Saxo Bank’s Jens Voigt won the fourth stage of the Tour of Catalonia on Thursday, a 210-kilometer state from Oliana to Asco in northeastern Spain.
Katusha’s Joaquim Rodriguez retains the overall lead.
Garmin’s Ryder Hesjedal was again the top finishing North American, coming in 21st at 34 seconds behind Voigt. Most of the other North Americans finished in the same group. The Canadian also is the best placed North American on GC, in seventh.
A six-man break containing Saxo Bank’s Lucas Sebastian Haedo took off early and formed the longest lasting break of the stage. Vladimir Efimkim (Ag2R) was the best-placed rider in the break, at 2:32 behind Rodriguez, in 40th position.
The breakaway hit the first climb with a lead of 2:47 to the chasing peloton. Haedo and RadioShack’s Tomas Vaitkus each lost contact with the break in this climb.
Early on the second climb, Voigt bridged to the breakaway and began setting the pace alone, before being caught by Roman Kreuziger and Rein Taaramäe (Cofidis). Kreuziger (Liquigas) was dropped in the final 10km and entering the last 4km, the Voigt-Taaramäe-duo had a 20-second lead on the peloton.
Voigt took the sprint ahead of Taaramäe, who was credited with the same finish time.
”I am very happy about this win and I think it’s the perfect answer to our bad luck yesterday where Fränk (Schleck) was stopped by a crash,” Voigt said. “I knew that Taaramäe wanted to get to the finish line as fast as possible to gain time in the overall standings to get on the podium, so he was really digging deep to keep up the pace. On the finish line, I could easily go past him.
Milram’s Paul Voss, who won the race’s opening time trial, crossed the line third.
“Robert Förster and Matthias Rus brought me well over the last two climbs. That was super,“ said Vos. “Descending to the finish line, the field split again and I was able to use my reserves at the finish line. That is a super result for me after my great start in the race.”
Last year’s winner, Denis Menchov of Russia, was forced to drop out Thursday due to an allergy.
On Wednesday, another favorite, Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck, was forced to drop out before stage 3 because of illness. [nggallery id=246]