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Vuelta a Espana 2018: King conquers Alfaguara on Stage 4 while Yates takes time

Joe Robinson
28 Aug 2018

Dimension Data earns first WorldTour victory of year as Simon Yates takes time

The breakaway survived on the first mountaintop finish of the Vuelta a Espana as Ben King (Dimension Data) took Stage 4 to Sierra De La Alfaguara from Nikita Stalnov (Astana) and Pierre Rolland (EF-Drapac).

The American outsprinted Stalnov in the final 150m as the pair tackled the final climb ahead of the day's previous breakaway riders. This earned Dimension Data their first WorldTour victory of the season.

Behind, there was some movement on General Classification as Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) continued his attacking approach to racing by regaining time on his General Classification rivals, snatching over 10 seconds from his rivals.

This move vaulted Yates up into third overall as Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) managed to defend his red jersey.

What happened on the stage

Stage 4 was a 161km run from the coastal holiday town and golf getaway of Malaga to the Sierra De La Alfaguara mountain, the first summit finish of this year's race. 

Coming so early in the race, it was expected that this summit finish would sort out the strongest riders who are hoping to take red after three weeks and those with a lack form despite being tipped for overall success. 

The climb itself was not one of the most feared in this year's Vuelta course. Over 12.4km of climbing, the average gradient stays at a manageable 5.4%.

There are pitches that raise to double figures but any serious contender should be able to manage quite comfortably. 

Current red jersey wearer Kwiatkowski should have been confident at defending the lead with a strong Team Sky team by his side and a 14 second time buffer ahead of Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) in second.

For Valverde, he was an overwhelming favourite for a second stage victory if the day's break did not manage to survive.

The day's break was sizeable and contained some climbing talent capable of a stage victory at the end of the day. Of the nine riders up the road, those considering the chance of victory at the end of the day included Roland, Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis) and the day's eventual winner King.

The peloton was willing to allow the breakaway slack with the time gap constantly growing throughout the day. Team Sky's chasing speed was slightly better than pedestrian but not much more so.

This allowed the leading riders to establish a gap of nine minutes and with cooperation, this gap remained for most of the day.

The heat seemed a big issue rather than the terrain. Many in the peloton were dropping back for makeshift ice packs made from nude tights and cubes of ice shoved down the back of their jerseys.

The gap at 30km to go was at such a size that both King and Ben Gaustauer (AG2R La Mondiale) led the virtual General Classification by around five minutes.

It looked plausible that by the day's end one of the two riders could ride into the red jersey.

By the 14km mark, King had nipped off the front with a sprightly Jelle Wallays (Lotto Soudal) and Stalnov. Wallays was too heavy, dropping immediately as the climb began.

The peloton was then approaching the climb and Movistar had assumed control, leading Valverde and Nairo Quintana into the base ahead of Team Sky.

LottoNL-Jumbo decided to give it some effort 10km from the summit meaning the time gap was slashed to just over five minutes and some like Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) were forced out the back.

Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) and Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) also cracked like a Ming vase.

Simon Yates fancied a go, riding like he did at the Giro d'Italia in May, rolling away from LottoNL-Jumbo with Valverde taking off in pursuit, while others such as Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) and Rigoberto Uran (EF-Drapac) followed.

Eventually, Yates managed to unshackle the chasers and gain 10 seconds on those behind as King outsprinted Stalnov to stage victory.