The riders also had a tough ride on Thursday. The 186 kilometer long stage counted 2,700 vertical meters and was almost never flat after about sixty kilometers.
Soon after the start a leading group formed. Bruno Armirail, Geraint Thomas, Mauri Vansevenant, Victor Lafay, Ruben Guerreiro, Ruben Fernandez, Mark Donovan, Jefferson Cepeda, Tsgabu Grmay, Oscar Rodriguez, Davide Formolo, Mikel Iturria and Felix Grossschartner managed to break out of the pack. It took a while before they had a big lead, but they finally broke free for 3.5 minutes. Meanwhile, the peloton was led by the team of leader of the classification Roglic.
With 53 kilometers to go, Tsgabu Grmay was fed up with the struggle in the leading group. He decided to take off on his own, but on the steep sections he soon had to recognize his superior in Thomas, Guerreiro, Armirail and Lafay. The peloton meanwhile decided to pick up the pace, reducing the lead of the three leaders with 22 kilometers to go to 1.5 minutes.
Vansevenant, Formolo and Iturria were able to rejoin the front four, so that seven men seemed to be fighting for the win. Together they managed to increase the lead on the peloton again. In the first two kilometers of the final climb of the day, the Vivero, the riders faced huge gradients, but Lafay showed he could handle it well and took off alone.
Yet he fell silent and just before the finish the thinned out peloton came to get him back. It came down to a sprint, in which Felipe Martínez kept Frenchman Alaphilippe just behind. Diego Ulissi finished third. Primoz Roglic came in fourth and thus remains the leader in the Tour of the Basque Country.
The fifth stage on Friday covers 163.8 kilometers from Zamudio to Mallabia. The Tour of the Basque Country ends on Saturday with a ‘queen stage’ in which two cols of the third category, two cols of the second category and three cols of the first category have to be climbed.
Pedersen remains just ahead of Vauquelin in Circuit Sarthe
Mads Pedersen has won the third stage in Circuit Cycliste Sarthe. The Danish Trek-Segafredo cyclist crossed the finish line in Sablé-sur-Sarthe just a little earlier than Frenchman Kevin Vauquelin, who was last of the leading group. Vauquelin thought for a long time that his lead was enough, but he had to leave the victory to Pedersen. Britain’s Mark Cavendish was third.
Pedersen also won the opening stage of Circuit Cycliste Sarthe on Tuesday. Thanks to the win, he retains the lead in the general classification. Benoît Cosnefroy from France is second and his compatriot Axel Zingle takes third place in the standings.
The Dutchman Olav Kooij was the fastest in the second stage of Circuit Sarthe on Wednesday. The four-day race ends Friday with a rolling stage over 173.6 kilometers in the hills around La Chapelle-Saint-Aubin.