Stage 4: José Luis Carrasco stuns the favourites
May 1 st 2019 - 15:15 [GMT + 1]
- The former pro added another Garmin Titan Desert stage win to his collection after breaking away with 30 kilometres to go
- Josep Betalú takes back the lead and will have to deal with the major threat of the well-rounded TBellès squad
- Anna Ramírez strikes a serious blow in the classification after winning her third stage in a row
- The longest stage in the race, which is also the one with the greatest altitude gain and features the Škoda Challenge, will be held tomorrow
M'ssici, 1 May 2019. Today's stage of the 2019 Garmin Titan Desert was a scorching affair. José Luis Carrasco overcame the 119 kilometre course and altitude gain of 1,031 metres of stage 4 (rated at four out of five stars) in under four hours —an average speed of more than 30 km/h.
Attacks came thick and fast. Race leader Pau Salvà faltered and his rivals did not hesitate to go on the offensive as soon as the Tamayo Team rider showed the first signs of weakness. Riders such as José Luis Carrasco, Josep Betalú, Haimar Zubeldia and Marek Rauchfuss all took turns at the front to increase the gap. The Olympic duo of Joan Font and Ignacio Ávila also brought down the hammer from the front of the group on many occasions. Even though they were specifically targeting this stage, victory slipped from their grasp by just over a minute.
It was José Luis Carrasco who took the spoils today. After powering away from the group near the beautiful oasis with 30 kilometres to, the rider from Jaén in Spain claimed another Garmin Titan Desert stage win after tasting victory in 2017 and 2018.
There were also changes in the general classification, with Josep Betalú moving back into the lead. The rider from Amposta is feeling strong and made good on yesterday's promise to go all-out for the orange jersey. He has his sights set on a fourth consecutive victory in the Titan and, although he only has a meagre margin of 3′22″, he delivered another impressive display of strength today. Guillem Muñoz is now second. The depth of the TBellès Cannondale team and the potential alliance of Bor, Selu and Muñoz could be the main threat to the leader's ambitions. Moisés Dueñas now sits in third place, followed by Zubeldia and Puyol.
José Luis Carrasco: "It was a hectic start with a very large group. There wasn't enough room on the track for all of us. The pace was very high and it took until km 40 to make a selection with 10 or 12 men. The leader was dropped, and I took advantage of a headwind with 30 km to go to open a small gap. I suffered a lot towards the end, but I had enough time to spare."
Meanwhile, Anna Ramírez tightened her iron grip on the race. The Viorcam KH7-FEM rider beat her main rival Ramona Gabriel by a whopping 7 minutes. Anna even finished the stage ahead of "Purito" Rodríguez. The leader now has a margin of almost 10 minutes, still not decisive but enough to allow Ramírez to ride conservatively.
Anna Ramírez: "The team worked hard to win this stage, fighting from one CP to the next to expand the gap, and it paid off. I don't see myself as the favourite at all, so I'll have to keep an eye on Ramona, who's also very strong, in the coming two stages and keep up the good work until the last day."
Stage 5, the longest stage in the race and also the one with the greatest altitude gain, will be held tomorrow. The riders will have to overcome a 125 km course with an altitude gain of more than 1,500 metres to get to Jorf. It will also feature the Škoda Challenge, a timed climb with gradients of up to 14% on a 14 km ascent. The male and female winners will get a 30-second time bonus apiece.