Tejay van Garderen won stage 4 of the Volta a Catalunya Thursday atop the Vallter 2000-Setcases finish climb. Van Garderen (BMC Racing) surged past Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) at the line to win the 166-kilometer leg from Alp, Spain.
Bardet was second, tied on time with van Garderen, and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) was third, at three seconds.
“I let the other guys do a couple little attacks first so they could kind of wear each other out,” van Garderen said in a team press release. “I think I got a little lucky and I think the cold might have helped me a little bit. I think I can cope with it a bit better than some of those guys who are 60 kilos. This is my first WorldTour victory and to be up there against all the names like (Alberto) Contador, (Chris) Froome, and Purito (Joaquim Rodríguez) — grand tour winners — is a huge honor.”
Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) finished fourth, one second behind Contador, to defend his overall lead. Contador is second overall, at four seconds, with three days of racing remaining.
The stage win boosted van Garderen into third overall, at seven seconds.
“It´s going to be difficult to go for the GC,” said van Garderen. “There are no TT & no mountain stages, but if we see an opportunity, we will take it.”
Tour de France champion Chris Froome (Sky) finished seventh, following Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) across the line. Froome is sixth overall, at 17 seconds, behind fourth-placed Bardet and fifth-placed Quintana, both at 10 seconds. Talansky is seventh overall, at 18 seconds.
The stair-stepping, double climb to the finish started with the Cat. 1 Rocabruna, 41km from the finish. The hors categorie finish climb to Vallter 2000-Setcases rose at an average gradient of 7.8 percent for 12km.
With fog enveloping the race and snow falling lightly at the finish, Bardet and van Garderen attacked high up on the finish climb. The Frenchman led van Garderen into the final, right-hand corner to the finish, and the American jumped off the wheel to easily take the victory. The former Tour de France best young rider looked over his right shoulder for Bardet as he crossed the line and raised a hand in the air for a subdued celebration.
The Volta a Catalunya continues Friday with the 218km fifth stage, from Camprodon to Valls. The stage features the Cat. 2 Alt de Lilla climb, which tops out 8km from the finish.