Tour of Murcia, Stage 4, Alhama de Murcia to Aleda, ITT, 23.1km/14.3mi
- by Cathy Mehl

In an all-out effort against the clock five Team Astana riders landed squarely in the top 25 finishers, with Alberto Contador taking third place on the day behind local favorite Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne). The Murcian rider took the stage win by two seconds over Stefano Garzelli (Acqua Sapone) in second and six seconds back to Contador in third. Riding the uphill parcours, Contador gave his best effort but came up just a little short.

"I was feeling good about the TT but the last k's were a little too hard," commented the 2007 Tour de France champion post race. "I think after the bad new about Paris-Nice and the Tour I left everything a bit and didn't properly prepare, but I did what I could." DS Alain Gallopin was upset at the race organization for giving him the incorrect information that Valverde was 50 seconds behind Contador at the intermediate check point, information a rider uses to gauge his effort on the ride. "So Alberto had wrong information during the time trial," explained Gallopin.

Another factor to contend with was an ambulance speeding by on course while Contador was riding. The emergency vehicle needed to reach an ailing rider, requiring Contador to move over to let it pass. All in all today's "mis-steps" added up to the old clich of "That's bike racing for ya!" Former race leader Aitor Perez (G. Gallardo) had his share of problems as well, crashing in the closing kilometers and losing the jersey in the process.

Riding well on the short, uphill course Valverde clocked a winning time of 33.32. A motivated Valverde slotted himself into the top position on GC as well and is poised to capture his third overall win as the Tour of Murcia comes to a conclusion on Saturday's final stage. Team Astana rider Toni Colom put in a big effort and moved himself to 4th on GC, while teammate Jose Luis 'Chechu' Rubiera now sits in 8th place. Team Astana continues to lead the Teams classification by over a minute.

Beyond the Finish Line: The capital city of Murcia is located on the River Segura. In the center of the modern city is a gentlemen's club founded in 1847 known as the Casino. One enters the club through an Arab-style patio and steps into a huge ballroom with a polished parquet floor and five crystal chandeliers. The rooms were furnished in themes, such as the Versailles Ballroom.

Stage 4 results
1 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne 33.32 (41.33 km/h)
2 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Acqua Sapone - Caffe Mokambo 0.02
3 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana 0.06
4 Branislau Samoilau (Blr) Acqua Sapone - Caffe Mokambo 0.07
5 Iigo Cuesta Lpez (Spa) Team CSC 0.09
6 Evgeny Petrov (Rus) Tinkoff Credit Systems 0.17
7 Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Team CSC 0.23
8 Jos Rujano Guillen (Ven) Caisse d'Epargne 0.27
9 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 0.43
10 Thomas Dekker (Ned) Rabobank 0.47

12 Antonio Colom Mas (Spa) 0.51
16 Sergio Miguel Moreira Paulinho (Por) 1.09
18 Daniel Navarro Garcia (Spa) 1.18
22 Jos Luis Rubiera Vigil (Spa) 1.25
45 Jani Brajkovic (Slo) 2.21
48 Maxim Iglinsky (Kaz) 2.33
54 Benjamin Noval Gonzalez (Spa) 2.55

General Classification after stage 4
1 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne 13.23.11
2 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Acqua Sapone - Caffe Mokambo 0.02
3 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana 0.06
4 Antonio Colom Mas (Spa) Astana 0.51
5 Branislau Samoilau (Blr) Acqua Sapone - Caffe Mokambo 1.11
6 Iigo Cuesta Lpez (Spa) Team CSC 1.13
7 Vasili Kiryienka (Blr) Tinkoff Credit Systems 1.15
8 Jos Luis Rubiera Vigil (Spa) Astana 1.19
9 Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Team CSC 1.27
10 Ezequiel Mosquera Miguez (Spa) Karpin Galicia 1.42

22 Maxim Iglinsky (Kaz) 3.37
46 Daniel Navarro Garcia (Spa) 13.27
52 Sergio Miguel Moreira Paulinho (Por) 16.12
62 Benjamin Noval Gonzalez (Spa) 24.16
84 Jani Brajkovic (Slo) 31.06

Results provided by www.cyclingnews.com