Bennati Wins Stage 4 of Vuelta
Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) has won Stage 4 of the 2008 Vuelta a Espana. Bennati took a bunch sprint to win the rolling, 170.3-km ride from Cordoba to Puertollano in 4:27:54. Tom Boonen (Quick Step) finished second, and Koldo Fernandez de Larrea (Euskaltel) finished third. Bennati remains the yellow jersey.
The break of the day began early. After the first intermediate sprint at 6.8 km, Jose Lopez Gil (Andalucia) attacked. He was not pursued immediately, and he ran up a lead of 8:06 by 22 km.
Liquigas, Quick Step, and Lampre went to the front and nibbled at Gil's lead. The gap fell to 3:36 with 40 km remaining and 0:39 with 11 km left.
With eight km left, a crash occurred. Damiano Cunego (Lampre) and Mauricio Ardila Cano (Rabobank) went down, and Cunego lost 2:16. The bunch reeled in Gil with 6.5 km left. With a little more than three km to go, another crash took down Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner), Oscar Freire (Rabobank), and Andreas Kloden (Astana). Carlos Sastre (CSC), Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne), and Alberto Contador and Levi Leipheimer (both from Astana) lost 0:19, and Kloden lost 4:12. The GC hopes of Cunego and Kloden have been jeopardized.
Most of the sprinters avoided the crashes. Liquigas shepherded Bennati into the last 200 m, and the Italian powered away for the win.
In the overall, Bennati leads Tom Boonen (Quick Step) by 0:22 and Valverde by 0:48. Stage 5 should shake up the standings. The flat, 42.5-km time trial in Ciudad Real should see Leipheimer vault into contention, but where will other GC hopefuls finish? Tour de France champion Sastre suffered cuts and bruises in today's crash. Will he be in shape to ride well? Valverde's time trialing is inconsistent. How will he fare? Giro champion Contador is an admittedly mediocre time trialist? How will he do? For the answers to these questions and others, check in at www.roadcycling.com.