Bruno Armirail played the leading roles for a long time in stage 4 of the Tour of the Basque Country, as he entered the day’s breakaway. The Frenchman even proved to be among the strongest up front, but he was caught nine kilometres from the line, and the bunch eventually caught the last fugitive at the flamme rouge. A sprint of about thirty riders decided the victory, and Daniel Felipe Martinez won it. Rudy Molard got involved and secured his first top-10 of the season with 8th place. Also there in the group, David Gaudu climbed to tenth place overall.

On Thursday, the Tour of the Basque Country started from the regional capital, Vitoria-Gasteiz. Although the day began with thirty flat kilometres, it was not representative of the stage’s menu. Many climbs indeed featured on the way to Zamudio, and it surely gave ideas in the peloton. “We had planned to put someone in front because we thought the break could make it,” said Bruno Armirail. “Seb tried first, then I followed a move and I got successful as it was the right one. The peloton stayed close for a long time, but we finally managed to go away”. Up front, the time trial specialist found himself with a dozen men, including Geraint Thomas (Ines Grenadiers), Victor Lafay (Cofidis), Mauri Vansevenant (Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl), Ruben Guerreiro (EF Education-Easy Post), Davide Formolo (UAE Team Emirates) or Felix Grossschartner (Bora-hansgrohe). “It was a good group, the collaboration was good”, said Bruno. However, the peloton never completely eased off. “Bruno and another rider were placed in GC, so Jumbo-Visma had to ride at a really solid pace all day,” testified Rudy Molard. The gap therefore rarely went over the three-minute mark. In the front, the fight began fifty kilometres from the line with Tsgabu Grmay attacking. The Ethiopian rider got a minute-lead but was quickly caught on the brutal climb of Urruztimendi (1.9 km at 11%), where Bruno Armirail managed to isolate with Lafay, Thomas and Guerreiro.

“I’m getting better and better”, Rudy Molard

Three men eventually re-joined the leading four, and the pace slowed down a bit before the last climb in Vivero (6 km at 6.3%), where the decision was made. “I was a bit too short in the last steep climb when Lafay went away”, slipped Bruno. “If I had managed to stay with him, we might have made it until the end. It was just a little too steep for me.” The Frenchman then found himself in a chasing group, which was caught by a small bunch nine kilometres from the line. “You need to try, and try again”, smiled Bruno after his fifth breakaway of the season. “Overall it’s ok, the shape is good. We have two big days left, and we will need to recover well after such a stage”. After a thrilling finale, Victor Lafay was eventually caught by a bunch of about 30 riders at the flamme rouge, and the victory was once again decided in the sprint. Daniel Martinez took it, and Rudy Molard placed eighth. “It was a tough stage”, said the Groupama-FDJ rider. “In the final, there were still three of us, in addition to Bruno. For us, it’s a good day as David did not lose time. As the finish approached, he told me to join the sprint if I wanted to. I made my way through, I entered the top-10 but I was still a bit far when the sprint started. Personally, I’m happy. I finally manage to do something at the end of the races, and it’s really nice after these weeks of struggle. I’m getting better and better, it is promising for the next races”.

Before another hilly stage, and an explosive final on Friday, David Gaudu gained a position in the GC and found himself in tenth, thirty-two seconds behind Primoz Roglic. Bruno Armirail (16th), Rudy Molard (18th) and Sébastien Reichenbach (20th) also sit in the top-20 overall.

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