LAGUARDIA, Spain: Defending champion Primoz Roglic won the fourth stage of the Vuelta a Espana on Tuesday, the first to take place in Spain after the opening salvos in the Netherlands, to take over the leader’s red jersey.
In an uphill stage finish in Laguardia that suited him to a tee, Jumbo-Visma’s Slovenian saw off Danish rider Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) and the Spaniard Enric Mas (Movistar) in the sprint.
Roglic, 32, is the fourth Jumbo-Visma rider to lead the race following Robert Gesink, Mike Teunissen and Edoardo Affini who wore the red jersey after the first three stages on the Dutch team’s home roads.
He is 13 seconds ahead of American teammate Sepp Kuss in the general classification and 26 seconds ahead of the Ineos’ trio Ethan Hayter, Pavel Sivakov and Tao Geoghegan Hart.
The leader of the British team, the Ecuadorian Richard Carapaz, finished seven seconds behind Roglic and is seventh overall, 33 seconds behind the Slovenian.
The 152.5km ride from Vitoria-Gasteiz to Laguardia climaxed with the category three Puerto de Herrera climb which greeted the riders 10 kilometers from the finish.
It proved to be a peloton-breaker with only 50 remaining for the closing section.
Pedersen was one of the few sprinters to survive the climb and, kicking first, he nearly clinched the win. Roglic, however, stuck to his wheel before overhauling him in the last few meters.
Pedersen claimed second place on a stage for the third time in this Vuelta.
Victory suggests that Roglic has recovered well following his serious fall in the Tour de France and is reasonably considered one of the main favorites to win the title.
Should he win this year’s Vuelta in Madrid on Sept. 11, he will become the first cyclist to win it in four successive years, having also won in 2019, 2020 and 2021.
Wednesday’s fifth stage, which runs 187.2 km between Irun and Bilbao, will also test the riders severely with five big climbs, while the finale is a downhill onto the Gran Via of Bilbao.