Poels wins 4th stage of Basque, Contador lead cut
EIBAR, Spain (AP) — Dutch cyclist Wouter Poels secured a tough fourth stage victory at the Tour of Basque Country as Alberto Contador saw his lead trimmed despite the overall leader’s best efforts to break free.
Poels attacked at the summit of the fifth — and final — categorized climb and hung on over the dash to the finish to secure a 1-second victory over Spanish riders Alejandro Valverde and Samuel Sanchez in 3 hours, 39 minutes, 29 seconds.
“At a certain moment Contador, Valverde, and a few others started to look at each other. So I tried to take advantage of this situation and I went,” Poels said. “I knew it was possible to pass the final climb and go to the finish. So, I went for it.”
Valverde stuck to the wheel of Contador as the multiple Tour de France champion attempted to break off on several occasions over the 151-kilometer (94-mile) leg.
Contador’s Tinkoff-Saxo team controlled the tempo on the final ascent before the Spaniard made one last attempt to break free but it was Valverde who would burst clear in the closing meters to shave two seconds off of Contador’s advantage, which now stands at 12 seconds from a time of 16:33:35.
“It would have been better not to lose any time to Alejandro but, in the end, the group fell apart,” said Contador. “But I’m happy overall because the team controlled the stage, which was crazy from the first moment, very well.”
Contador will be on guard for Friday’s 160-kilometer (99-mile) fifth stage to Markina-Xemein which also features five major climbs.
“There are few spots to make moves so it will be a day of movement, like today was, requiring incredible effort that I’m sure a lot of cyclists will notice. Me too, I guess,” Contador said. “We’ll have to see what it’s like and what the weather brings since there could be rain and that always makes the race a little more wild and wide open.”