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Having made it into a very big 21-rider group in the early in the stage, Chernetskii passed Alaphilippe by less than half a wheel in a very exciting finish to win stage 6 of the Volta a Catalunya; Porte defended the lead

Photo: Katusha / Tim de Waele

JULIAN ALAPHILIPPE

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KATUSHA ALPECIN

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MACIEJ PATERSKI

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RICHIE PORTE

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SERGEY CHERNETSKIY

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TEAM SKY

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VOLTA A CATALUNYA

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28.03.2015 @ 17:22 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Sergey Chernetskii (Katusha) salvaged a disappointing Volta a Catalunya for Katusha when he took the biggest victory of his career on the penultimate stage of the Spanish. The young Russian emerged as the strongest from a big 21-rider breakaway that escaped early in the stage and narrowly passed Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-QuickStep) by less than half a wheel to claim the win in an exciting and close finale.

 

Two years ago, Sergei Chernetskii confirmed that he has a big potential when he won the Tour des Fjords overall in his neo-pro season. Since then he has continued his progress and is aiming to be a GC contender in the biggest stage races.

 

In the Volta a Catalunya, however, he was set to play a domestique role for defending champion Joaquim Rodriguez but when the Spaniard fell ill before the race, he was suddenly given the chance to play his own card. Things didn’t work out for him in the GC though and things didn’t turn out much better for his teammates.

 

Hence, the Russian team had to try to salvage the race by going for a stage win in the final two stages and with no sprinter on the roster, their only chance was to go on the attack. Today’s stage was expected to be for the fast finishers but the Russian team had different plans and showed their intentions right from the beginning.

 

When the dust had settled after a fast start to the race, three riders from the team had made it into a big21-rider group and Chernetskii was part of the action. He was joined by teammates Egor Silin and Eduard Vorganov, making the Russian team the one with the strongest representation in the group.

 

On the final climb with around 40km to go, a strong acceleration by Tejay van Garderen (BMC) and Tom Danielson (Cannondale) whittled the group down to 15 riders and later a crosswinds section spelled the end for another 2 riders. Hence, 13 riders were set to contest the win and Chernetskii suddenly found himself on his own as both of his teammates had been left behind.

 

However, Chernetskii did everything right in the finale. Passing the flamme rouge, Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) had a small gap and only Georg Preidler (Giant-Alpecin) showed any interest in closing it down. The Austrian was impressively strong though and with a strong turn on a small climb, he not only reeled the Dutchman in, he even got a gap.

 

 This made Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-QuickStep) who was arguably the fastest finisher, hit the panic buttom. The young Frenchman made a big acceleration and flew past the lone Austrian. Behind, Chernetskii latched onto the back of a group with Jonathan Hivert (Bretagne), Maciej PaterskI (CCC) and Marc Soler (Movistar) which tried to bridge the gap.

 

Hivert worked tirelessly but as he started to fade, Chernetskii had to kick into action. The Russian took over and in a very exciting finale, he managed to pass Alaphilippe by less than half a wheel while Paterski could only hang onto the back to claim third place.

 

Less than two minutes later, the peloton reached the finish after a very nervous end to the stage where Sky had set a fast pace in the crosswinds but Richie Porte was safely ensconced in the main group, meaning that he defended his overall lead. He takes a 5-second advantage into the final stage which has the potential to do some damage as the short stage ends with 8 laps of a 6.5km circuit in Barcelona that includes the short Montjuic climb.

 

A flat finale

After the wind had turned stage 5 into a drama, the sprinters only had one opportunity left in the Volta a Catalunya when they travelled over 194.1km from Cervera to PortAventura. After a rolling first part, the riders tackled a category 1 climb at the midpoint before they hit flat roads. With 36.5km to go, they went up a category 3 climb before they descended to a flat finish at the coast.

 

The riders left Cervera under a beautiful sunny sky on a day that was less windy than the previous one. Several riders decided not to take the start as Clement Chevrier (IAM), Boris Vallee (Lotto Soudal), Jasper Stuyven (Trek) and Jan Ghyselinck (Wanty) all headed home.

 

A big group gets clear

While the race got off to a very fast start with lots of attacks, the mass exodus continued as a stomach virus prevented Jesus Hernandez and Ivan Basso (Tinkoff-Saxo) from doing more than just a few kilometres of the stage. The aggression resulted in the creation of a very big 18-rider group that managed to build an advantage.

 

Eduard Vorganov, Sergei Chernetskii, Egor Silin (Katusha), Tejay van Garderen (BMC), Marc Soler (Movistar), Tom Danielson (Cannondale), Carlos Verona, Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-QuickStep), Pierre-Henri Lecuisinier (FDJ), Kristijan Durasek (Lampre-Merida), Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo), Jonathan Hivert, Florian Vachon (Bretagne), Maciej Paterski (CCC), Rudy Molard, Loic Chetout (Cofidis), Fabrice Jeandesboz (Europcar) and Marco Minnaard (Wanty) worked hard to increase the gap but despite their efforts Alex Cano (Columbia) and Georg Preidler (Giant-Alpecin) managed to bridge the gap. The peloton finally gave up and at the 19km mark, the big 20-rider group was 1.55 ahead.

 

Cousin joins the action

While Preidler beat Chernetskii and Cano in the first intermediate sprint, an impressive Jerome Cousin (Europcar) bridged across to make it 21 riders in the lead. However, the peloton had no intention of allowing them a big advantage and at the 39km mark, the gap was still 2.00.

 

While it reached 2.30 after 61km of racing, more riders left the race as Eduard Prades, Davide Vilela (Caja Rural), Julien Morice (Europcar), Edward Diaz (Colombia) and Greg Henderson (Lotto Soudal) stepped into their team cars. As they hit the category 1 climb, they were 3 minutes behind but the peloton was climbing faster than the escapees and managed to reduce their deficit to 2.30.

 

More KOM points for Danielson

Danielson led Molard and Preidler over the top to extend his lead in the mountains classification. As they went down the descent, they managed to extend their lead which reached 3.36 with 87km to go.

 

Sky were doing all the work in the peloton and with Kruijswijk sitting just 4.25 behind Porte in the overall standings, they were unwilling to give them too much of an advantage. With 76km to go, they had reduced their deficit to 2.54.

 

IAM start to chase

The gap was down to 2.20 as they passed through the feed zone but as Sky didn’t get any help, it went out to 4.04 with 45km to go. At this point, IAM finally showed some interest in doing some work but they only had one rider riding on the front.

 

The peloton suddenly accelerated violently as they approached a change in direction in the windy direction but as there was no real danger, it calmed down again, with Xabier Zandio hitting the front for Sky. Hence, the escapees could start the final climb with an advantage of 3.55.

 

The group splits up

The strong climbers in the group set a fast pace until van Garderen launched the first attack. Danielson quickly shut it down but the BMC leader continued to ride hard on the front. The pace was too much for Jeandesboz, Cousin, Silin, Vorganov, Minaard and Vachon who all lost contact.

 

IAM were now back on the front of the peloton before Movistar made a sudden acceleration with Ruben Fernandez just before the top. After Danielson had won the KOM sprint ahead of Paterski and Chernetskii, the Spanish team continued their brutal pace on the descent.

 

Sky ride hard

Tinkoff-Saxo took over near the bottom, with Sergio Paulinho stringing out the group, and with 23km to go, the gap was down to 3.19. The pace got even fiercer when they reached the flats as a strong crosswind threatened the riders.

 

Sky went back to work, with Chris Froome, Vasil Kiryienka and Wout Poels all taking huge turns but the main riders all managed to stay near the front in the windy conditions. However, a bad crash brought fown two Lampre and a Cannondale rider.

 

Another attack from van Garderen

Van Garderen attacked again and as he rode hard in the wind, Chetout, Lecuisinier, Verona, Durasek and Cano lost contact. The former three managed to rejoin the front but the latter two never made it back.

 

With 14km to go, Preidler launched the next attack which briefly spelled the end for Chetout but the young Frenchman again managed to rejoin the group. Moments later, Verona made another attack and he got a small gap.

 

An aggressive finale

When he was caught, Kruijswijk made an attack before the escapees again started to cooperate. With 10km to go, they were still 2.35 ahead of the peloton that was led by Sky.

 

The attacking started again with 7km to go when Danielson made an unsuccessful move. Verona, Chetout and Preidler also tried to get clear before Chetout and Preidler got a small gap.

 

The duo was brought back and the subsequent move by Chetout didn’t pay off either. Instead, it was Kruijswijk who launched a promising move just before the flamme rouge but in the end, Chernetskii took the win.

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