Luis Leon Sanchez claimed victory on stage 4 of the Tour of the Alps as Astana, once again, exploited a numerical advantage in the group of favourites. The Spaniard was one of five sky blue jerseys in the select group of 15 that formed on the late climb of the Bannberg and, after a fast descent, he attacked with two kilometres remaining to take a solo win – Astana’s third from four stages.
George Bennett struck out in pursuit and finished in second place six seconds later, with his LottoNL-Jumbo teammate Koen Bouwman leading the rest of the group home a further five seconds back.
Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) finished in fourth place and retained his overall lead. Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida), Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana), Chris Froome (Team Sky), Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates) – along with the rest of the top 10 – were all in the group. There were no significant changes to the general classification, though Sanchez did leapfrog Bennett into sixth.
The penultimate stage of the Tour of the Alps once again provided a thrilling tussle between the overall favourites, many of them putting the final touches to their form ahead of next month’s Giro d’Italia. The standout feature on the 134.3km stage from Klausen to Lienz was the Bannberg, a 7km second-category climb that topped out 10km from the line. What followed was a rapid descent that flattened out in the final few kilometres.
It was another fluid and open day of racing in which a breakaway didn’t form until the early second-category climb of Terento after 30km. With some dangerous names in there – Ben Hermans (Israel Cycling Academy), Mark Padun (Bahrain-Merida), Louis Meintjes (Dimension Data), Davide Villella (Astana), David De la Cruz (Team Sky), Kristijan Durasez (UAE Team Emirates), Felix Grosschartner (Bora-Hansgrohe), Mikel Bizkarra (Euskadi-Murias), and Hubert Dupont (AG2R La Mondiale) – the group of nine were never allowed much more than two minutes of an advantage.
The action between the overall contenders began on a short uncategorised climb that preceded the Bannberg, with Bennett attacking and catching the break, from which Bizkarra and Villella broke rank. By the top of the climb, Bennett and the rest of the break were reeled in by the peloton, and by the bottom of the short descent, it was all back together as Bizkarra and Villella were brought back. That triggered a flurry of attacks ahead of the Bannberg, with a group of 30 riders out front as the climb began.
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