Villella keeps KOM jersey; Van Asbroeck sprints to third on Vuelta stage four

    Davide Villella will continue to #rockthedots at the Vuelta a España following his first day in the blue-and-white-spotted King of the Mountain jersey. The Italian moved to the top of the mountains classification on Monday during a day spent in the breakaway. Tuesday’s stage four included only one category three climb, and a non-threatening breakaway contested the points.

    “It was a nice feeling to wear the jersey today,” said Villella. “It was a really nice experience to have a leader’s jersey in a Grand Tour, whether for one day or more days.”

    Villella, like all of #GreenArgyle, spent much of the afternoon in the service of Tom Van Asbroeck. The 198-kilometer stage between Escaldes-Engordany and Tarragona was a day for the sprinters, and Van Asbroeck was Cannondale-Drapac’s man for the fast finish. The single-minded focus and commitment paid dividends when Van Asbroeck sprinted in for third place behind stage winner Matteo Trentin (Quick-Step Floors) and Juan José Lobato (Team LottoNL-Jumbo).

    “The stage was really easy for me,” said Van Asbroeck. “I had the support and trust of the entire team, and I felt it! Everyone’s efforts led to this result. The climbers took care of providing drink bottles and food the entire day, and the rest did the lead-out in the final. The teamwork that I’m experiencing this Vuelta is unique. It’s a really tight group. We’d ride through fire for each other.”

    HOW IT HAPPENED

    A five-rider breakaway formed in the opening kilometers of stage four. Johan Le Bon (FDJ), Stephano Rossetto (Cofidis), Nick Schultz (Caja Rural), Diego Rubio (Caja Rural) and Juan Felipe Osorio (Manzano-Postobon) made up the escape. None of the five had mountain points at the start of the stage, and with only one category three climb offering a maximum of two points to the first over the top, the situation was ideal for Cannondale-Drapac.

    With the mountains classification jersey safely on Villella’s back for another day, as long as he reached the finish, Cannondale-Drapac turned its attention to Van Asbroeck.

    Joe Dombrowski and Brendan Canty were on bottle duty all afternoon, repeatedly dropping back to the car to pick up the fluids necessary to keep the team well-hydrated on another hot day.

    The breakaway gained a maximum advantage of 7’30 that had closed to five minutes at the foot of the stage’s only climb. From there, the gap closed slowly but steadily with several teams contributing to the pace-making in the final 30-kilometers. The last of the breakaway riders returned to the peloton eight kilometers from the finish line.

    “Will Clarke did a really strong job positioning in the last 40 kilometers and then Simon Clarke did a big burner to keep us there in the last five kilometers,” said Tom Scully. “Coming through the final kilometer, I was lead-out, drop off, positioning for Tom. I knew how technical the last kilometer was, and I thought it was important to be at the front at the right moment.

    “We took the last few lefts and rights, and it was time to open the sprint in the last 300 meters,” Scully continued. “I dropped my chain in sight of the line, which was a little frustrating. All I could do was get out of the way for Tom.”

    Scully abruptly pulled to the left, and the mad dash to the line unfolded in front of him. Van Asbroeck was third to open and third across the line.

    “This result means so much to me,” said Van Asbroeck. “It shows that the Tom Van Asbroeck of 2014 is back. I lost him for two years. I have some people to thank for this, most of all my wife. But also Sep and Ken Vanmarcke, and Cannondale-Drapac, who have believed in me and supported me in getting here. I can’t thank them enough. And of course the guys who helped me achieve this result today: Will, Tom, Toms, Simon, Brendan, Davide, Joe and Woods. Thanks boys!”

    The Vuelta a España continues on Wednesday with a hilly 175-kilometer stage that travels from Benicàssim to Alcossebre. En route, the peloton will tackle three category two climbs and two category three climbs.

    “It wasn’t stressful to keep the jersey today,” said Villella. “There was only the third category mountain. Tomorrow will be more interesting as the stage will have more points to win.”

    Feature image photo credit: © BrakeThrough Media