol) CCC Team
8. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data
9. Jon Aberasturi (Esp) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
10. Juan Sebastián Molano (Col) UAE Team Emirates, all at same time
General classification after stage four
1. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Sunweb, in 13-55-30
2. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, at 2 seconds
3. Rigoberto Urán (Col) EF Education First, at 8s
4. Mikel Nieve (Esp) Mitchelton-Scott, at 22s
5. Miguel Ángel López (Col) Astana, at 33s
6. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, at 35s
7. Sergio Higuita (Col) EF Education First, at 37s
8. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Sunweb, at 38s
9. Davide Formolo (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 46s
10. Rafał Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe, at same time