Thanks to a great work of the whole Astana Pro Team, Izagirre and Bilbao found themselves in a good position at the last kilometer of stage 4. In the final, Pello Bilbao finished third, while Ion Izagirre closed the line at fourth place.
- Today, we changed our tactic; we preferred to stay a bit inside the group and to save some energy since we knew that the last climb will be the decisive one. The team was very strong today and I always had a good support from my teammates during the day. On the last climb everyone just gave his all, maybe we missed something to win the stage, but, well, we came here for the general classification and I am happy to become the leader after this stage. Also, Pello Bilbao was very strong and it is great he is third now in the overall. We still have one stage in this race. Normally, it has to be a stage for sprinters, but, anyway, we will keep our concentration on maximum until the finish of tomorrow’s stage, - explained Ion Izagirre.
- I am really happy with the stage we have done today, with the team’s work and with the feeling that I had. It is a very nice start of the season, which gives me a lot of confidence that all the work has been done during the winter was in the right direction. As a team we worked very well all the week here, maybe just today we had more conservative tactic. In the end of the day we reached a good result at the stage, taking the lead in the overall classification. This race was not our main objective, but, anyway, we wanted to come here in a good shape to try to fight for a high result. Together with Ion Izagirre we kept under control the situation on the final climb. We knew, we had some advantage in the general classification and just had to distance Boasson Hagen to take the lead. In the end we did our best to control the other rivals and it worked pretty well. Tomorrow we have to be very attentive and not to do any mistakes to finish both on the podium, - added Pello Bilbao.
The fourth stage of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana became the queen stage of the race: the riders passed 188 km from Vila-Real to the top of a short, but steep climb to Alcossebre. The last time professional peloton visited this climb during the Vuelta a España 2017, when Astana’s Alexey Lutsenko took a very beautiful win at stage 5.
This time despite a promising breakaway, the race on this climb was decided by the leading group of GC contenders. Astana Pro Team showed a very good team work on the final climb, firstly attacking with Merhawi Kudus and later with Luis Leon Sanchez. Anyway, despite all attacks, a group of 10 riders still stayed together with 1 km to the top.
The Britton Adam Yates did the decisive attack from the leading group with a few hundred meters to go to win the stage. The reigned world champion Alejandro Valverde finished second, while Pello Bilbao and Ion Izagirre did 3rd and 4th, respectively. This result allowed two Astana riders to improve their positions in the general classification: Izagirre took the yellow jersey of the current leader, Bilbao moved up to the third place. With only one stage to go Ion Izagirre has 7 seconds of advantage over Valverde, second in the GC. Astana Pro Team holds the lead in the team classification.
The final stage of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana will be held tomorrow: it will be a short flat stage of 88 km to Valencia.
Photo credit: © Tim De Waele/Getty Images