Daniel Moreno of Katusha attacked late from a select bunch on the final, 2 kilometre long climb of today's Stage 4 of the 2013 Vuelta at Fisterra to win his second career stage in his home Grand Tour. RadioShack-Leopard's Fabian Cancellara tried to close the Spaniard down, but couldn't quite bridge across.
Orica-GreenEdge's Michael Matthews was third across the line. Cancellara's team mate, Chris Horner, found himself on the wrong side of a 6-second gap, and the race lead goes back to Astana's Vincenzo Nibali.
RadioShack-Leopard work in vain for Chris Horner (© Unipublic/Graham Watson)
Moreno, whose previous Vuelta success came on the Sierra Nevada on Stage 4 of the 2011 race, had come close to winning Stage 2 of this year’s 68th edition on the Category 1 summit finish at the Alto do Monte da Groba on Sunday.
There, he finished 2 seconds behind Saxo-Tinkoff’s Nicolas Roche, but today he timed his move to perfection, pulling back an earlier attack from Vacansoleil-DCM’s Juan Antonio Flecha.
After his victory today, Moreno said: "I’m extremely happy because this year, I haven’t been as lucky as in the previous seasons. I have four or five more years of pro racing ahead.
"We’re going to celebrate this victory first and take the rest of the Vuelta day by day. There’s still a long way to go and I believe stage 9 to Valdepeñas de Jaén will be one to appreciate. We’ve had four difficult days in Galicia where racing is always hard."
Of the spirit within his Katusha team, originally denied a UCI WorldTour licence for the 2013 season until they successfully appealed to the Court fo Arbitration for Sport, he reflected: "We’re like a family. We have fun together when we train and when we race.
"With ‘Purito’, [Jouaquin Rodriguez, the team's overall hope for this year's Vuelta] we always discuss which finale is better for him or for me and we adjust our ambitions to the circumstances.
"This time, Luca Paolini helped me getting the perfect position and we’ve worked hard for nobody to be able to follow the acceleration."
With a finish on the cape jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean at Fisterra – the name derived from the Latin, Finis Terra – today was billed as ‘the Stage of the End of the World.’
For many riders though, the Last Judgment came a little more than 30 kilometres earlier in the 189 kilometre stage from Lalin, on the Category 3 climb of the Mirador de Ezaro, which had ramps of up to 29 per cent.
While the remnants of the day’s five man break, as well as the leading riders in the group, found the going hard enough, those who were themselves out of position towards the back of the bunch as they hit the climb discovered the gradient to be near impossible.
World champion Philippe Gilbert of BMC Racing, one of the fancied riders for this stage, was among them, the mass of bodies making it impossible to maintain momentum, with a number having to dismount.
Cofidis rider Nicolas Edet, who had been in the break, led the race over the summit, but his advantage had been slashed in half to 30 seconds as he crested it and he was reeled in on the way back down as a select group of 50 or 60 riders formed ahead of that final ramp to the finish.
Nicolas Edet of Cofidis leads the break (© Unipublic/Graham Watson)
Edet, aged 25 and coming to the end of his fourth season at Cofidis, scooped the day's combativity prize and said afterwards: “I was disappointed about my first three days at the Vuelta.
"Yesterday, I crashed and I lost a lot of time while I was feeling physically better. So I intended to do something today.
"When the counter-attack came across to me after the Mirador de Ezaro, I thought it might be the right move, but Quick Step rode behind. My legs are good, I want to try again.”
Vuelta 2013, Stage 4: Vincenzo Nibali back in red jersey (© Unipublic/Graham Watson)
Nibali, who dominated the Giro d'Italia on his way to overall victory in that race in May and who won the 2010 Vuelta in the colours of Liquigas, finds himself in the red leader's jersey for the second time in this year's race, almost by default - the big target, of course, is to be wearing it in Madrid a fortnight on Sunday.
“Chris Horner’s team had the objective to keep the red jersey, it comes as a surprise for me to get it back," reflected the 28-year-old Sicilian.
"I don’t know what happened. There might have been a gap somewhere… I didn’t do any great action.
"We targeted the stage for Maxim Iglinskiy but it was difficult to position him in this very fast sprint. It’s been a very nervous stage from 30km to go till here at the “end of the world”.
"We’ll ride the next stage with serenity. As I said the previous days, the Vuelta is still long.
"You have seen as well as I did who are my main rivals, [Alejandro] Valverde, [Joaquin] Rodriguez…, those who have taken some time bonus atop the hills.
"But we haven’t experienced the real climbs of the Vuelta yet.
"It’s been more of a nervous kind of racing so far. My team has managed to keep me up the front with caution and avoid too big gaps.”
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.