Calmejane marks Vuelta debut with stage win


Lilian Calmejane marked his Grand Tour debut with a first stage win as he made a late breakaway stick on the fourth day of the Vuelta a Espana.

The 23-year-old held station in the 21-man breakaway on Tuesday before pushing clear on his own with less than 10 kilometres to race, Calmejane holding on to claim Direct Energie's first Grand Tour stage success since 2012.

Using the short descent before the final ascent to his advantage, the Frenchman navigated his way to the summit finish atop Alto Mirador de Veixia to win by 15 seconds from Darwin Atapuma (BMC Racing) and Ben King (Cannondale-Drapac)

Atapuma's late surge from the breakaway group ensures he takes over the leader's red jersey, the Colombian holding a 29-second lead over Movistar's Alejandro Valverde.

Meanwhile, Tour de France winner Chris Froome (Team Sky) and general classification rival Nairo Quintana (Movistar) remain well placed in third and fifth respectively in the overall standings.

"It's a very great feeling," said Calmejane. "I started the Vuelta with a lot of ideas in my head but to win a stage so soon in the Vuelta is just awesome.

"I gave everything to the finish line and it is great. It's my first year as a pro, it's my first Vuelta and the goal was to win a stage. So now the future in the Vuelta is positive so I'm feeling good."

A breakaway of 18 riders opened up an early gap on the peloton five kilometres short on the first summit of the day - Alto Da Serra Capela - with Thomas De Gendt showing great form once again to take maximum climbing points.

The group swelled to 21 after that ascent but again it was De Gendt - who won atop Mont Ventoux during the Tour de France - who was first up the second category three climb for Lotto-Soudal.

As the 163.5km route from Betanzos to San Andres de Teixedo made its way through the Galician countryside, the leaders pulled near five minutes clear of the peloton.

Hard work from Tinkoff and Movistar reeled them in a little but it soon became clear the stage winner would come from the breakaway.

Axel Domont (AGR2R La Mondiale), Zdenek Stybar (Etixx - Quick Step) and De Gendt all tried their luck only to be reeled in, but when Calmejane pushed on he was not to be stopped.

Further back the men expected to challenge for the GC had a comfortable day in the peloton, Froome and Quintana rolling home two minutes behind the stage winner with Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) - the Spaniard still trailing by one minute and 52 seconds overall.