MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung
The 4th stage of the Ruta del Sol saw an epic battle between Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) on the stages final climb. Froome went on to win the stage ahead of Contador with Mikel Nieve (Team Sky) in 3rd place on the day. Froome would take over the race leaders jersey from Contador by a mere 1 second.
Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung were once again looking to Merhawi Kudus for a top result as the race would finish at the top of the Alto de Allanadas cat 1 climb. As part of the plan for the stage, Nicholas Dougall placed himself in the main 9 man break of the day. The rest of the MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung were able to ride comfortably in the peloton while Nic gave us that security up the road.
The cold and wet conditions made it a tough day out on the bike for everyone and Nic and his escapees were held at around 2 minutes by the Tinkoff-Saxo led peloton. Simon Geschke (Giant-Alpecin) who was part of the 9 rider break decided to up the ante in the peloton and after a few attacks he and Mirko Selvaggi (Wanty Groupe Gobert) rode clear of the peloton with 35km to go. The remnants of the break were soon caught by the peloton.
As the race hit the final 5.5km climb, Geschhe would crack and Selvaggi was the lone leader. Team Sky then came to the fore as they accelerated from the lower slopes of the climb to thin out the main peloton. With 3km to go, the race had blown apart. Team Sky were still dictating matters as they set up Froome for the stage. With a kilometer to race, Selvaggi was caught and Froome put in his winning attack.
Merhawi was seen to be fighting to hang on to the front runners in the final kilometers of the stage but would eventually become distanced after the Froome attack. Nevertheless, our young Eritrean, who is more accustomed to the African sunshine, battled on valiantly to finish in 16th position on a tough day of racing.
Alex Sans Vega – Sports Director
It was a really tough stage today in the rain and cold. The parcours was also really long and hard, the whole time it was up and down with very little recovery time. Tinkoff-Saxo also kept a high tempo all stage. The break went after 50km after a big fight to get in the move. Nic was again in the move with 8 other riders. They got a maximum gap of 2’20” before it started to split. 2 riders from the break went ahead until the last hard climb while Nic was back in the peloton with 25km to go. Merhawi did a very good final considering the weather conditions. Once again we are very happy with the effort from the guys here in this race.
Image: Stiehl Photography