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Going first through the final turn to lead Gaviria out, Richeze held off the sprinters to win stage 4 of the Tour de Suisse in a very dangerous finale; Gaviria was second and Sagan third and the Slovakian retained the lead

Photo:Photo: Etixx-QuickStep / Tim De Waele

FERNANDO GAVIRIA

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MAXIMILIANO RICHEZE

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PETER SAGAN

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TOUR DE SUISSE

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14.06.2016 @ 18:27 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

The job as a lead-out man paid off for Maximilano Richeze (Etixx-QuickStep) as he came out on top in the bunch sprint on stage 4 of the Tour de Suisse. Set to work for Fernando Gaviria, the Argentinean was the first rider through the final turn with 140m to go and as his Colombian captain sat up, Richeze could cross the line as the first rider. Gaviria made it a 1-2 for Etixx-QuickStep while third place allowed Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) to extend his overall lead.

 

Maximilano Richeze is known as one of the best lead-out men in the business and last year he built a very strong reputation when he was the key factor in Sacha Modolo’s stage wins at the Giro d’Italia. Unsurprisingly, Etixx-QuickStep reacted quickly and signed the Argentinean as a key part of Marcel Kittel’s lead-out train.

 

A bad crash in the Tour de San Luis meant a delayed start to the year for Richeze and so he has followed a very different schedule from his captain. That has given him a number of sprint opportunities for himself in Frankfurt and California and in this week’s Tour de Suisse where a crash for Fernando Gaviria allowed him to go for himself in stages 2 and 3, taking fine second and fourth places respectively.

 

Today the riders faced the final sprint stage on the fourth day of the race and Richeze was expected to be back in his usual role as a lead-out man. With a sharp turn coming just 140m, his job was even more important than usual as everybody knew that the first sprinter through that corner would probably win the stage.

 

Richeze proved his class as he won the battle between the trains and he safely guided Gaviria through the turn. The Colombian was gracious as he saw a chance to give the stage win to his teammate and as he sat up, nobody could come around and the loyal domestique could celebrate his first win since 2012.

 

The sprint came at the end of a long, dull day as a strong headwind had slowed things down and the peloton arrived at the finish in Champagne almost 30 minutes behind the slowest predicted schedule. Etixx-QuickStep and Tinkoff had done the hard work to chase down the early break and the three survivors were finally brought back with 3.7km to go.

 

It was Luke Durbridge (Orica-GreenEDGE) who closed the final bit of the gap but from there it was Etixx-QuickStep all over the place. Yves Lampaert, Petr Vakoc, Richeze and Gaviria hit the front, with race leader Peter Sagan glued to the Colombian’s wheel.

 

Lampaert took a big turn but when he swung off, things looked bad for the Belgian as they only had Vakoc in front of Richeze and Gaviria. Luckily, Pim Ligthart (Lotto Soudal) moved forward to take a turn and then Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-QuickStep) did an impressive job to come back from a near-crash on a late descent to take a massive pull.

 

Vakoc led the peloton under the flamme rouge and then Sagan’s lead-out man Oscar Gatto sprinted ahead. However, the Slovakian did a mistake by staying on Gaviria’s wheel and when he launched his effort, Richeze led Gaviria and Sagan past the fading Italian.

 

The trio were first through the final turn while Danny Van Poppel (Sky) tried to pass while riding in fourth. The Dutchman had bad luck to almost crash and so a gap opened behind Sagan.

 

Gaviria quickly realized that he could hand the victory to his teammate so he sat up. Sagan reacted too late and could not even come around the Colombian who made it a 1-2 for Etixx-QuickStep.

 

A 2-second gap opened up behind Sagan, with Tom Van Asbroeck (LottoNL-Jumbo) winning the sprint for fourth. However, Sagan could console himself with the fact that he extended his overall lead over Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Soudal) to 9 seconds.

 

There will be no chance that he will defend the jersey in stage 5 which is the first of three consecutive summit finishes. Having tackled the might Furkapass and Gotthardpass, the riders will descend to the bottom of the very hard final climb to Cari which averages 7.5% over 10.1km and is set to reveal who will be in contention for victory at the 2016 Tour de Suisse.

 

The easiest stage

After yesterday’s exciting stage, the sprinters were expected to get their final chance in stage 4 which brought the riders over 193km from Rheinfelden to Champagne. After an early category 2 climb, the terrain was completely flat until the riders got to the 19.1km finishing circuit. Here they faced a small category 3 climb which averaged 4.4% over 1.7km and whose top came just 9.9km from the line. From there, it was a downhill run to a flat finish where a turn just 100m from the line was expected to challenge the sprinters.

 

Unfortunately, Samuel Sanchez (BMC) suffers from a respiratory infection and so has to end the first part of his season earlier than planned after staying at the hotel this morning. The rest of the peloton left Rheinfelden in pouring rain, but the bad weather did not hold the attackers back. There were plenty of early attempts, and no one had escaped after 10km of racing.

 

Four riders get clear

It was Matthew Brammeier (Dimension Data) who laid the foundation for the early break when he attacked a few kilometers later, and he was soon joined by Jeremy Maison (FDJ). Nick van der lijke (Roompot) and Lukas Jaun (Roth) also made contact, and at the 15 km mark the peloton had slowed down so much that it was obvious that the day’s break had gone. In fact, the gap was already 1:50, and it just continued to grow while Tinkoff rode on the front. After 23 km of racing, it was 3.02.

 

The tough headwind meant that it was a very slow first hour during which only 30.3 kilometers were completed, and there was nothing to spur the riders on. Tinkoff kept the gap quite stable between 3.00 and 3.30. It gave the break time to compete for points in the first KOM sprint where van der Lijke helped teammate Antwan Tolhoek by crossing the line in first place. The peloton reached the top 3.20 later.

 

A slow day in the saddle

The gap reached a provisional maximum of 3.55 after about 70km of racing, and then it stayed at around four minutes for several kilometres. At the entrance of the last 100 km, it had again dropped to 3.30.

 

As the sun came out, Etixx-QuickStep came to the fore as Rodrigo Contreras started to trade pulls with Maciej Bodnar and Evgeni Petrov (Tinkoff). While the riders enjoyed a less stressful moment, the trio reduced the gap to 2.15 when they got to the final 75km.

 

The gap starts to grow

Contreras, Bodnar and Petrov worked well together and the gap came down steadily. With 60km to go, the gap was down to just 1.50.

 

The peloton reached a first minimum of 1.30 with 50km to go which was apparently the mark that the escapees had marked out as their point to go faster. They managed to push the gap out to 2 minutes but the peloton soon responded and again started to reduce the gap.

 

Big effort from Jaun

There was no battle for the points in the first intermediate sprint where Jaun rolled across the line in first position, followed by Maison and Brammeier. Petrov, Bodnar and Contreras led the peloton past the point 1.30 later.

 

As the riders hit the smaller roads and slightly hillier terrain inside the final 35km, the escapees again pushed the gap out to 2.10 during the next ten kilometres. At this point, Jaun nearly crashed in a descent and he had to dig extremely deep to rejoin the leaders. The effort cost him so much energy that he was no longer able to contribute to the pace-setting.

 

Jaun is dropped

There was no battle for the points in the second intermediate sprint either and it was Brammeier who led van der Lijke and Maison across the line. Moments later, Jaun paid the price for his hard effort as he was dropped from the break.

 

Etixx-QuickStep realized that something had to be done so they started to chase hard with Contreras, Iljo Keisse and Julien Vermote who joined forces with Bodnar and Petrov. Petrov and Contreras quickly swung off and instead Ivan Rovny started to contribute for Tinkoff.

 

The chase gets organized

At the start of the 19.1km finishing circuit, the gap had dropped to 1.30 and moments later Jaun was brought back. Bodnar ended his job and as Jay McCarthy replaced him for Tinkoff, the gap dropped to 1 minute with 15km to go.

 

Orica-GreenEDGE also came to the fore with Amets Txurruka and the hard work paid off as the gap came down quickly. It was down to 40 seconds as they hit the final climb.

 

Stybar nearly goes down

Brammeier dug extremely deep to stay with his companions and after briefly losing contact, he was back when Maison beat van der Lijke in the KOM sprint. Txurruka led the peloton before LottoNL-Jumbo upped the pace near the top with Paul Martens. Fabian Cancellara (Trek) was one of the few riders to get dropped.

 

Tinkoff again started to chase with Rovny and McCarthy and they had brought the gap down to 15 seconds with 8km to go but it was Etixx-QuickStep that hit the front on the descent. Yves Lampaert took a massive turn but the team lost an important member when Zdenek Stybar missed a turn on the descent. Luckily he didn’t go down.

 

With 5km to go, Vermote was back on the front as they went down the technical descent. As they hit flat roads, Luke Durbridge(Orica-GreenEDGE) stated to help him and wit 3.7km to go, they brought the escape back. That set the scene for the exciting and dangerous sprint which allowed Richeze to take a rare 

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