By Andrew Hood
Spain’s Martin Perdiguero came out of nowhere to win Friday’s difficult climbing stage in the Tour of Valencia while Dario Frigo moved back into the overall lead.
The pint-sized Domina Vacanze rider is known more for his sprinting prowess, but vaulted past Frigo in the final 50 meters to claim a surprising stage-win. Perdiguero insisted the win shouldn’t come as any surprise.
“I’ve lost a lot of weight and came into this season with a lot of motivation to show I can climb better. Look what happened today. I was at the front and now I have won,” Perdiguero said.
Frigo drove hard at the bottom of the 4km but very steep climb to the category-one Alto del Capello to split the lead group. Pre-stage favorites Alex Zülle (Coast) and Danilo Di Luca (Saeco) both faded on the lower sections.
Bernabeu tried to attack Frigo with about 1km to go, but the Italian easily countered and the pair came in for what they thought would be a personal duel. They didn’t realize that Perdiguero and Kelme’s Javier Pascual Llorente were fast closing in.
“We didn’t know they were coming up behind us,” said Bernabeu, who moved into second overall. “I tried hard to drop Frigo, but he was very strong.”
Frigo’s second-place firms up his hold over the overall lead, now 15 seconds ahead of Bernabeu and Pascual Llorente. Saturday’s final stage is ideal for the sprinters, so Frigo knows the race is almost his.
“Tomorrow is not nearly as difficult as these other stages and I am confident my team is strong enough to keep things under control,” Frigo said. “Today was the most important stage because I knew everything would be decided on this climb.”
Rafael Casero’s dream run in the leader’s jersey ended on the early lower sections. The Paternina rider came across the line 59 seconds in arrears, but walks away satisfied with his first career stage-win this week.
“I knew it was going to be hard against the more experienced riders. I went as hard as I could at the bottom, but it was obvious that Frigo was simply stronger,” Casero said. “I can still be happy with how this race has gone. It’s nice to finally win a stage after suffering for so long.”The race concludes with Saturday’s 166.5-km fifth stage. Mario Cipollini and the other sprinters are champing at the bit to get a chance to stretch their legs in what’s been a very mountainous race.Stage 4, Sagunto to Alto del Campello
1. Martin Perdiguero (Sp), Domina Vacanze, 158km in 3:47:38, (41.696 kph)
2. Dario Frigo (I), Fassa Bortolo, at same time
3. David Bernabeu (Sp), Milaneza-MSS, s.t.
4. Jaiver Pascual Llorente (Sp), Kelme, s.t.
5. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz), Telekom, at 16 seconds
6. Michael Boogerd (Ned), Rabobank, s.t.
7. Xavier Florencio (Sp), ONCE, s.t.
8. Alexandre Moos (Swi), Phonak, s.t.
9. Francisco Perez (Sp), Milaneza-MSS, s.t.
10. David Millar (GBr), Cofidis, s.t.Overall standings after four stages
1. Dario Frigo (I), Fassa Bortolo, 11:34:01
2. David Bernabeu (Sp), Milaneza-MSS, at 0:15
3. Javier Pascual Llorente (Sp), Kelme, s.t.
4. David Millar (GBr), Cofidis, at 0:24
5. Xavier FLorencio (Sp), ONCE, at 0:36
6. Martin Perdiguero (Sp), Domina Vacanze, at 0:40
7. Alexandre Moos (Swi), Phonak, at 0:47
8. Alex Zülle (Swi), Coast, s.t.
9. Inigo Cuesta (Sp), Cofidis, at 0:49
10. Michael Boogerd (Ned), Rabobank, at 0:51