58th Vuelta a España - GT
Spain, September 6-28, 2003
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Stage 4 - Tuesday, September 9: Santander - Burgos, 151km
Complete Live Report
Commentary by Chris Henry, with additional reporting by Hernán Alvarez Macías
Time conversion guide: GMT = CEST - 2 hrs, AEST = CEST + 8 hrs, EDT = CEST
- 6 hrs, PDT = CEST - 9 hrs
Start time: 13:55 CEST
Estimated finish time: 17:30 CEST
Welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of Stage 4 of the Vuelta. There's more climbing on the menu today, but as the race heads from Santander to Burgos, the elevation gain is concentrated in the first half of the stage. Climbing up to just over 1,000 metres over the Puerto del Escudo, the parcours undulates somewhat but poses no major obstacles for the next 100km. Short climbs near the finish could help break things up, but chances of a bunch finish are still good.
14:46 CEST 40 km/111 km to go
The day started somewhat slowly, but with the Vuelta's short stages, the calm is bound to be short-lived. César Garcia Calvo was among the first to try a break, and gained a small gap, but was pulled back as the field hit the first of the intermediate sprints at Vargas. Renato Silva took the points ahead of Jorg Jaksche and Wladimir Belli.
The pace has been high since the sprint, and a series of attacks have done nothing to break the grip of the peloton. The temperature is around 19 degrees and once again some rain has started to fall.
ONCE-Eroski is still holding onto the Vuelta lead, with Joaquin Rodriguez in the gold jersey for the second day in a row. The team had hoped to put Isidro Nozal into the race lead but a difficult race finale saw Rodriguez (on equal time) finish ahead.
Today is the birthday of Aitor Osa, though his chances of a celebratory stage win ahead of the sprinters are rather slim.
On the first climb of the day there are several riders now clear, forming a small break. Two Labarca 2-Cafe Baque riders are in the move, including Felix Cardenas and David Lopez, plus ONCE's Isidro Nozal and iBanesto.com's Leonardo Piepoli.
The rain is still falling and the peloton doesn't look too concerned about this early move.
15:09 CEST 50 km/101 km to go
Oscar Mason of Vini Caldirola was another non-starter today, victim of one of the many crashes at the end of yesterday's stage.
On the toughest part of the Cat. 1 climb, David Lopez is dropping off the pace from the break as his teammate Cardenas curiously forces the pace up front. Nozal is now starting to drop off as well, leaving just Cardenas and Piepoli up front.
15:17 CEST 55 km/96 km to go
Fabian Jeker (Milaneza-MSS) has bridged across to the lead group on the climb, as Nozal has also rejoined. That makes four riders again: Cardenas, Nozal, Piepoli, and Jeker. The quartet is nearing the summit of the climb, and hitting gradients up to 12%.
After the summit of the Puerto del Escudo there are still nearly 100 kilometres to race to Burgos.
All four sprint for the mountain points, starting their efforts rather early.
1. Cardenas, 2. Jeker, 3. Piepoli, 4. Nozal.
The gap between the four leaders and the peloton is roughly a minute, as CSC and Kelme ride near the front of the main group.
The leaders and the peloton are all off the short descent from the first climb, and a number of riders dropped from the main field are slowly making the junction.
Euskaltel's David Etxebarria, who jumped ahead of the field near the summit of the climb, has joined the leaders. Piepoli has disappeared from the group, likely back in the main field. Thus the game of musical chairs continues, with the lead quartet now including Cardenas, Jeker, Nozal, and Etxebarria.
15:29 CEST 65 km/86 km to go
In keeping with ONCE's tactics (as race leaders), Nozal is not taking pulls in the break. The other three, however, are sharing their work nicely.
New attacks are starting in the peloton, led by a Fuenlabrada rider. US Postal is currently setting the pace in the field, content for the moment to let around 10 riders scramble clear.
The four leaders have 40" over a chase group of around 12 riders, who themselves are 40" clear of the peloton. ONCE is marshalling the troops and moving up to control the main field, with Jaksche setting the pace.
The rain has stopped but the temerature is brisk and the roads are still wet.
15:37 CEST 70 km/81 km to go
The four leaders have crested the summit of the day's second climb.
1. Cardenas, 2. Jeker, 3. Nozal, 4. Etxebarria
The first chase group is has been caught by the main field, which is now under the control of US Postal Service, two minutes behind the break. US Postal appears to be setting a strong tempo to prevent the return of certain riders who remain trapped in a group behind the peloton.
Alessandro Petacchi looks to be a rider caught behind the main field. Zabel has made the split with the first group, but yesterday's stage winner looks to have some work ahead of him to rejoin. He has three teammates helping chase.
The race officials are finally letting the directors' cars past the second peloton, which means that the group is not coming back quickly enough to the main field.
Up front, not all of the first chase group was caught, and a few riders were able to bridge to the four leaders. The composition of the break is now as follows:
Oscar Laguna (Colchon Relax-Fuenlabrada), Fabian Jeker (Milaneza), David Etxebarria and Unai Etxebarria (Euskaltel), Jurgen Van Goolen (Quick.Ste), Jose Enrique Gutierrez (Kelme), Felix Cardenas (Labarca 2), Isidro Nozal (ONCE).
Petacchi's group is within 35" of the main field, sat up a bit in the last five minutes. Telekom is now pushing the pace back up.
The gap from the break back to the peloton is 55".
16:03 CEST 89 km/62 km to go
Jan Schaffrath (Telekom) is reported to have abandoned today, another loss for Telekom after Cadel Evans' broken collarbone.
The peloton has come through the feed zone and a few riders seem to have missed their musettes. The pace has completely shut down for the moment as the field grabs a late lunch.
The gap from the break to the main field is 1'06.
Fassa Bortolo has done its job, and Petacchi is now back in the main field as the pace steadily picks back up after the feed zone. Guess which team is now taking charge? If you said Fassa Bortolo, you win.
The riders in the break should be happy that the sun is making an appearance once more. Brief, perhaps, but it always helps.
16:20 CEST 105 km/46 km to go
The eight leaders are still holding little more than a minute over the peloton, which is not enough time in hand to stay away. The race is on a long gradual rise right now, with Fassa Bortolo still guiding the main field with two riders up front including Dario Frigo.
Thanks to his sprints on the two mountains today, Cardenas should move into the king of the mountains lead, taking over from Stage 2 winner Luis Perez (Cofidis).
There's been a split in the main field and Petacchi is once more caught out on the wrong end. His group is chasing hard and after letting a 17" gap open up the chasers should catch back on soon.
16:42 CEST 122 km/29 km to go
Another rider caught in the second split is Cofidis' David Millar, once again having trouble following the accelerations in the main field. Petacchi is still behind, with Ivanov and Trenti to help pace him back.
A few riders were able to bridge to the first peloton, but the Petacchi/Millar group looks to be losing some ground. ONCE has moved several riders to the front of the main field. The pace is reasonably fast but they're not riding single file.
Meanwhile, the break is still plugging away, with the Euskaltel Etxebarria duo taking pulls at the front.
16:51 CEST 128 km/23 km to go
The break has held and even increased its advantage to 1'22 as the race comes within 25km of the finish in Burgos.
Thanks to an easing in the pace of the peloton, the leaders' gap has just jumped dramatically to 2'17. Now the riders in the break are also starting to attack each other.
The teams at the head of the main field are watching each other, wondering who will take control and work to bring back the break.
16:57 CEST 136 km/15 km to go
They're getting anxious in the break, and the cooperation is coming to an end. Unai Etxebarria has attacked and is alone out front, with teammate and namesake (but not brother) David still in the group just behind. Unai's got a nice gap but he's barely cracking 10" as Jeker who takes up the chase behind.
Now there are two riders sitting on in the break: David Etxebarria and Isidro Nozal.
Unai Etxebarria has passed through the final intermediate sprint, still out in front. The peloton is pulling back time, and about 1km behind on the road.
Etxebarria is maintaining his effort well, looking behind frequently but still holding off the chasers, who continue to attack each other.
Fabian Jeker has fallen, apparently having hit one of the motorcycles. He looks to be in a lot of pain and is not getting up.
17:06 CEST 146 km/5 km to go
Jeker is getting up, just as the peloton passes by. He's remounting his bike but was holding his shoulder, indicating a possible fracture of the clavicle.
Meanwhile up front Etxebarria is still at it with a healthy 22" advantage over the chasers.
Jeker gets a visit from the medical car as he tries to limp through the closing kilometres.
Oscar Laguna has also disappeared from the lead group.
Nobody wants to chase Etxebarria, which has helped the Euskaltel rider increase his lead to 25 seconds. The attacks continue in disorganized fashion, and Van Goolen is having trouble holding the wheels in the chase group.
17:10 CEST 150 km/1 km to go
Unai Etxebarria continues to look behind but his lead is more comfortable as he approaches the 1km to go banner.
After an impressive time trial over the final 15km, Unai Etxebarria (Euskaltel-Euskadi) arrives in Burgos to take the biggest win of his career thus far. The sun is shining and the crowds are out in force as Unai gives the two-armed salute.
David Etxebarria launches the sprint and gets second, giving Euskaltel a 1-2.
Isidro Nozal should take over the general classification, as originally planned yesterday, continuing ONCE's run in the race lead.
The main field comes in with a second group several hundred metres behind. Zabel takes the bunch sprint ahead of Julian Dean and Patrick Calcagni.
1 Unai Etxebarria (Ven) Euskaltel-Euskadi 3.26.51
2 David Etxebarria (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0.44
3 Felix Cardenas (Col) Labarca 2
4 Jose Enrique Gutierrez (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca
5 Jurgen Van Goolen (Bel) Quick.Step-Davitamon
6 Isidro Nozal (Spa) ONCE-Eroski
7 Oscar Laguna (Spa) Relax
8 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Telekom 1.32
9 Julian Dean (NZl) Team CSC
10 Patrick Calcagni (Swi) Saunier Duval-Vini Caldirola
General classification after stage 4
1 Isidro Nozal (Spa) O.N.C.E.-Eroski
2 Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) O.N.C.E.-Eroski 0.50
3 Igor Gonzalez De Galdeano (Spa) O.N.C.E.-Eroski
4 David Etxebarria (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
5 Manuel Beltran (Spa) US Postal-Berry Floor 1.00
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