Efimkin Wins Stage 4 of Vuelta, Takes Overall Lead
Vladimir Efimkin (Caisse d'Epargne) has won Stage 4 of the Vuelta. The Russian surged away from the remnants of a 30-man break at the base of the day's final climb to take the 185.1-km ride from Langreo to Lagos de Covadonga in 4:39:56. Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier Duval) outsprinted Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel) for second at 1:06. Efimkin is the new leader of the Vuelta.
The racing began early. On the day's first climb, the Category 2 Alto de la Faya de los Lobos (17.2 km), many riders escaped. Among them were Mauricio Ardila Cano (Rabobank), Chris Horner (Predictor), Stijn Devolder and Jurgen Van Goolen (both from Discovery Channel), and Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas). Another group formed behind the escapees and eventually merged with them. The lead group consisted of at least 30 riders.
The peloton had difficulty keeping the fugitives close. At 62 km, the break led the bunch by more than 6:00. At 100 km, the peloton stepped up the pace. By 128 km, the escapees' lead was down to 3:52.
With 22.5 km left, the break led the field by about 2:30. In the bunch, a crash took down several riders, including Credit Agricole team captain Pietro Caucchioli. Ten km later, the escapees reached the base of Lagos de Covadonga. The real race was on.
Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) attacked the lead group, and Efimkin went with him. Behind, CSC led the bunch. Efimkin dropped the Frenchman with 11.5 km left. With eight km remaining, the Russian led a chase group that contained all of the heads of state by 2:12.
With seven km left, Carlos Sastre (CSC) attacked. Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne) followed, as did Denis Menchov (Rabobank). Eventually, Cadel Evans (Predictor) got back on.
With six km remaining, Menchov attacked. Sastre, Evans, and Jose Angel Gomez Marchante (Saunier Duval) joined the Russian. Efimkin led the chasers by 1:44.
Marchante fell off of the pace. With three km left, Menchov attacked. Sastre and Evans followed the Russian, but another move by Menchov dropped the Australian. Piepoli and Devolder joined Menchov and Sastre. Ahead, Efimkin checked behind, but he need not have worried. He finished well clear of his pursuers.
In the overall, Efimkin leads Menchov and Sastre by 1:06. Stage 5 will probably not change this state of affairs. The 157.4-km ride from Cangas de Onis to Reinosa will feature three Category 2 climbs before a Category 1 ascent at 136 km. The stage is rugged, but the field should stay together until the final climb. A small group might escape, but the finish is too far away for the group to do much damage. Who will win? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!