Another day, another chance for Peter Sagan. Today’s stage has an uphill run to the line and it’s one for the sprinters rather than the climbers and if Sagan features, so should John Degenkolb and, injuries permitting, Nacer Bouhanni.
Stage 4 Wrap: a thrilling finish after a siesta procession. The climb to the finish wasn’t that eventful as we only got three serious attacks on the way up thanks to Pello Bilbao, Samuel Sanchez and Nicolas Roche and the television direction helped to confuse things at times. But the tension was there all the time as Peter Sagan tried to hold his place with the climbers, a test of power and momentum. Alejandro Valverde timed his sprint just right and came past Roche with the right line to ensure that if Sagan wanted to pass he’d have to take an even longer line. Valverde is creeping up the overall classification and sits in fifth place now.
The Route: the race says goodbye to the coast as it heads north towards Seville for an intermediate sprint before leaving the city for the finish in Alcalà de Guadaíra.
The Finish: a fast run into town punctuated by several roundabouts which start just before the 5km to go point. Just before the 1km to go banner there’s another roundabout and then they cross over the Guadaíra river via the Puente del Dragón, a bridge that’s worth watching on TV for its novelty factor.
Over the bridge and there’s another roundabout and then a left turn onto the finishing straight, pictured above. If you look very closely you can see the buildings rise. Look beyond the red car and it keeps rising for 500m at an average of 5% but it’s steeper at the end. It’s one of those finishing straights where someone might fancy going early as they can see the finish line from far but it could take them much longer to get there than they think. Here’s the road just near the finish line, the wall says it all.
The Contenders: there are no doubts about Peter Sagan’s form now after he’s taken a sprint win and placed second on yesterday’s uphill finish. Today’s uphill run to the line is a synthesis of the last two finishes and he’s the obvious pick.
But of all the sprinters in the sport yet alone this Vuelta John Degenkolb and Nacer Bouhanni are among the best in an uphill dash too so they should be close but the latter is nursing injuries. If Bouhanni is hurting then Cofidis have a replacement in Julien Simon, tipped yesterday with a chainring and seventh on the stage but today is more his finish, only he’s a very rare winner. Otherwise Carlos Barbero has to get mentioned in every uphill sprint because the day he’s left out is the day he strikes and both Jasper Stuyven and Jempy Drucker pack a sprint but can turn on the power for a finish like this. Caleb Ewan too is more than a sprinter but has looked out of sorts so far in the race.
|John Degenkolb, Nacer Bouhanni|
|Simon, Barbero, Stuyven, Barbero, Ewan, Van Poppel|
Weather: hot with temperatures of 34°C and a wind of 15km/h from the south-east.
TV: tune in to check the intermediate sprint in Seville forecast for 5.15pm and the finish is the same as usual around 5.40pm Euro time. It’s on Eurosport too and you can rely on Cyclingfans and steephill.tv for links to feeds and streams.
Daily Díaz: Rota is home to the largest American military community in Spain. It was built in 1953, during the Cold War when Franco’s fierce anticommunism was more important than his past relationship with Hitler. Eisenhower agreed to help Spain economically in exchange for permission to establish American bases in the country. This alliance is the context for the 1966 Palomares B52 crash: an USAF bomber collided with an aerial refuelling aircraft, dropping four nuclear bombs. It could have been an atomic disaster, but luckily the bombs didn’t detonate, and the only victims were the USAF crew onboard the planes involved.
Thanks to cycling podcaster and history teacher Manuel Pérez Díaz for the local information. You can follow him on Twitter as perezdiazmanuel