EL PUIG, Spain — With his eyes closed, Fabio Jakobsen beat Sam Bennett in a photo finish to win the fourth stage of the Spanish Vuelta on Tuesday, while Nicolas Roche kept the overall lead ahead of Nairo Quintana.
Jakobsen fended off a strong charge by Bennett in the final meters (yards) of the 175-kilometre (109-mile) ride from Cullera to El Puig on Spain’s eastern coast.
"I couldn’t see because I closed my eyes, Sam was so close," said Jakobsen, who will turn 23 on Saturday. "I went for the line and threw my bike. When I saw people from the team cheering I knew I had won. This is a big one."
It was the first Grand Tour stage win for the Dutch rider from team Deceuninck-Quiock Step.
"To win in a Grand Tour is one of the things you dream of as a sprinter," Jakobsen said. "In my head I thought I could do it, but you never know for sure. To win a stage of La Vuelta wearing the colours of your country is amazing."
Bennett won Monday’s third stage with team Bora-Hansgrohe.
"This one hurts a lot," the Irishman said. "It was really hard to position myself in the final kilometres. On the last roundabout I lost many positions because I chose the wrong side. I really forced this one to happen but it just didn’t go as I hoped for."
Roche, an Irishman with Team Sunweb, finished safely in the peloton. He will carry a two-second lead over Quintana entering Wednesday’s fifth stage, which will take riders 170 kilometres (105 miles) from the city of L’Eliana to a finish by an astronomical observatory in Arcos de las Salinas.
"I had to make sure we were out of trouble," Roche said. "Tomorrow will be a completely different scenario. I expect fireworks from the Colombian riders. I know it is going to be very difficult to keep the red jersey, it might be very ambitious to aim at doing so, but I am going to do my best and fight until the last meter."