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Itzulia Basque Country stage 4: Daniel Martínez denies Julian Alaphilippe in photofinish

Primož Roglič finished fourth on the stage and retained the overall leader's jersey.

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Daniel Martínez (Ineos Grenadiers) won stage 4 of the 2022 Itzulia Basque Country by a wheel-width ahead of world champion Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) and Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates).

After winning stage 2, this is the second consecutive stage in which Alaphilippe was denied wins after teammate Remco Evenepoel delivered him to within 500m of the finish line.

“When I saw nobody was going for it before 200 meters to go, I decided to go for it,” said Martínez.

Victor Lafay (Cofidis) came close to a solo win, riding from the day’s breakway, but was brought back inside of 800m to go.

How it happened

A group of escapees were up the road by some 2:00 with 35 kilometers to go, when the race heated up. In this bunch were 2018 Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers), Ruben Guerrero (EF Education-EasyPost), Bruno Amarail (Groupama-FDJ), and Victor Lafay (Cofidis).

The peloton had been content to let the break stay away, but only enough so as not to upset the classifications, but as the kilometers ticked by, the chasers became feisty.

Mikkel Vittoria (Euskaltel Euskadi), Davide Formolo (UAE Team Emirates), and Mauri Vansevenant (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) joined the lead group with a lap of the finishing circuit remaining, and the seven padded the gap by an additional 40 seconds.

Lafay attacked the bunch on a small climb, with compatriot Amarail responding. Thomas seemed to be satisfied with his placing and did not immediately follow.

A short climb at 24km to go inspired the main bunch to try to bring back the escapees, and the gap went down to 1:15. Pierre Latour (TotalEnergies) led the chasers, while Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) kept an eye on him.

Martínez tried an attack, but race-leader Primoż Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) spotted him and did not let him get any gap. It was then Alaphilippe who went on the offensive at 20km to go, with Martínez and Vingegaard covering the move. The attack was brought back within 1km, despite the world champion’s repeated efforts to spilt the race.

With 15km remaining, Lafay’s gap had dwindled to 1:00, and he could be seen suffering on the open roads, as the chasing pace went full-gas into the final 9km. The speed of the big bunch absorbed the group in the middle with Thomas.

UAE Team Emirates took up the lead of the chase with 7,500m remaining, while Ineos Grenadiers and Jumbo-Visma were content to allow them to do all of the work to bring back Lafay.

Inside of 3km to go a gap of just 20 seconds remained, as UAE Team Emirates still lead the chase for Ulissi.

As he did on the previous stages, Evenepoel went to the front at 1.5km to go and did a 1,000m turn for his “Wolfpack” teammate wearing the green jersey and not the world champion’s stripes.

For all his work, Lafay was brought back at 800m to go as UAE struggled to control the speedy Belgian Evenepoel.

Coming out of a series of bends in the road, Alaphilippe looked to be in good position to add another win, but Martínez opened the sprint first and held Alaphilippe, Ulissi, and a charging race-leader Roglič for the stage win.

“My legs were good but I was just missing a little something,” said Alaphilippe. “My confidence was missing a little, even if I won a couple of days ago, which did me good. But you can’t win every day either.”

Commenting on the remaining stages, Martínez said he’s in it with teammate Adam Yates’, hunting for overall placing.

“The next two stages are very hard,” said Martínez. “But together with Adam we’re going well, and we’ll be looking for the win.”

The penultimate stage Friday will take to the high mountains, going from Zamudio to Mallabia, with five categorized climbs, including the climb to the finish.

Results will be available once stage has completed.

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