Volta a Catalunya returns to La Molina
The sole mountain top finish of this edition reshuffled the general classification.
Stage 4 of the Volta a Catalunya was an atypical one, with an average speed of 49 km/h for the first two hours and a breakaway gaining ground only after more than 100 kilometers, on the snow-covered Coll de la Creueta (21km, 5%). Prior to that, Ecuadorian Champion Jhonatan Narvaez – who impressed this season in both stage events and one-day races, racking up seven top 10 placings – tried to initiate a move, but the peloton reacted and reeled in the promising neo-pro.
It was Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott) the one who got clear, but despite having a 1:30-advantage, the Colombian got caught on the descent, when several riders attacked, forcing a response from the bunch. On the 11.6km-long La Molina, a first category climb averaging 4.3%, attacks came early, fragmenting the pack, as many riders – who were already suffering due to the cold temperatures – found the pace too difficult.
Five riders escaped and opened up a significant gap, before another big surge left just two men in the front, Egan Bernal (Team Sky) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar); the Spaniard prevailed in the closing meters and moved back into the leader's jersey, with three days to go.
Volta a Catalunya debutant Bob Jungels, whose input helped neo-pro Alvaro Hodeg grab his first World Tour victory on Monday, in Calella, was Quick-Step Floors' top finisher on La Molina, which hosted a stage arrival for the fifth consecutive year.
On Friday, the breakaway specialists will have a chance on the race's longest stage, Llivia – Vielha Val d'Aran (212.9 kilometers). The course contains three climbs, last of which (Tunnel de Vielha) will be crested just 14 kilometers from the finish.
Photo credit: ©Bryn Lennon/ Getty Images