When you look at the Tour of the Alps’ GC at the end of stage 4, the one that took the peloton from Sudtirol to Tirol, from Chiusa/Klausen to Lienz, you might think that little or nothing has happened over these 134,3 km. And that assumption would be certainly wrong.
Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) enjoyed the stage win, using one of those trademark moves that helped him win – among others – two San Sebastian Classics and four Tour de France stages. Sanchez showed up solo on the finish line in Lienz, replicating the feat of young Ben O’Connor (Dimension Data) of 24 hours earlier in Meran. “I had regrets after yesterday’s stage – the Spaniard confessed – as I was supposed to go for success on the day, but I hesitated a little too much, and the Aussie went away. Today I didn’t have a doubt: I wanted to go without waiting for the sprint. It turned out to be the right choice.” Sanchez gave his Astana team a third win out of four stages: the Kazakh team is actually making a big impression, also looking ahead to the Giro.
Behind the Spaniard, New Zealand’s George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo) came in 6 seconds later, followed by another teammate of his, Koen Bouwman, who edged the sprint of a 12-man group featuring all the top favorites. Fourth position for Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), who managed a unique feat so far in this Tour of the Alps: keeping the leader’s jersey for more than a day. But he had to fight for such privilege.
Indeed, the battle started already on the Terenten climb, after merely 30 km, when seven riders moved on the attack, with several big names in it: Ben Hermans (Israel Cycling Academy), Hubert Dupont (Ag2R-La Mondiale), David De La Cruz (Team Sky), Davide Villella (Astana), Mikel Bizkarra (Euskadi-Murias), Felix Grossschartner (Bora-hansgrohe) and Louis Meintjes (Dimension Data), joined shortly after by Kristijan Durasek (UAE Team Emirates) and Mark Padun (Bahrain-Merida).
When crossing the Austrian border, the leaders had a maximum advantage of 2.16, that meant virtual leadership for Hermans. The peloton’s comeback came fast though on the Anras climb. UAE Team Emirates started pushing hard at the front, and that was certainly the sign of something happening, and indeed, after the acceleration of Dutchman Bouwman and Italian Nicola Conci, there came the attack by Fabio Aru, with Miguel Angel Lopez behind him. Chris Froome reacted and bridged back of the four, but Pinot and Pozzovivo were fart in reacting and closing the gap.
After the top of the climb, the fourteen leaders came back together, until the final move by Sanchez with 2 km to go: the last-gasp attempt by Bennett proved fruitless.
Pinot has kept the fuchsia jersey, with 15 seconds on Pozzovivo and Lopez, 16 on Froome and 50 on Aru. The Frenchman’s defense was everything but easy though: “Today it wasn’t my best day, and I had a hard time responding to the many attacks that came from my rivals. Pozzovivo, Lopez, Froome, Aru, are all very strong riders, all capable of attacking and making gaps, and none of them held back today. But my advantage is still there, and only one stage is left: 15 seconds can be a lot, or very little, and tomorrow we will need a perfect race to bring this jersey home. It was my clear goal, now we have to achieve it for good.”
Meran’s winner Ben O’Connor kept his best youngster’s white jersey, whilst Pozzovivo took over the KOM green jersey, and Ben Hermans dressed the Intermediate Sprints’ red jersey.
The final challenge of the Tour of the Alps will happen tomorrow, Friday April 20th, between Rattenberg and Innsbruck (164,2 km), in a stage that will pass twice on a section of the next UCI Road World Championships’ circuit. Three times up the Olympia Climb will set up the last springboards for those who will try to displace Pinot. One thing for sure: no one will give up until the final meter.
Tomorrow on Innsbruck’s finishing line, at 12.30, a special commemoration for Michele Scarponi will happen, celebrated by the Bishop of Innsbruck, with Michele’s parents in attendance.
Tour of the Alps stage 5 will be live on TV from 14.00 to 15.30 CET, thanks to the PMG production broadcast live by Eurosport 1 (Europe, Asia, Oceania), RaiSport (Italy), ORF (Austria), TV 2 (Denmark), L’Equipe (France), Eleven (North America), FloBikes (North America, Central America, South America), SkySport (New Zealand) and Econet (Africa), and delayed on Bike Channel (Italy).
The live streaming will also be aired on the Facebook page “PMG Sport” and on websites Pmgsport.it, Repubblica.it, Gazzetta.it, inbici.net, cicloweb.it, pulsemedia.it, oasport.it, LaPresse.it, Corrieredellosport.it, Tg.la7.it, Federciclismo.it, Tuttobiciweb.it, Cyclingpro.net, SpazioCiclismo.it, CiclismoSport.Go.tv, Mondiali.net and DirettaCiclismo.it.