Kaden Groves takes sprint victory on stage 4 – Vuelta a Espana

Vuelta a Espana 2023

Stage 4

Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck) claimed victory on stage 4 of the Vuelta a España in a bunch sprint after he overhauled Sebastián Molano (UAE Team Emirates) on the drag to the line in Tarragona.

Groves gauged his effort perfectly on the gently climbing finale, biding his time when Molano struck for home with more than 300 metres to go before closing in on the Colombian within sight of the line to claim the third Grand Tour stage win of his career and his second this season.

Edward Theuns (Lidl-Trek) claimed third on the stage ahead of Milan Menten (Lotto-Dstny), while Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep) finished safely in the peloton to retain the red jersey of race leader.

The finale was marred by a number of crashes, with Bryan Coquard (Cofidis) and Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain Victorious) both coming down in an incident outside the 3km to go marker, while Marijn van den Berg (EF Education-EasyPost) and Groves’ teammate Robbe Ghys both crashed when they overshot a sharp corner with 350m to go.

Indeed, that incident would have a bearing on strategy in the final kick to the line. Molano, realising that a gap had opened behind him, felt he had little option but to open his effort from distance. The Colombian’s initial acceleration looked destined to carry him to victory, but he lost momentum in the final 100 metres, allowing Groves to come past and claim the spoils.

“It was a super tight corner, and in the end I think Marijn van den Berg and my teammate Robbe Ghys ran the corner wide and crashed, which meant there was a big gap for Sebas Molano and myself,” Groves said. “Sebas just went full from the bottom with 350 metres to go. Luckily, I was patient enough and strong enough to close with him with 100 metres to go.”

Already a winner in Cabo de Gata at last year’s Vuelta and in Salerno on this season’s Giro d’Italia, Groves continues his own record of winning a stage in each of his Grand Tour appearances. Indeed, the Australian also maintains his Alpecin-Deceuninck squad’s sequence of success in three-week races – they have now at least one stage in each of the nine Grand Tours they have raced since they made their debut at the 2021 Giro d’Italia.

“It’s been a good year up to now, with a stage win at the Giro and now one quite early at the Vuelta,” Groves said. “Hopefully, it won’t be the last.”

Eduardo Sepúlveda, Ander Okamika Bengoetxea and David González in the breakaway.

After Monday’s foray into the Pyrenees, stage 4 was always likely to lend itself to a bunch finish, with the race dropping gently from Andorra to Catalonia’s Costa Daurada.

Those odds, however, didn’t deter Eduardo Sepúlveda (Lotto-Dstny), Ander Okamika (Burgos-BH) and David González (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) from forging clear shortly after the flag dropped. They would spend most of the day off the front, even if the peloton – led predominantly by DSM and Alpecin-Deceuinck – never allowed them to extend their lead much beyond two minutes.

“It was a really hard day with only DSM and ourselves controlling,” Groves said. “I had to use two guys to control the breakaway, and they used a lot of energy, but my team was fantastic today, super aggressive. We were always there on time.”

Sepúlveda was wearing the king of the mountains jersey on behalf of the race leader Evenepoel, and his day’s target was to secure the points on offer atop the Alto de Belltall and Coll de Villa inside the final 60km. He duly led the break over the two climbs to claim outright possession of the polka dot jersey and become the first Argentinian in history to lead a classification at a Grand Tour.

By the top of the Coll de Villa, however, the bunch had closed to within half a minute of the escapees, and they would be swept up with 18km remaining. From there, vigilance was the byword, with Filippo Ganna producing a notable cameo on the front on behalf of Ineos leader Geraint Thomas.

Tension, however, was a constant, despite the wide roads, and a crash near the head of the peloton saw Coquard eliminated from sprint contention, while Buitrago’s GC hopes suffered a blow as he lost 2:22 and slipped from 8th to 33rd overall in the process.

Evenepoel and the favourites all finished together in the front group, leaving the Belgian in the red jersey with a lead of five seconds over Enric Mas (Movistar) and 11 over Lenny Martinez (Groupama-FDJ).

The Belgian has made little secret of his desire to shed himself of the burden of race leadership, but he may have to wait a little longer to find the requisite terrain. Although Wednesday’s stage to Burriana features some rugged terrain, including the category 2 Collado de la Ibola, the fast run-in might well offer Groves and the fast men another opportunity.

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