Dario Cataldo made himself a factor in a rainy and cold 188.8km Tour de Suisse Stage 4, working his way into a nine rider escape group with 116km to go, just before the Scheltenpass. Zdenek Stybar, meanwhile, made himself a potential factor at the end of the stage in the field sprint.
Cataldo was the top GC rider in the break. He went into the stage 21st, 1'15" back from race leader Rui Costa (Movistar). As the most dangerous rider in the break, the peloton never let the break get more than a three minute gap. As the break approached the Hauenstein climb (5.2% avg. gradient, 10% max ramps) with 40km to go, Martin Kohler (BMC Racing Team) and Mathew Hayman (Sky ProCycling) attacked the break, which was starting to splinter. Soon, Gregory Rast (Radioshack-Nissan) and Javier Megias (Team Type 1) joined Kohler as Hayman lost Kohler's wheel. Serge Paulinho (Saxo Bank) also bridged to those riders, and Brian Vandborg (SpiderTech) soon followed. However, Cataldo refused to be left behind and also bridged to the riders up the road.
The peloton, meanwhile, picked up the pace and caught the break with 30km to go. Cataldo, however, kept himself up the the road just before the catch was made. He did so on a 20% average section of the Oltinger Stich. As Cataldo continued on, Lars Petter Nordhaug (Sky ProCycling) attacked the peloton with 28km to go. He eventually bridged to Cataldo with 23km to go, and Cataldo could not stick to his wheel.
Cataldo continued to press on, with Nordhaug up the road. Levi Leipheimer, meanwhile, sat near the front of the peloton. He was 13th in the GC going into the stage, making it important for him to stay near the front. The peloton had been reduced to a group of approximately 50 riders, as the peloton split into small groups throughout the day.
"Today, despite the stage expecting to be normal, it was a hard stage," Sports director Rik Van Slycke said. "Within the first 10km Levi crashed. The team had to put in an extra effort today to put him on the best position possible. When he crashed, Matteo Trentin and Tom Boonen did a big effort to bring Levi into the group, but at the same time, the group was split into three parts. It took a while to return to the first part of the group. At the beginning it was Matteo and Tom, and then Niki Terpstra, Gert Steegmans and Peter Velits worked hard to put Levi in the first group. It was like a fight for 70km. Then, he was in front with Stybar and Cataldo, and then on a steep Category 1 climb, Dario went with a group of riders. He did a great action."
Martin Elmiger (Ag2R - La Mondiale) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team) attacked the peloton and caught Cataldo with less than 20km to go. As the the peloton continued to keep the gap close with Cataldo a threat to the GC standings, he dropped off the two and they eventually caught Nordhaug with 6km to go. The peloton, however, continued to chase hard and caught the trio with 3km to go.
The field sprint was inevitable, and with 300 meters to go, Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) accelerated. No rider could match his power, and he won another stage. Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar) was 2nd, and Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEDGE) 3rd.
Zdenek Stybar, who made an earlier break in the stage, was the team's top finisher in 21st place. Levi Leipheimer remains the top rider in the GC, 37" back from current race leader Costa.
"In the final, when he was caught, Stybar tried to stay in front to find out a possibility to win the stage," Van Slycke said. "So at the end, it was a hard stage but our mission was accomplished. We were able to keep Levi out of trouble and at the same time we tried to be a protagonist even in the stage. The team did a great job today. Tomorrow is another hard stage, so we will see day by day if we can put Levi in good position for the final."