Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) earned his second mountain-top victory of the season, attacking from an elite leading group to win stage four of Tirreno-Adriatico.
Contador, who previously won atop the Alto do Malhao in the Volta ao Algarve, beat Nairo Quintana (Movistar) after an elite group earned a small gap on the long slog into Cittareale at the end of the 244km stage.
Richie Porte (Team Sky), Michele Scarponi (Astana) and Contador’s team-mate, Roman Kreuziger were also among the riders to make the leading group after the Czech attacked on the Selva Rotonda.
Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) retained the blue jersey meanwhile, finishing in seventh place, close enough to Contador to retain a sizeable overall lead.
The monstrous stage started at a good pace, with Matthias Brandle (IAM Cycling), Aleksey Lutsenko (Astana), Filippo Fortin (Bardiani-CSF), Alexandre Pichot (Team Europcar), Maxim Belkov (Katusha) and Lloyd Mondory (Ag2r-La Mondiale) in the day’s break.
The six-man break earned a gap of more than seven minutes on the flat opening half of the stage, but with Omega Pharma-Quickstep leading the pursuit it was not long before it fell.
Movistar also brought riders forward, as the day’s escapees gradually were brought back into the bunch, with Lutsenko and Brandle the last to stay out.
The race eventually came together at the foot of the climb into Cittareale, prompting Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani-CSF) to attack off the front.
Benat Intxausti (Movistar) and Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff-Saxo) both bridged to the Italian, as their two teams gave a display of the strength in depth they carry and Pirazzi’s attack ended shortly afterwards, as Kreuziger – riding in the big ring – attacked to build a small solo lead.
Behind him, the counter-attacks continued apace, with Robert Kiserlovski (Trek Factory Racing) going off the front of the reduced chasing group. Michele Scarponi (Astana) followed, before Contador and Quintana did the same.
Scarponi was first to attack, but Kreuziger followed in close contention, while Richie Porte (Team Sky) ensured he too was in the leading group. When Contador attacked however, it proved decisive as the Spaniard scored an early victory over Porte and Quintana to take the stage victory, with the Colombian coming in second ahead of Dani Moreno (Katusha).
The margin of victory was not enough to take the blue jersey from Kwiatkowski however, who remains in the lead heading into stage five.
Tirreno-Adriatico: stage four – result (provisional)
1) Alberto Contador (ESP) – Tinkoff-Saxo
2) Nairo Quintana (COL) – Movistar
3) Daniel Moreno (ESP) – Katusha
4) Roman Kreuziger (CZE) – Tinkoff-Saxo
5) Richie Porte (AUS) – Team Sky
6) Michele Scarponi (ITA) – Astana
7) Michal Kwiatkowski (POL) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep
8) Robert Kiserlovski (CRO) – Trek Factory Racing
General classification (provisional)
1) Michal Kwiatkowski (POL) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep
2) Alberto Contador (ESP) – Tinkoff-Saxo +16″
3) Nairo Quintana (COL) – Movistar +23″
4) Richie Porte (AUS) – Team Sky
5) Rigoberto Uran (COL) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep +38″