Volta a Catalunya S4: João Almeida wins mountaintop finale, Nairo Quintana grabs lead
UAE Emirates continues its winning ways with Almeida punching for the stage win as Ben O'Connor cannot fend off climbers in summit finale.
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João Almeida continued UAE Emirates’ winning ways by kicking to victory in an intense mountaintop finale at the Volta a Catalunya.
The Portuguese rider jumped late to claim the stage win out of a three-way sprint of elite climbers.
Overnight leader Ben O’Connor (Ag2r-Citroën) struggled to match the pace, and Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic) takes the leader’s jersey ahead of Almeida based on a count-back of points.
“I am super happy. This season so far I have not been so lucky. I had a crash early today, but I am super happy with the win. I was feeling pretty good on the last climb,” Almeida said. “I was always controlling my effort. Then I just did my pace, and in the end, I just sprinted for the victory. We have a strong team here. We had multiple riders to win, and we played the cards. In the end, we won. There are still some hard stages coming.”
The 166.7km fourth stage ran from La Seu d’Urgell to Boí Taüll in the snowbound Catalan Pyrénées.
🥇🎉 YES!!! @JooAlmeida98 takes the stage win atop Boí Taüll after brilliant teamwork all day at #VoltaCatalunya101.
Bravo João!👏#UAETeamEmirates #WeAreUAE pic.twitter.com/GWjkimjc9W
— @UAE-TeamEmirates (@TeamEmiratesUAE) March 24, 2022
Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) opened things up with 3km to go, with Sergio Higuita (Bora-Hansgrohe) quick to follow the wheel.
Quintana bridged out, and Almeida also dragged himself across to the front. Carapaz faded, and the three leaders hit the red kite with a slender gap on the desperately chasing GC group. Quintana jumped, but it was a dog fight to the line.
Almeida squirted ahead of Quintana and Higuita at the line, but Quintana takes the leader’s jersey based on the tie-breaker rules as both are now tied on time.
O’Connor fell to fourth going into Friday’s stage.
How it happened
An early breakaway was duly reeled in once the bunch neared the final climb.
O’Connor wisely picked up a leftover one-second time bonus to pad his lead going into the decisive summit finale.
Quintana showed his cards early and accelerated out of the GC bunch to fracture the pack in his wake. O’Connor marked the move, with George Bennett linking up with Bruno Armirail with 11km to go.
Ineos Grenadiers put up a chase with the two up the road digging out a 15-second lead with 6.5km to go, making Bennett a direct GC threat to O’Connor. Bennet was eventually reeled in from pressure from Ineos, and the fireworks began.
The Volta continues Friday with the 206.3km fifth stage from La Pobla de Segur to Vilanova i la Geltrú. Some early climbs will set up a tug-of-war between breakaway riders and any teams interested in setting up a reduced bunch sprint.
Results will be available once stage has completed.