Tejay van Garderen of the United States pulled away on the final climb in snow and heavy fog to win the fourth stage of the Tour of Catalonia, while Spain’s Joaquim Rodriguez retains the overall lead.
Van Garderen emerged from the cloud enveloping the Vallter 2000 special-category summit and edged out Romain Bardet around the final turn to claim the 166km (103 miles) ride through the Pyrenees in nearly five hours.
Alberto Contador crossed three seconds later in third, followed by Rodriguez and fellow challenger Nairo Quintana. Tour de France winner Chris Froome finished seventh at eight seconds behind Van Garderen.
Rodriguez remains in first place in the general classification, followed by Contador at four seconds behind. Van Garderen moved into third place at seven seconds off the pace. Bardet, Quintana, and Froome are all within 17 seconds of Rodriguez.
It was Van Garderen’s first individual stage victory on the World Tour. “I let the other guys do a couple of little attacks first so they could kind of wear each other out,” the 25-year-old said. “I got a little lucky and the cold might have helped me a little bit. I can cope with it a bit better than some of those guys who are 60 kilos.”
Van Garderen played down his chances of upsetting the favourites for the title. “It’s going to be difficult because there aren’t that many opportunities,” he said. “There is no time trial, there are no more mountain stages. But if we see an opportunity, we are definitely going to take it.”
Last year’s Tour of Spain winner Chris Horner withdrew from the race before the start of the day’s stage. The veteran American also pulled out of this month’s Tirreno-Adriatico before the finish.
Friday’s fifth stage is a 218km (135 miles) hilly ride from Llanars Vall de Camprodon to Valls. The race finishes on Sunday in Barcelona.
Team Sky’s Ben Swift won the opening stage of the Settimana Coppi e Bartali in Gatteo, northern Italy, yesterday.
Fresh from finishing third in Milan-San Remo, the 26-year-old from Rotherham claimed victory in a sprint finish at the end of the opening stage. It was Swift’s first victory since the Tour of Poland in July 2012.