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With a powerful uphill sprint on a short, cobbled climb, Haas held Drucker and Bevin off to take his first win for Dimension Data on stage 4 of the Vuelta a Burgos; a splint in the finale allowed Meersman to take the lead

Photo: Cannondale-Garming Pro Cycling














05.08.2016 @ 16:36 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Nathan Haas took his first win for Dimension Data when he emerged as the strongest in a typical puncheur finale on stage 4 of the Vuelta a Burgos. After a great lead-out from his team, he easily held Jempy Drucker (BMC) and Patrick Bevin (Cannondale) off to take his first win since the 2014 Japan Cup while a split in the finale allowed Gianni Meersman (Etixx-QuickStep) to take the overall lead.


Dominating the domestic scene in Australia, Nathan Haas showed huge potential as a puncheur and it was no surprise that he was picked up by the Garmin team after he had beaten the WorldTour stars at the Jayco Herald Sun Tour and the Japan Cup in 2011. One year later, he won the Tour of Britain overall and the future looked bright for the talented Australian.


However, Haas’ progress stalled and apart from a stage win in the Herald Sun Tour and another win at Japan Cup, he failed to achieve much success for the American team. For the 2016 season, he decided to try something new as he joined Dimension Data but in the first part of the year he has mostly been working for his teammates.


Today he got a rare chance to go for himself in a typical puncheur finale on stage 4 of the Vuelta a Burgos. A 700m cobbled climb in the end made it a perfect stage for Haas who was given the nod by his teammates to go for the win and he didn’t disappoint. After a great lead-out from his teammates, he was clearly the fastest in the uphill sprint, relegating Jempy Drucker to a third runner-up spot in four days of racing.


After yesterday’s sprint stage, the puncheurs were expected to come to the fore in stage 4 which brought the riders over 145km from Aranda de Duero to Lerma. The opening section led the riders onto the circuit where they tackled the key category 3 climb of Alto del Majadal after 55km of racing. From there they headed to the finish before doing one full lap of the 59km circuit. This meant that the riders tackled the climb again with 31km to go before they headed along lumpy roads to the finish where the final 700m were all uphill on a very narrow 3-5m wide road with cobbles. The final 300m averaged 6% but the road was straight as the final turn came at the bottom of the climb.


All riders turned up to the sunny start before they embarked on their journey to Lerma in pretty windy conditions. Like in the previous stages, it was a fast and aggressive start before Lluis Mas (Caja Rural), Amets Txurruka (Orica-Bike Exchange), Jacques van Rensburg (Dimension Data), Marino Kobayashi (Nippo-Vini Fantini) and Jesper Asselman (Roompot) managed to get clear. David Lopez (Sky) tried to bridge across but he never made it and the quintet had built up a gap of 38 seconds after 11km of racing. However, they had to fight hard to get a bigger advantage as Burgos had missed the break and therefore chased hard. After 20km of racing, their lead was just 22 seconds.


Arnau Sole (Burgos) tried to bridge across but when he failed, Burgos continued the chase, now together with Ag2r. However, after 24km of fast racing, they gave up when the lead had grown to 48 seconds and then Astana took over. From there, the advantage grew quickly. It was 1.26 after 26km of racing and 1.45 after 29km, but then it didn’t increase at the same rate. Hence, it was only 2.02 after the first hour during which 42km had been covered.


The front quintet had increased its lead to 2.50 before it hit the first climb where van Rensburg beat Kobayashi, Asselman and Mas in the KOM sprint. It even 3.03 reached when Asselman beat Kobayashi and Txurruka in the first intermediate sprint.


Astana set the pace as they crossed the finish line for the first time 3.30 behind the leaders who were working well together. However, as soon as they left the city, Sky, Tinkoff and Astana tried to split things in the crosswinds and even though their mission failed, the acceleration had cost the escapees a minute of their advantage.


Alessandro Vanotti briefly hit the front for Astana but the extreme nervousness created huge tension. Sky, Katusha, Movistar and Tinkoff lined out their troops on the front before Katusha took complete control with Vladimir Isaychev, Maxim Belkov, Sergey Lagutin and Anton Vorobyev who worked hard to keep captains Tiago Machado and Matvey Mamykin out of trouble.


Entering the final 45km, the gap had dropped to 1.30 and things had calmed down a lot. The calmn atmosphere didn’t last long though as Sky and Tinkoff soon positioned themselves next to the Katusha train, trying to get ready for the final climb. Sergio Paulinho, Jesus Hernandez (both Tinkoff) and Xabier Zandio (Sky) all worked hard on the front for the respective teams.


With 40km to go, the gap had gone out to 2 minutes but the front group had lost a bit of firepower as Asselman was no longer able to contribute. Moments later, Jorge Cubero (Burgos) attacked, trying to bridge across to the front quintet.


While Cubero worked hard to extend his advantage, Sky gathered their 8 riders on the front and Zandio upped the pace significantly. With 35km to go, he had brought the Burgos rider back and reduced the gap to just 1.25.


The front group hit the final climb with an advantage of 1.20 but they continued to lose time on the ascent  where Zandio maintained his fast pace. While they went up the climb, Imanol Estevez (Euskadi) and a ONE rider attacked but they were both able to continue.


As the front group approached the top, Mas attacked and only van Rensburg could follow. Asselman exploded completely and was brought back by Zandio and the rest of the peloton.


Van Rensburg led Mas over the top with an advantage of 1.00 after they had increased the gap by 15 seconds. Vanotti took over in the peloton and led the main group over the line.


Astana took complete control as they headed down the descent, with Eros Capecchi and Vanotti fuiding their leaders through the many turns. Katusha moved up next to them as he fight for position intensified and Ag2r and Movistar also came to the fore just as they brought Kobayashi and Txurruka back with 26km to go.


Van Rensburg and Mas worked very well together but their gap had dropped to 45 seconds when they entered the final 25km. Movistar briefly hit the front before Sky took over with Ian Boswell and Peter Kennaugh but as they entered the final 20km, Sky, Tinkoff, Movistar and Katusha were fighting hard for the front positions.


The gap was now down to 20 seconds as Isaychev, Rory Sutherland (Movistar), Jesus Hernandez (Tinkoff) and Zandio rode on the front. Things calmed down a bit and so the gap went back out to 45 seconds as they hit the final 15km.


Katusha, Tinkoff, Sky and Movistar kept riding on the front but they were not really chasing. FDJ also came to the fore with Johan Le Bon as the pace slowly ramped up again.


Katusha took control with Vorobyev and with 8km to go, he had reduced the gap to less than 20 seconds. Van Rensburg and Mas shook their hands and decided to give up and so it was all back together with 7.5km to go.


Vorobyev kept riding on the front and then Lagutin took over. As he strung out the group in the crosswind, splits started to appear and several riders had to react to close the many gaps that occurred. Lots of riders fell behind due to the huge pace.


Tiago Machado (Katusha) took over and he created a split behind the first 20 riders. However, there was no help for the Portuguese as Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) refused to take a turn.


Jhonatan Restrepo (Katusha) came to the front to work with Machado but the peloton was again approaching from behind. They made the junction with 1700m to go but there wasn’t much time to return to the front.


When Katusha swung off, Dimension Data took over as they tried to set Sbaragli up for the sprint. However, it was the powerful Daniel Oss (BMC) who led the peloton under the flamme rouge, again giving Jempy Drucker the perfect lead-out. In the end, however, the Luxembourger had no match to Haas’ speed and the Australian took a comfortable win ahead of the BMC rider. Patrick Bevin finished in third while double stage winner Danny Van Poppel (Sky) had to settle for fourth.


Gianni Meersman could only manage fifth but as there was a 3-second split behind the first 7 riders, he gained enough time to take the lead. He is now tied on time with the Astana pair of Dmitriy Gruzdev and Michele Scarponi but he is unlikely to defend his position in the final stage which is the queen stage.The 163km between Caleruega and Lagunas De Neila follow the traditional pattern as a mostly flat first half with just two small category 3 climbs leads to the difficult second half. Here the category 2 climb of Alto del Gargardero serves as a warm-up before the riders get to the finishing circuit. They will first tackle the category 2 climb of Alto del Collado before they get to the final climb for the first time. This time they won’t go all the way to the top and instead they will start a descent with 30km to go before tackling the Alto del Collado for the second time. At the top, only 11km remain and they consist of a short descent and the final 7.8km climb which averages 8.76%. The first three kilometres aren’t that hard but then the climb gets really difficult. The third last kilometre averages 9.7%, the penultimate kilometre is the steepest at 11.9% and then it eases off a bit in the end as the final kilometre is ‘only’ uphill at 7.5%.



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