Great champions never disappoint – or certainly not at the Tour of the Alps. Like every year, the greatest names in cycling line up in the heart of the Euregio, and always do it with the ambition of honoring the race at their very best. On Thursday April 25th, the fourth stage of the Tour of the Alps from Baselga di Piné to Cles (134 km), just gave further evidence of that.
Tao Geoghegan Hart (Team Sky) was the winner once again, and his teammate Pavel Sivakov took another big step towards a possible final victory in Bolzano/Bozen, but Vincenzo Nibali was certainly the star of the day. At the Tour of the Alps, the leader of Bahrain-Merida rediscovered that aggressive and exciting racing style that characterized the best pages of his career: on the Predaia Pass, after the day’s breakaway was reeled in, Nibali attacked five times in the space of 2 km, tearing apart the top favorites’ group, and forcing Chris Froome to an extra effort, once again in a super-domestique role.
Nibali’s forcing reduced the lead to just five riders, including three from Team Sky – Froome, Sivakov and Geoghegan Hart – and another main character of the Euro-Regional race, Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe), also back on the level of his best days.
Nibali’s fourth attack ended Froome’s work, opening a duel phase between the Sky couple and the Italian and the Pole, allies for a day, that characterized the race until the last uphill drag of the day, the steep “Pontara” ascent. After another Nibali’s acceleration, Majka put down the hammer, opening a 100 mt. gap that was brought back by the chasing trio under the push by Geoghegan Hart. The 24-year-old Brit launched a head sprint in Cles, holding back Vincenzo Nibali and raising his arms under the banner. Majka was third ahead of Sivakov, who will start the final test on Friday April 26th (Caldaro/Kaltern-Bolzano/Bozen, 147,8 km) with a 27-second lead on Geoghegan Hart, 31 seconds on Rafal Majka and 33 on Vincenzo Nibali. Chris Froome was fifth on the day, leading home an 11-man group at 40 seconds and climbing to the overall ninth place.
“Nibali was really aggressive today – told Pavel Sivakov, – both him and Majka attacked several times, and Tao and I opted to keep pacing and control rather than respond to the acceleration. In the finale, our rivals rode together, but Tao and I responded as a team, as we are stronger this way. And we also got Chris Froome on our side: having him in the team is amazing, his experience is invaluable for us.“
From his side, Geoghegan Hart could celebrate a second pro win in four days. “The key is thinking about every other rider as equal. In my mind, all the rivals are the same, I am just focused on my possibility rather than on others’. But yes, of course, beating the likes of Nibali and Majka is big.” The 24-year-old has clear mind on his future goals as well: “In my career I would like to aim for the Grand Tours, but still remain open to one-day races, as I have always done since my days as amateur. My goals include also the World Championships and next year’s Olympic Games.” He certainly does not lack ambition.
For the Team Sky’s dynamic duo, only the final effort to Bolzano/Bozen is left on the way to clinching the final success in the team’s final stage race with the current naming. “On paper, controlling tomorrow’s stage should be easier,” Sivakov commented, “mostly because we won’t find a climb in the final like today. Still, we will need to stick to the plan to secure a victory that would be very important.”
Sivakov defended his fuchsia and white (Youth GC) jersey, whilst Matthias Krizek (Felbermayr-Simplon-Wels) succeeded in taking the intermediate sprint’s red jersey. Spaniard Samitier (Euskadi-Murias) held on the KOM green jersey, passing first atop the feared Forcella di Brez, and after being part of the 8-man breakaway started 40 km into the race, and on the road until the early kilometers to the Predaia Pass.
Tomorrow, Friday April 26th, Südtirol will host the final act, Caldaro/Kaltern-Bolzano/Bozen (147,8 km). The long and hard ascents to Collalbo/Klobenstein and San Genesio/Jenesien will be the final obstacles on the riders’ way to the Südtirol’s capital, but watch out also for the very fast final descent, that could become the springboard for a final twist of fate.
Tour of the Alps fifth and last stage will be live on TV from 14.00 to 15.30 CET, thanks to the PMG Sport production.
TV: Eurosport 1 (Europe, Asia), RaiSport (Italy), TV2 (Denmark), Equipe TV (France), Eurosport Italia (Italy), Bike Channel (Italy), Eleven (North America), EBU/Eurovisione, SkySport (New Zealand).
LIVE STREAMING: Eurosport Player (Europe, Asia, Australia), pmgsport.it, repubblica.it, tuttobiciweb.it, inbici.net, cicloweb.it, cyclingpro.net/spaziociclismo, lapresse.it, flobikes.com, (USA, Canada, South America, Asia, Australia, UK), globalcyclingnetwork.com (USA, Canada, South America), Facebook @PMGliveSport.