João Almeida victorious on top of Boí Taüll on stage four of the Volta a Catalunya

UAE Team Emirates rider wins stage, but Nairo Quintana moves into leader's jersey

João Almeida
(Image credit: Getty Images)

João Almeida sprinted to victory from a select group of three atop a snowy Boí Taüll to take stage four of the Volta a Catalunya.

The UAE Team Emirates rider beat Nairo Quintana (Arkéa Samsic) and Sergio Higuita (Bora-Hansgrohe) to take the seventh win of his career.

On the final climb Ben O'Connor (AG2R Citröen) slipped off the back of the leading group and lost control of the general classification as a result. Quintana now leads the race heading into the fifth day, but is tied on time with Almeida.

Quintana has the lead because added together, his stage results accumulate to a number smaller than Almeida's total. It was the second time the pair have contested a snowy finish in as many weeks, after they finished fourth and fifth on the Col de Turini on stage seven of Paris-Nice.

This time, the Portugese rider was able to take victory on the mountain, possibly taking the biggest win of his career in the process, and his first for UAE Team Emirates.

How it happened

A second mountainous day in a row was on the menu, as the riders at the Volta a Catalunya remained in the Pyrenees. 

It took a long time for the day's break to be established, with multiple solo attacks being quickly extinguished by a peloton mindful that there were big tests to come.

At last, with 135km to go, almost an hour into the day, four riders moved off the front: Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates) Bruno Armirail (Groupama-FDJ), Juan Pedro López (Trek-Segafredo), and Jesús Herrada (Cofidis).

9km later, Hugh Carthy (EF Education-EasyPost) joined the quartet to make it five, and they established a lead of 2:10. Then two more riders were added to the growing break on the Coll de Boixols, Mark Donovan (Team DSM) and Mikel Bizkarra (Euskaltel-Euskadi).

The points he claimed on the Port de la Creu de Perves saw Bizkarra move into the virtual lead of the King of the Mountain's jersey, taking it from fellow Basque Ander Okamika (Burgos-BH).

On the final climb of the day, Boí Taüll, which tops out at 2049m above sea level, Donovan and Armirail went alone. They had 28s on the remains of the break, and 1:07 on bunch.

With 13km to go, Armirail was alone with 35s on the peloton, which seemed like far too little to hold off the general classification hopefuls.

The race leader, Ben O'Connor (AG2R Citröen), was the first of the overall contenders to make a move. He went with 11.8km, but was quickly followed by Sergio Higuita (Bora-Hansgrohe), Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) and George Bennett (UAE Team Emirates). The four were caught 500m later, but the peloton had been thinned out, with very few riders left in the main bunch.

Bennett almost immediately went once again, and joined Armirail, who was still alone up the road, with 9.1km to go. The duo held a gap of about 20s to the chasers, which was quickly reduced. At this point, Ineos Grenadiers were visibly pulling in the peloton.

Bennett was alone for a while, but was then caught with 4km to go. Carapaz then attacked with 3.1km to go, and his fellow South American Higuita reacted first, but this was snuffed out with 2km until the finish. 

O'Connor, despite looking good lower down the climb, was dropped with 1.6km until the line, which saw the end of his lead in the general classification.

Heading into the final 1500m, Nairo Quintana (Arkéa Samsic), Carapaz, Higuita and João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) moved off the front. The four looked set to contest the win, but Carapaz could not cope with the pace.

Into the final corner, Quintana looked in pole position, as Higuita was boxed out, but Almeida put down the power on the loose gravel at the top of the mountain to take the victory.

As a result of bonus seconds, Almeida and Quintana were drawn exactly on time, leaving the race lead to be decided by the sum of their stage results: Almeida on 114, but Quintana on 47 to leave him in the leader's jersey for tomorrow.

Results

Volta a Catalunya 2022, stage four: La Seu d'Urgell to Boí Taüll (166.7km)

1. João Almeida (Por) UAE Team Emirates, in 4-20-27
2. Nairo Quintana (Col) Arkéa Samsic
3. Sergio Higuita (Col) Bora-Hansgrohe, in same time
4. Wout Poels (Ned) Bahrain-Victorious, at 7s
5. Tobias Halland Johannessen (Nor) Uno-X, at 13s
6. Juan Ayuso (Esp) UAE Team Emirates
7. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers
8. Jai Hindley (Aus) Bora-Hansgrohe
9. Carlos Rodríguez (Esp) Ineos Grenadiers
10. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis, all at same time

General classification after stage four

1. Nairo Quintana (Col) Arkéa Samsic, in 17-04-53
2. João Almeida (Por) UAE Team Emirates, at same time
3. Sergio Higuita (Col) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 6s
4. Juan Ayuso (Esp) UAE Team Emirates, at 17s
5. Wout Poels (Ned) Bahrain-Victorious
6. Ben O'Connor (Aus) AG2R Citröen, all three at same time
7. Tobias Halland Johannessen (Nor) Uno-X, at 23s
8. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis, at same time
9. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers, at 26s
10. Torstein Træen (Nor) Uno-X, at 34s

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