Cycling: Briton Chris Froome up to second in the Tour of Spain

 

Tour de France runner-up Chris Froome moved to within a second of the lead after the fourth stage of the Vuelta a Espana yesterday.

Australia's Simon Clarke claimed the stage win but Team Sky's Froome, moved up the rankings after the overnight leader, Alejandro Valverde, lost significant ground on the 100mile stage.

Movistar's Valverde had led the chasing pack by 19sec but dropped down to ninth, allowing Joaquim Rodriguez to take over the leader's red jersey.

Briton Froome, third overnight, crossed over in the main pack along with Rodriguez, who finished second at this year's Giro d'Italia, to be second behind the Spaniard. Clarke outsprinted Germany's Tony Martin to the ski resort finish at Valdezcaray, with Assan Bazayev in third.

"Tony is a really good time trialler, but I thought I could have him in a sprint," Clarke said. "So I made sure he was in front with the wind and I just left it for as late as possible."

The 26-year-old Clarke belonged to a breakaway group of five who established a lead of more than 13 minutes and were never caught. It was Clarke's first stage win in four seasons as a professional.

"I've tried so many times, had so many second and third places, so I am just so happy," he said.

Rodriguez had lost Monday's stage in a photo finish when he let up in the final metres, thinking he had clinched the victory, only to see Valverde edge him out. The Katusha rider said moving into first place in the general classification did not soften the sting of that defeat very much.

"What happened yesterday left its mark on me. I was an idiot," said Rodriguez. "Now I just have to keep on pedaling. It is nice to have the leader's jersey. I want to try and hang on to it as long as possible."

Today's 168km fifth stage starts and finishes in Logrono.

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