López pulled clear in the closing 500m from a clutch of elite climbers at the sharp end of the 167km fourth stage from Albufeira to Malhão. It was a see-saw battle up the second-category summit, with riders surging and sitting up as the lead group dwindled over a series of accelerations. The Colombian finally distanced Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation), who crossed the line second at two seconds back, to win for the first time since last March.
“I was aiming for this stage, because I knew I could do something good on the final climb,” López said. “There were many attacks in the final, but I decided to wait until the last 500 meters, when I attacked from the leading group. I am very happy with my win. This means that all hard work done during the winter I did in a right way. This is my first race of the year and it is an important test for me at the start of the season.”
The short but steep summit finish was the last chance for the climbers to try to dislodge Evenepoel going into Sunday’s 20km individual time trial. The Belgian, already a winner in stage 2 to take the race lead, steadily marked the attacks, and crossed the line third at four seconds back.
The GC is knotted up, with Evenepoel, Martin and Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) all on even time. López climbed into fourth, at 1 second back, with Rui Costa (UAE-Emirates) fifth at 3 seconds adrift.
Evenepoel will the favorite to secure the overall title Sunday in a rolling 20km time trial along the Algarve coast. The world champion time trial silver medalist should be able to take enough time on his direct rivals to secure his second stage race victory in as many starts in 2020.
Other stage favorites for Sunday will include Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ) and world time trial champion Rohan Dennis (Ineos), but both are minutes off the leading pace, so neither will be a threat for the overall.
Results stage 4, Albufeira – Malhão, 167km
1. Miguel Ángel López (Astana) 4:16:25
2. Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up) at 0:02
3. Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) at 0:04
4. Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) same time
5. Rui Costa (UAE-Emirates) at 0:05
Overall standings after four stages
1. Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) 18:59:35
2. Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up)
3. Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) same time
4. Miguel Ángel López (Astana) at 0:01
5. Rui Costa (UAE-Emirates) at 0:03