Only seven miss massive pile up 3km out

Image © Unipublic

Vuelta 2009 Stage 4: Venlo-Liège, 225KM

Columbia-HTC got a second successive stage win as André Greipel won from Quick Step's Wouter Weylandt amid appalling weather in Liege, as only seven riders - including three from each of those riders' teams - managed to avoid a massive crash at a roundabout inside the final three kilometres that took around 40 riders out, including race leader Fabian Cancellara. The Swiss Saxo Bank rider retains the golden jersey.

The stage had seemed set to be decided by a bunch sprint as it entered the closing three kilometres, with Belgium’s own Tom Boonen well positioned to contest, but the crash – apparently caused by a Vacansoleil rider near the front of the speeding peloton sliding across the road– put paid to that.

Today’s route paid homage to the Spring Classics, with parts of the Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Amstel Gold itineraries thrown in, including the latter’s infamous Cauberg climb.

The weather gods apparently took that as a cue, replacing yesterday’s warm sunshine with cold, rainy conditions, causing crashes galore as the Vuelta prepared to leave the Low Countries after its first-ever foray outside the Iberian peninsula. But that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the local crowds, who once again turned out in force to cheer on the riders.

At 225km, today’s stage was the longest in this year’s race, and as happened yesterday, Dutchman Lars Boom of Rabobank got himself into an early breakaway, this time with three other riders for company, with a 13-minute lead by halfway. Although the peloton reined the escapees back during the second half of the stage, Boom managed to take the claret climber’s jersey from his team-mate, Tom Leezer.

The stage had been punctuated by crashes throughout, with Milram’s Gerard Ciolek involved in a nasty accident involving ten or so riders as the race entered Liège to complete a 20-kilometre loop to the finish.

As the race circled the Belgian city, Holland’s Lieuwe Westra, the Vacansoleil rider, sporting a black armband in memory of his father who died last week, and Enrico Gasperotto of Lampre NGC, each launched valiant attacks. However, the peloton reeled both in as Columbia-HTC and Quick-Step’s lead-out men sought to set up their sprinters, little suspecting that they themselves would be racing for the stage victory.

The Vuelta heads to Spain – and hopefully sunnier climes – tonight, with tomorrow a designated rest day before racing resumes in Tarragona on Thursday with a 174-kilometre stage to Vinaròs.

Top 20 Vuelta 2009, Stage 4

1) André Greipel Columbia-HTC                  05:43:05
2) Wouter Weylandt Quick Step
3) Bert Grabsch Columbia-HTC
4) Marcel Sieberg Columbia-HTC
5) Marco Velo Quick Step                       0:00:09
6) Matteo Tosatto Quick Step                   0:00:15
7) Adam Hansen Columbia-HTC                    0:00:22
8) Jurgen Roelandts Silence-Lotto              0:00:28
9) Linus Gerdemann Milram                      0:00:33
10) Thomas Rohregger Milram
11) Olivier Bonnaire Bbox Bouygues Telecom
12) Jesús Rosendo Prado Andalucía - Cajasur    0:00:42
13) Matthieu Ladagnous Française des Jeux
14) Ryder Hesjedal Garmin-Slipstream           0:00:51
15) Christian Knees Milram
16) Paolo Tiralongo Lampre-NGC
17) Alexander Efimkin AG2R - La Mondiale
18) Serafín Martínez Acevedo Xacobeo Galicia
19) Svein Tuft Garmin-Slipstream
20) Tadej Valjavec AG2R - La Mondiale 

Top 10 General Classification after Stage 4

1) Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank)              15:12:38
2) Greg Henderson (Columbia-HTC)               0:00:06
3) Gerald Ciolek (Milram)                      0:00:08
4) Tom Boonen (Quick Step)                     0:00:09
5) Bert Grabsch (Columbia-HTC)                 0:00:11
6) André Griepel (Columbia-HTC)                0:00:11
7) Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Slipstream)            0:00:12
8) Lars Boom (Rabobank)                        0:00:14
9) Jens Mouris (Vacansoleil)                   0:00:14
10) Daniele Bennati (Liquigas)                 0:00:16


Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.