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Vuelta Stage 4: A Sting in the Tail

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"Finally," a sprinter might have said. "No categorised climbs." That would be until they saw the finish of this stage up close.


Stage 4: Estepona - Vejer de le Frontera, 209.6 km

Flat...flat...flat..oh no.


There are no categorised climbs on stage four, but that hardly means it's easy. The race starts in holiday location Estepona, and ends 21 kilometres in Vejer de la Frontera, with a couple of short sharp climbs.


Last 10 kilometres:

As you can see from this, the road is very steep from four kilometres to go until three kilometres to go, then it flattens out for a further two kilometres, before a steep rise to the line. What sort of rider this could suit is unclear. Some think Sagan, or someone like him, but I disagree. There's well over a kilometre of steep climbing there.


While a break of good rouleurs could conceivably get away, this stage doesn't look good for a breakaway, as several teams will want to chase.


General Classification:

Vuelta red jersey

Chaves' jersey looks safe. He could lose it if Dan Martin won by 15 seconds, and that's not going to happen. If the group split with Dumoulin on the right side, and Chaves not, he could also lose it, but there's just not enough climbing for him to lose the jersey on stage 4.

Points Classification:

new Vuelta green

Chaves and Sagan are level in this competition, and either could go ahead of the other, depending on how the climb is raced.

Mountains Classification:

Vuelta KOM jersey

Omar Fraile has the lead in this competition, and will keep it another two days at least - there are no categorised climbs until Thursday.

Combined Classification:

Vuelta white jersey


Who'll win?

This is the most unpredictable stage of the Vuelta so far. Some say it's for a puncheur like Daniel Martin, some say a climbing sprinter like Peter Sagan.

I'm leaning towards the puncheur option. Remember last year's stage three? Michael Matthews, an arguably better climber than Sagan, just outsprinted Martin on a far easier finish than this. That makes me think that the names will be similar to the names at the top of stage 2.

Daniel Martin is one of the best in the world at going up short hills quickly. He's especially good when relatively fresh - the opening stages of a Grand Tour say, but he's got a small problem with positioning. Yes, he's got three kilometres of uphill and down to get to the front, but I wouldn't put it past him to languish at the back before finishing third despite being the fastest. If he starts at the front, and goes at the right time, he'll be difficult to beat.

Peter Sagan is just as likely to win. He's climbing better than ever this year, and broke his duck of victories this summer on stage 2. He seems in excellent condition, and the stage does look ideal for him, but is it just a little too much?

Tom Dumoulin is my third pick. He's a better climber than Sagan, and rode brilliantly on Sunday's final climb, just cracking before coming around Chaves. This is easier, and he is the sort of versatile rider to be able to pull it off.

Alejandro Valverde is usually slightly faster than Martin, and is obviously a better climber than Sagan and Dumoulin. However, he didn't look at his best on Sunday.

Youcef Reguigui is my big outsider (he's on my fantasy team), and Joaquím Rodríguez could win if the sprinters are all dropped.