Image 1 of 10
The USA’s Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) won the shortened stage 4 at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, crossing the line solo at the top of the steep final climb Alto del Miserat ahead of Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain-Victorious), and Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe).
Alessandro Tonelli finished over a minute and a half down on the stage and so lost the overall race lead. McNulty now leads the general classification heading into the finale stage 5, a 93km race from Bétera to Valencia.
“We heard on the radio about 40km to go that the finish was early, so we had to change a little bit,” McNulty said. “It was chaos, but in the end, cycling is like this sometimes, and you just adapt. The team put me into position at the bottom of the climb, and it was full gas to the top.”
As a sign of respect following the death of a spectator near the finish, race officials decided to shorten the stage by 15 kilometres and finish at the top of the ascent of Alto del Miserat. The peloton then rode neutralised to Vall d’Ebo.
Organisers decided not to hold a podium ceremony following the stage but would instead host a podium at the start in Bétera on Sunday.
How it unfolded
The penultimate stage at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana was initially set to take the peloton on a 175km race from Teulada Moraira into Vall d’Ebo.
Tonelli began the day in the overall leader’s jersey, 1:08 ahead of his nearest rivals, a position he had held since winning the opening stage from a breakaway in Castellón.
An aggressive start eventually led the way to the day’s breakaway that included Tonelli’s teammate Manuele Tarozzi (VF Group-Bardiani CSF-Faizanè), who was also the highest placed on GC at 1:42 back, Pelayo Sánchez (Movistar Team), Sam Oomen (Lidl-Trek), Mikel Bizkarra (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Jokin Murguialday (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), James Whelan (Q36.5 Pro) and Alex Molenaar (Illes Balears Arabay Cycling).
The eight riders pushed their lead out to 1:45 over the first two ascents: Benimantall (5.4km at 6.9%) and Confrides, and then 2:30 after the next two climbs, Alto de la Cabaña (5km at 3.9%) and Tollos (4.5km at 4.8%) with Bizkarra taking the mountain points over the top of all four climbs.
With 37km to go, however, officials notified the breakaway and peloton that the race had been shorted and would finish at the top of the fifth and final climb of Alto del Miserat.
The eight riders were caught near the base of the final ascent as Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) pulled the reduced field into the steeper slopes, causing the overnight leader Tonelli to drop off the back due to the quick pace.
The Alto del Miserat was 5.7km at 9.3%, but the last kilometre had an average gradient of 12.9%, making for a stinging finale.
Vlasov was the first to launch an attack, followed closely by McNulty and Buitrago, and while Welay Hagos Berhe (Jayco AlUla) tried to go with the move, he couldn’t make the connection.
Four seconds back, the chase group included Hindley and Hagos Berhe, Igor Arrieta and Felix Großschartner (UAE Team Emirates), and Pello Bilbao (Bahrain-Victorious).
McNulty made his winning move with 2.2km to go and opened a slight lead as he raced into the final steep pitches of more inside the last kilometre. Vlasov and Buitrago couldn’t respond, and the American pushed his lead out to eight seconds as he crossed the finish line with his first win of the season.
Results powered by FirstCycling