Yates keeps Tour of the Alps lead as Bilbao wins stage four

Milan (AFP) –

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Spaniard Pello Bilbao won a three-man sprint to take the mountainous fourth stage of the Tour of the Alps on Thursday as Briton Simon Yates kept the race lead going into the final day.

Bahrain Victorious's Bilbao edged Russian Aleksandr Vlasov of Astana with Yates, riding for Bike Exchange, third in the 'queen stage' of this year's race from Naturno to Pieve di Bono in northern Italy.

Vlasov and Yates crested the day's last peak seven kilometres from the finish and looked set to duel for victory.

But the 31-year-old Basque rider caught the leaders with a breakneck steep and technical descent and took the lead in the sprint to the finish.

Colombian Nairo Quintana finished fourth as the former Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana winner gears up for his Tour de France bid.

Bilbao moved up to second overall nearly a minute behind Yates with Ineos Grenadier's Pavel Sivakov, the defending champion, losing time on the final climb to slip to fifth overall.

"I tried to stay safe on the descent, Bilbao is an excellent descender," said Yates who is building towards the Giro which starts in just over two weeks.

"From a general classification point of view it was a good day. Anything can happen but we will try our best tomorrow and see from there."

Four-time Tour champion Chris Froome who has struggled this week was part of a long breakaway with eight other riders during the 168.6km stage which featured three climbs.

The Israel Start Up Nation rider's group built up nearly two minutes on the peloton before being caught at the foot of the final 10km Boniprati climb.

Froome is 98th overall, 27 minutes adrift of the leader, ahead of Friday's final stage over 120.9km to Lake Garda.