"This is something to build on!"
On the first pure bunch sprint of the Vuelta a España, Edward Theuns proved that preparation pays off by sprinting to third place behind winner Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck) and Sebastian Molano (UAE-Team Emirates) after a chaotic run into the finish and an exciting drag race up to the line.
Stage 4 played out as expected with the bunch controlling a small three-rider breakaway over the 185-kilometer-long race that started in Andorra la Vella.
Two gentle third-category climbs in the final 65km had some potential to play into the hands of a breakaway but the sprint teams play their cards right and the catch was made before the 10km to go mark.
The fight for position started quickly from that point and, as is often normal on bunch sprint stages, there was chaos on the roads. A crash with around 5km remaining disrupted proceedings slightly but fortunately Lidl-Trek was able to avoid getting caught up in the mess.
Otto Vergaerde expertly brought Theuns up into position for the final 2km of the day – a point which Theuns pointed out as key in the morning’s team meeting – and set a strong tempo to keep the pace high heading toward the flamme rouge.
Then, it was up to Theuns who kept his cool, sitting on the right wheels and ready to pounce when the road veered left and the finish line came into view with 200m to go. Theuns stuck to the left, his homework analysing the course helping him to avoid a crash on the other side of the road, before powering up toward the line and proving that he is in the right shape to be challenging for sprint victories in Spain.
Reaction from the Finish Line
I am quite happy. It is a result to build on, I think. I was a bit nervous because it's been a while since I really sprinted for big prizes and it's not easy to get the positioning right and then, we saw there was a big crash with around 4-5 kilometers to go and another on the last corner. I actually used that left hander to my advantage a bit because I really studied the parcours and I was thinking that guys would underestimate this corner and I was able to cut inside of it and avoid the crash. I came out a couple of lengths behind Groves and I tried to close but I couldn't and in the end, I could only keep my third position on this hard final.
I have put a lot of effort into my preparation for this race and mentally it's hard sometimes to sacrifice things like time at home etc. I think I have been at home for four days in the last two months so I am happy that it's paying off and I am starting to see results but I am hungry for more.