Alejandro Valverde edges Peter Sagan to win Vuelta fourth stage

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Alejandro Valverde crosses the line to win the fourth stage of the Vuelta.

Spaniard Alejandro Valverde claimed victory on the fourth stage of Spain's Vuelta on Tuesday as Slovakia's Peter Sagan again had to settle for second place.

Sagan won his first Grand Tour stage for two years on Monday after finishing second five times at the Tour de France last month, but couldn't match Valverde's pace up a short and steep climb to the finish of the 209.6km ride from Estepona to Vejer de la Frontera.

Spain's Dani Moreno finished third.

Esteban Chaves of Colombia retains his overall lead by five seconds from Dutchman Tom Dumoulin with Ireland's Nicholas Roche a further 10 seconds back.

However, Valverde moves into fifth overall and leads Movistar teammate Nairo Quintana and Britain's Chris Froome by eight and 12 seconds respectively in the battle among the favourites to win the three-week tour.

Froome is aiming to become just the third man in history to win the Tour de France and the Vuelta in the same year.

“Looking at the profile of the stage on the internet we saw that the final climb was very demanding and could be a good one for me," said Valverde.

The majority of the stage was marked by an early six-man breakaway group of Mickael Delage (FDJ) Bert Jan Lindeman (LottoNL-Jumbo), Nikolas Maes (Etixx-Quick Step), Jimmy Engoulvent (Europcar), Kristijan Durasek (Lampre-Merida) and Markel Irizar (Trek) who built up a lead of 13min 30 sec by the 30 kilometre mark.

The peloton reacted to ensure the gap didn't become insurmountable and despite some resistence from Engoulvent and Irizar they were eventually caught after nearly 200km in the breakaway with 11km to go.

Saxo-Tinkoff then pushed the peloton on at a fierce pace to try and set up Sagan once more, but it was Samuel Sanchez and Roche who were the first to attack for the line two kilometres out.

Valverde bided his time to perfection, though, as he jumped ahead of Sagan to claim not only the stage victory but 10 bonus seconds to aid his chances of a second overall Vuelta win.

The race continues with a 167.3km ride from Rota to Alcala de Guadaira on Wednesday.

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Peter Sagan ends long wait with Grand Tour victory in Malaga

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Sweet relief: Peter Sagan.

Slovakian Peter Sagan claimed his first Grand Tour stage victory in two years on the third stage of the Spain’s Vuelta.

The 25-year-old Saxo-Tinkoff rider edged out France’s Nacer Bouhanni and German John Degenkolb in a sprint to the line at the end of the 158.4km ride from Mijas to Malaga in time of 4hr 06min 46sec.

Colombia’s Esteban Chaves maintains the overall lead after his victory on Sunday’s second stage.

Dutchman Tom Dumoulin remains in second, five seconds behind, with Ireland’s Nicholas Roche a further 10 seconds back in third.

Sagan finished second an incredible five times during the Tour de France last month and his latest success adds to three stage wins at the Vuelta three years ago.

All of the general classification favourites finished with the same time so Nairo Quintana maintains a four-second advantage over Britain’s Chris Froome.

– TDF: From Froome to Sagan, 2015's winners & losers
– Froome: Le Tour winner considers taking on Vuelta
– TDF: Chris Froome secures victory with Paris parade
– GALLERY: Le Tour's multiple winners through history

After the drama of three-time Grand Tour winner Vincenzo Nibali’s expulsion from the race on Sunday for being towed by his Astana team car, the stage failed to produce any significant changes in the general classification as the sprinters enjoyed one of the few chances offered to them on this year’s route.

They still had to get over the first category one climb of the tour midway through the stage, but an initial breakaway group of eight riders was whittled down and eventually caught 13km from the finish.

Nibali, meanwhile, issued an apology, saying: “For all that has happened, I truly apologise publicly to everyone who has been angered or ashamed by my actions.

“In the end, I had thought about a fine to pay and a penalty as is common to leave you out of (contention in) the general classification. I would have also accepted a 10 minute penalty. After all this, I will not be the first nor the last.”

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BMC Racing claim victory in first stage of Spain’s Vuelta

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Red jersey: Rohan Dennis.

American team BMC Racing claimed victory in a neutralised team time trial in the first stage of Spain’s Vuelta.

Slovakian Peter Velits takes the leader’s red jersey as he was first to cross the line with Saxo- Tinkoff second and Orica-Green- Edge third.

Organisers announced on Friday that times from the 7.4 kilometre stage from Puerto Banus to Marbella would not count towards the general classification due to safety concerns over the route. The coastal route included a narrow wooden bridge and a potentially hazardous dirt track.

Chris Froome, who is hoping to become just the third man to win the Tour de France and the Vuelta in the same year, had expressed his concern at the route and cruised through the stage without taking any risks as Team Sky finished down in 20th, over a minute behind BMC.

– TDF: From Froome to Sagan, 2015's winners & losers
– Froome: Le Tour winner considers taking on Vuelta
– TDF: Chris Froome secures victory with Paris parade
– GALLERY: Le Tour's multiple winners through history

“Our goal today was just to stay safe. It’s a big disappointment really to have a neutrilised stage like that because we were all looking forward to riding a good TTT, going full gas, and having a good race,” said Froome’s Sky teammate Geraint Thomas.

“When the organisers said there weren’t going to be any times taken for the GC, we decided to take it easy and stay upright.

“If everyone had have gone flat out, it might have been quite dangerous.”

Most of the other race favourites did likewise as Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde’s Movistar team finished ninth with an Astana team containing Vincenzo Nibali, Fabio Aru and Mikel Landa down in 13th. The race gets under way for real today with a 158.7km ride from Alhaurin de la Torre to Caminito del Rey.

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