Five talking points from stage four of the Vuelta a España 2017
Trentin wins, Froome stays clear of trouble, and we look forward to tomorrow's uphill finish
Trentin delivers for Quick-Step Floors
With no genuine GC threats in a race that features nine summit finishes, Quick-Step Floors looked likely to be coming to coming to the Vuelta a España to fight for scraps with the many other teams in the same position as them.
Instead, just four stages in and they’re already picked up two stage wins, finished second in the team time trial, and had the leader’s red jersey for a day, meaning that whatever happens from now on, they will get to Madrid having had a successful race.
Matteo Trentin, second on the stage to Gruisson, was the man to deliver the goods today, showing the sort of killer instinct that he doesn’t often get to exhibit when deployed as a lead-out man for Marcel Kittel or Fernando Gaviria.
Locked on the wheel of Juan José Lobato, Trentin was assured as he bided his time, before launching a sharp acceleration that saw him cross the line with his arms in the air and a couple of bike lengths to spare.
Vuelta gives second-string sprinters a chance to shine
While the likes of Marcel Kittel, Mark Cavendish and Peter Sagan mop up stages in the first two Grand Tours of the season, the Vuelta a España is a great opportunity to get a proper glimpse at some of the lesser known fast men in the peloton.
Trentin is one example, but also in the top ten today were riders such as Edward Theuns, Lorrenzo Manzin, Youcef Reguigui, and Søren Kragh Andersen, who don’t always get the chance to ply their trade watched by the sort of big audience that the Vuelta attracts.
Manzin and Andersen in particular are two promising young riders, the latter taking part in his first Grand Tour, who will be gaining a lot by sprinting at the front of one of the biggest races in the calendar.
This sort of stages also gives a chance for any riders without a contract for next year to get a bit of attention with an unexpected result, maybe securing themselves another couple of years in the pro ranks in the process.
Team Sky not leaving anything to chance
Froome took the lead on stage three after taking bonus seconds at the finish and the intermediate sprint, and his team were on the ball to sweep up the one remaining bonus second at the intermediate sprint today, Wout Poels springing out of the bunch to take it.
From there Sky were never far from the front of the peloton, guiding Froome through a tricky final few kilometres and preventing any unnecessary lost seconds as was the case on stage two when Froome was caught on the wrong side of the split behind Nibali.
Expect this team strength to be on show again tomorrow, where positioning will be vital on the run-in to the uphill finish to Ermita de Santa Lucia.
Aqua Blue Sport continue to show their Grand Tour worth
When most second division teams get given a wildcard entry to a Grand Tour, they’re generally happy to get in a few breakaways and get their jersey on TV: Wanty-Groupe Gobert at this year’s Tour de France being a prime example.
However Aqua Blue Sport are doing things a bit differently, with their riders treating this race as if they had a Quick-Step Floors or Team Sky jersey on their backs.
While Caja Rural, Manzana Postobon, and Cofidis get in the breakaways, Aqua Blue Sport are the ones chasing them down, again spending another day on the front today as they looked to set up Adam Blythe for the stage win.
Ultimately it was not to be, but if they keep riding in this manner they might not be waiting long for their first Grand Tour stage win, and will certainly be putting themselves at the front of the queue for more wildcards in the future.
Quiet day for Chris Froome and the GC contenders
The first week of Grand Tours are often pretty quiet for the big overall contenders, but the Vuelta organisers, as they so often do, threw a curveball by putting in a bona fide mountain stage yesterday, just three days into the race.
However, stage four was a return to normality for the GC contenders, with Chris Froome able to sit safely in the peloton while the sprinters’ teams toiled in the headwind to control the break and set up a bunch sprint.
But don’t worry if you drifted off for a siesta and maybe missed a bit of the action today, as the lumpy stuff returns with a short, sharp uphill finish in Alcossebre on Wednesday.