Vuelta a San Juan Internacional
Stage 4) San José Jáchal - Valle Fértil/Villa San Agustín
First podium of the season for Hodeg
The longest stage of the 38th Vuelta a San Juan got underway Wednesday afternoon from San Jose de Jachal and travelled to Villa San Agustin, and despite the route featuring three classified climbs, another bunch gallop was expected at the finish. Several groups tried to slip away from the peloton in the first two hours of racing, but to no avail, the pack reacting to each of these attempts and keeping things together.
After cresting the summit of the last ascent, the riders took on the long descent, but not even there a breakaway could form. It was only with 40 kilometers to go that two riders zipped clear, managing to stay away until with three kilometers to go, when the peloton swept past them and the lead-out trains emerged at the front.
Piloted by Zdenek Stybar and Bert Van Lerberghe, Alvaro Hodeg navigated through the field and got involved in the fight for victory, eventually finishing third, behind Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) and Rudy Barbier (Israel Cycling Academy). Top 10 on each of the first two stages, the 23-year-old Colombian notched up a morale-boosting first podium of the season and showed he is gradually building his form after the hard crash he suffered last October.
For white jersey Remco Evenepoel, it was a pretty quiet day. At all times surrounded by his Deceuninck – Quick-Step teammates, the Belgian even picked up a bonus second at the last intermediate sprint and concluded the stage safely in the bunch. Evenepoel, one of the youngest riders in history to top the Vuelta a San Juan general classification, will now start the queen stage to Alto del Colorado, scheduled Friday, with a 33-second gap over his nearest opponent.
“The team did a great job today, controlling the race, while I followed attacks when they came on the climb and then made sure of safely arriving home with the peloton. We defended the jersey and we’ll try do it again Friday, on the Alto del Colorado, which is a long and pretty unusual climb, as echelons can form there before the last three kilometers, the hardest of the whole ascent”, Remco said at the press conference after his first day in the white jersey.
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