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Alejandro Valverde cut Alberto Contador's overall advantage at the Tour of Romandy to just six seconds when he won Saturday's fourth stage of the race around Sion. The Caisse d'Epargne rider took a clear win in a sprint comprising most of the overall contenders, and the bonus seconds on the line took him to just half a dozen seconds behind Spanish compatriot Contador, who finished seventh on the stage.
The stage covered three laps of a course including climbs at Ovronnaz, Veysonnaz and Crans Montana. It was tough enough to for early leader Paolo Savoldelli, who finished 12 minutes down on stage three due to the effects of diarrhoea, to avoid taking the start.
On the final climb to Crans Montana, Spanish champion Juan Manuel Garate and Colombian Ivan Parra went clear from the breakaway group. The pair were joined by Andrei Kashechkin, attacking from the yellow jersey group, and Christophe Moreau before the summit. Kashechkin then attacked again as the yellow jersey group closed down the three riders he'd left.
Unfortunately for the Kazakh, the road back into Sion was flat and that did for his chances of staying clear. He was caught a kilometre from the line, and the stage was set for Valverde to deliver his third big win in 10 days. He'll fancy his chances of making it four in Sunday's 20km Lausanne time trial, having beaten Contador in a similar test at the recent Tour of the Basque Country and finished a very close second to Savoldelli in Romandy's prologue.
Stage 4, Sion-Sion
1 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears 127.7km in 3.41.24
2 Alexandre Moos (Swi) Phonak
3 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto
4 Jrg Jaksche (Ger) Liberty Seguros
5 Sylvester Szmyd (Pol) Lampre
6 Oscar Sevilla (Spa) T-Mobile
7 Alberto Contador (Spa) Liberty Seguros
8 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Ag2r
9 Andrea Noe (Ita) Liquigas
10 Sergio Ghisalberti (Ita) Milram
1 Alberto Contador (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Wrth 16.16.25
2 Valverde 0.06
3 Evans 0.24
4 Jaksche 0.28
5 Ghisalberti 0.54
6 Noe 0.57
7 Kashechkin 1.04
8 Szmyd 1.07
9 Moos 1.11
10 Chris Horner (USA) Davitamon-Lotto 1.14
- While Paolo Savoldelli was pulling out of Romandy, his Giro d'Italia rival Damiano Cunego was claiming his sixth win of the season in the GP Industria e Commercio in Larciano, leading in an 18-rider group.
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