De la Parte stayed calm, riding his own way as the General Classification contenders started to do battle after Van Avermaet, who pushed off the front of the breakaway on the early slopes of the Sierra de Bernia ascent, was the last rider to be caught by the main bunch.
The breakaway with Van Avermaet and Van Hooydonck went clear in the opening 20 kilometers of the 170-kilometer stage, as the race approached the foot of the Coll de Rates, the first of five categorized climbs.
After originally putting pressure on the front group and keeping them on a tight leash, the peloton eased off somewhat and the six leaders were able to extend their advantage out to four minutes before it eventually settled at around the three-minute mark with 100 kilometers to go.
With all four of the category two climbs completed, attention turned to big finale on the horizon, a brutal final category one climb to Sierra de Bernia, which had an average gradient of 11.7 percent and pitches of more than 20 percent in place, that would provide the perfect battleground for the climbers and General Classification contenders in the race.
The peloton soon began to pick up the pace in an attempt to bring the race back together before the five-kilometer ascent but, CCC Team’s Belgian duo worked hard alongside their fellow leaders and in the end, the group was able to reach the foot of the climb with a narrow 30-second advantage.
As the rest of the breakaway was reeled in, Van Avermaet pushed on at the front of the race, showing his strength and climbing legs by going solo and holding off the pure climbers chasing behind until inside three kilometers to go.
CCC Team was still well represented once the catch was made with de la Parte and Serge Pauwels both holding their own against those racing for the yellow jersey and in the end, it was de la Parte who crossed the line just outside the top ten, one minute 12 seconds behind the winner, Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Team Emirates).
Pauwels also showed strong form on the challenging climb to round out the top 20 with Van Avermaet able to maintain a solid pace to finish just behind him in 21st place.
Quotes From the Finish Line
Víctor de la Parte:
“It was a hard day from the start and Nathan and Greg were pushing really hard at the front in the breakaway so it was a big fight for the bunch to close the gap to them going onto the Sierra de Bernia climb. I was involved in a crash in the last 15 kilometers or so of stage two and I didn’t feel like I had my best legs after that but in the final kilometers of today’s stage, which were really steep and really tough, I felt better than expected so that was good.”
Greg Van Avermaet:
“I felt good today and I just wanted to try to do something out of the breakaway because you never know. It was good to have Nathan with me and he did some good pulls because we wanted to still have a good gap at the bottom of the climb.”
“I was a bit disappointed about the gap at the bottom because we worked pretty hard the whole day and 30 seconds is just not enough on a climb like this. I went at a good pace but this was not good enough.”
“Overall I have had good feelings here and it’s been good training for the next race. There was unfortunately not really a stage in my favor at this year’s race.”
Nathan Van Hooydonck:
“Greg and I were joking about going into the breakaway before the start today and somehow it worked out so that was very cool. The pace was very fast for the whole day and I just went full gas to get Greg to the bottom of the climb with as much time as possible. Then it was just crawling up the wall.”
Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana
Stage 4: Calp > Altea (170km)
Top 3: 1. Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Team Emirates) 2. Wout Poels (Bahrain – McLaren) 3. Tao Geoghegan-Hart (Team Ineos)
CCC Team Top 3: 13. Víctor de la Parte 20. Serge Pauwels 21. Greg Van Avermaet