PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM
Liberty Seguros' Alberto Contador won the fourth stage of the Tour of Romandy at the Les Paccots summit finish, the young Spaniard coming in four seconds ahead of Leonardo Piepoli. A group containing the race favourites was another seven seconds back and was led in by Damiano Cunego, who took five seconds in bonuses on the stage to lift him above Santiago Botero into the overall lead.
The stage comprised three loops up the final hill, the last of them running the final 12km up to Les Paccots rather than dropping back down into the valley as the first two did. Domina Vacanze's Ruslan Ivanov led the race as it came onto that final 12km section, but a large group was just 30 seconds behind the Moldovan and pressing hard.
Ivanov resisted until just a couple of kilometres from the line, when Cunego began to push hard for the line, but with Botero close to his wheel. With the overall contenders marking each other, Piepoli got clear only to be caught and passed by Contador within sight of the line. It was the Spaniard's fifth win of the season, and arguably his best given the standard of the opposition.
Liberty team manager Manolo Saiz was particularly pleased with his rider's victory as Contador only restarted training last week following a break after the Tour of Basque Country in early April, when he finished third overall. "The most important thing for me is that Contador continues learning and every day is advancing a bit more," said Saiz, who has included the 22 year old in his pre-selections for the Tour de France.
"I didn't know whether the favourites were going at their maximum or whether I still had a chance to change the pace," said Contador. "I had already seen them attack without conviction, so with one kilometre to go I decided to try, because I could not allow the stage to finish without attacking at least once.
"I attacked with the idea of gaining time on Botero and Menchov, who are the favourites for the final time trial. I wasn't thinking of catching Piepoli nor of winning the stage. I didn't even know if there was someone still in front. Only when I pass Piepoli did I realise that that I could also win the stage."
Although former world time trial champion Botero should start as favourite for the final 20.4km time trial in Lausanne, the course is no flat and offers considerable hope to riders such as Menchov, Cunego and Contador, especially the last 5km when the course climbs 250 metres.
Stage 4, Chatel St Denis-Les Paccots
1 Alberto Contador (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Wrth 150.2km in 3.40.48 (40.82kph)
2 Leonardo Piepoli (Ita) Saunier Duval 0.04
3 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Caffita 0.11
4 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi
5 Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero (Spa) Phonak
6 Santiago Botero (Col) Phonak
7 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank
8 Marco Fertonani (Ita) Domina Vacanze
9 Aitor Osa Eizagzuirre (Spa) Illes Balears
10 Alexandre Moos (Swi) Phonak
1 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Caffita 15.31.30
2 Botero 0.03
3 Menchov 0.13
4 Contador 0.19
5 Daniel Atienza (Spa) Cofidis 0.31
6 Manuel Beltran (Spa) Discovery Channel 0.33
7 Fertonani 0.39
8 Moos 0.58
9 Osa 1.05
10 Mauricio Ardila (Col) Davitamon-Lotto 1.23