ESTACIÓN DE VALDEZCARAY, Spain (VN) — Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEdge) out-kicked Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) to win stage 4 of the Vuelta a España on Tuesday.
“It is my first win as a professional, I’ve been a pro for four years. I have tried so many times, I have so many second and third places — I am just so happy,” Clarke said.
Martin, meanwhile, said he gave it his best shot in what proved to be very trying conditions.
“In the last climb I hadn’t the energy to make the difference, especially because of the heat,” he said. “It was another incredibly hot day. I tried to leave him to take the lead but he stayed with me. I launched the sprint but I knew he was faster then me. I’m happy about my race.”
Assan Bazayev (Astana), who like Martin and Clarke was in the break du jour with Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis) and Jesus Rosendo (Andalucia), finished third on the 160.6km stage from Barakaldo to Estación de Valdezcaray.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) saw his leader’s jersey slip away after getting caught up in a crash. The peloton was not interested in waiting, and as the race shattered into echelons Valverde was left to chase, finally hitting the line nearly two minutes in arrears.
Joachim Rodriguez (Katusha) inherited the red jersey of the overall leader, with Chris Froome (Sky) second at one second with Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) third at five seconds. Valverde slipped to ninth, 36 seconds down.
Wednesday’s 168km fifth stage will start and finish in Logroño. The pan-flat route will be a welcome one for the sprinters after a couple of tough days in the mountains.
Editor’s note: Stay tuned for more from the 2012 Vuelta a España.