This article originally appeared on Cyclingnews.com
Daniel Moreno (Katusha) grabbed stage 4 of the Vuelta a Espana from Lain to Fisterra with a perfectly timed attack on the last climb. The Spaniard launched his move with less than one kilometre to go, soaring passed a fading Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil-DCM) and holding off a chase from Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack Leopard), Michael Matthews (Orica GreenEDGE) and the rest of the peloton.
Chris Horner (RadioShack) lost his overall lead to Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) after the American lost contact with the leaders on the final climb.
While the Vuelta has opened with three intriguing hill top finishes and a team time trial, timing has been the deciding factor in the three road stages. Nicolas Roche displayed both his growing tenacity and ruthlessness with a punchy move on stage one and Chris Horner rolled back the years on stage 2 to slip clear at just the right moment a day later.
This time it was Moreno’s moment. The Spaniard often rides in the shadow of his teammate and friend Joaquim Rodriguez but the former’s stature has been on the rise in the last few seasons.
As the peloton rolled towards another uphill finish Nibali ushered his Astana teammates to the front of the peloton as the final climb began, but the men in blue slipped back just as Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil) attacked inside the final kilometre. Just like yesterday, Flecha went too early but his move offered Moreno with the perfect marker, and as the favourites eye-balled each other the Katusha climber accelerated away.
Cancellara, who had been protecting Horner on the approach to the climb, closed to within a matter of meters but he ran out of road, with Moreno able to raise his hands and take the stage.
Daniel Moreno of Spain (Katusha) winning the fourth stage of the Vuelta
How it unfolded
It took until the 12th kilometre of racing for the main break to form with Jussi Veikkanen (FDJ), Alex Rasmussen (Garmin-Sharp), Danilo Wyss (BMC), Dennis Vanendert (Lotto Belisol) and Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) pulling 7 minutes out of the bunch.
Although the climb to the finish would decide the winner, the Mirador de Ezaro with 30 kilometres to go would play a decisive part. It may have only been a handful of kilometres long but the near 30 per cent pitches would cause problems for both the break and the peloton.
At the foot of the climb the five leaders had seen their advantage drop significantly and on the slower slopes of the climb Rasmussen was the first to slip back with Edet out of the saddle as the gradient rose to nearly 30 per cent. As the peloton reached the lower slopes RadioShack marshalled the front of the peloton with Horner riding attentively near the front.
Veikkanen was the next rider to lose contact with the break as Wyss and Vanendert hung onto Edet, but it wasn’t long before Edet was on his own and riding clear towards the top, his jersey unzipped as he wrestled with his bike and crept towards the summit. The torturous slopes played havoc with the bunch behind, riders spreading across the road as a number of them struggled to keep the pedals turning.
The Cofidis rider held onto a 38 second advantage by the time he crested the top of the climb but with 35km to go and Astana on the front there was little chance of a successful break.
Amets Txurruka (Caja Rural) slipped clear from the bunch on the descent but his options appeared limited with Edet tiring and then Movistar collectively controlling the peloton after Astana had eased off briefly.
By the time Txurruka had made contact with Edet the pair’s advantages stood at a mere 19 seconds. However Txurruka’s attempt to anticipate looked rather savvy when Luis Leon Sanchez brought three more riders across to make it six riders in front with 26 kilometres to go.
The added firepower drew the break out from 10 to 20 seconds as the leaders swept through the Spanish countryside at over 70 kph.
Horner’s desire to keep the red jersey surfaced with three of his teammates moving to the front and beginning a chase. The American, who is still without a contract for next season, clearly aware that each day in red would improve his negotiation powers.
With 16km remaining only Edel persisted, with the rest of the break sitting up before the Cofidis rider was forced to let get of any hope as the peloton reformed with 15km remaining.
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) is the new overall leader