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CYCLING / TOUR OF SPAIN: Australia's Clarke wins fourth stage


ESTACION DE VALDEZCARAY (Spain): Australia's Simon Clarke won the mountainous fourth stage of the Tour of Spain on Tuesday while Spain's Joaquin Rodriguez took the overall leader's red jersey.

Clarke edged ahead of Germany's Tony Martin in the final metres of the 160.6-kilometre run between Barakaldo and the Estacion de Valdezcaray ski resort, which ended in the second summit finish of the race.

The 26-year-old GreenEdge rider completed the stage in 4:30:26s, with Martin of the Omega Pharma-Quickstep team just two seconds behind.

"It is my first win as a professional, I've been a pro for four years. I have tried so many times, I have so many second and third places, I am just so happy," Clarke said.

Kazakhstan's Assan Bazayev of the Astana Pro Team finished in third, 22 seconds behind the stage winner.

Clarke and Martin were part of a five-strong breakaway group early in a stage, which was marked by tough weather with strong winds and temperatures that soared to 39 degrees Celsius (102 Fahrenheit).

The two edged ahead of this group toward the end of the course, setting the stage for the sprint finish.

"It was such a long day with so much wind in the finish. I knew Tony was going to be really strong but I wanted to make it a really hard climb," said Clarke.

"I was really happy when Tony and I could leave the rest behind and then we just worked together.

"I really backed myself in the finish. Tony is a really good time triallist but I though I could have him in a sprint.

"So I made sure he was in front with the wind and I just left as late as possible," added Clarke.

The Vuelta is one of cycling's three 'major tours' along with the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia. AFP

Simon Clarke

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