Greipel Wins Stage 4 of Vuelta
Andre Greipel (Columbia) has won Stage 4 of the Vuelta. The German took a crash-marred bunch sprint to win the mostly flat, 225-km ride from Venlo, the Netherlands to Liege, Belgium in 5:43:05. Wouter Weylandt (Quick Step) finished second, and Bert Grabsch (Columbia) took third. Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) remains the overall leader.
As has been the case throughout this first week of the 2009 Vuelta, the weather was rainy and the roads were slick as a result. The conditions, however, did not stop Lars Boom (Rabobank), Javier Ramirez Abeja (Andalucia), Dominik Roels (Milram), and Sergei Lacutin (Vacansoleil) from sallying off of the front at 20 km. The quartet ran up a 14-minute lead before the peloton began to reel them in.
The slick roads caused crashes, especially when the pursuit's pace picked up. The early crashes, however, took no one out of the race. All of those who went down were able to rejoin the peloton.
At the base of Mont Theux, the break led the bunch by 2:35. Roels and Ramirez dropped their companions, who drifted back to the bunch. Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil) made an unsuccessful attempt to bridge up to the escape, but Lieuwa Westra, Hoogerland's teammate, caught Roels and Ramirez in the last 20 km.
Westra and Roels dropped Ramirez. The bunch reeled in Ramirez and then caught Westra and Roels just shy of the Cote de Saint Nicolas. Enrico Gasparotto (Lampre) attacked but never led by more than 0:10. The bunch reeled him in with four km left.
Quick Step took command. With less than three km remaining, a huge crash occurred at the front. Forty riders went down, including Cancellara, the race leader. Only six men got clear of the mayhem--Greipel, Bert Grabsch, and Marcel Sieberg (all from Columbia); and Wouter Weylandt, Marco Velo, and Matteo Tosatto (all from Quick Step). Greipel won the sprint easily and expressed compassion for those riders who were caught in the crash.
Tomorrow is a rest day as the Vuelta will move to its home country. Two riders whose rest will last more than one day are Chris Horner (Astana) and Charly Wegelius (Silence). For Wegelius, the Vuelta is one Grand Tour too many for a rider who has ridden the Giro and the Tour this season. Horner broke his wrist in the late-stage pileup. Neither rider ended his Vuelta in a manner than he would have chosen.
In the overall, Cancellara leads Tom Boonen (Quick Step) by 0:09 and Bert Grabsch (Columbia) by 0:11. Stage 5, a 174-km ride from Tarragona to Vinaros, might be the most interesting stage so far. It features three climbs, with the last coming only six km from the finish. In other words, a sprinter could win the day, but so could an escapee. Which will it be? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!