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Westra takes an impressive solo win on the difficult Montjuic circuit in Barcelona when he escapes from a strong 13-rider breakaway while Rodriguez responds to Contador's attacks to seal his overall victory in the Volta a Catalunya

Photo: Sirotti
















30.03.2014 @ 18:44 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Lieuwe Westra (Astana) put his versatile skills on show when he won the very wet and hilly final stage of the Volta a Catalunya in solo fashion. The Dutchman was the strongest from a big 13-rider break that escaped early in the stage and held off the chasing peloton on the final circuit in Barcelona while Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) had no trouble responding to the expected attacks from Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and so defended his overall lead to capture a second victory in the WorldTour race.


After emerging as a potential GC rider in the 2012 Paris-Nice, time trial specialist Lieuwe Westra had a disastrous 2013 season. Having moved to Astana after the demise of his Vacansoleil team, things seem to have improved for the Dutchman and today he confirmed his growing condition by taking an excellent solo victory in the final stage of the Volta a Catalunya.


With the short stage in Barcelona ending with eight laps of a 6km circuit that included the famous Montjuic climb, it was always expected that an escapee would have a good chance of prevailing. When extreme rain was added to the picture, it only made it all the more likely that a breakaway would stay away to the finish.


Westra stayed attentive in the early part of the stage and made it into a 13-rider break that managed to open up a 13-minute gap. With only Omega Pharma-Quick Step showing any real intention to try to chase it down on the final circuits, it appeared more and more likely that the winner would be one of the escapees.


Westra reacted quickly when Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) started the attacking on the Montjuic and he made the selection when a five-rider group emerged on the front. A little later he made his own solo attack and from there, nobody could stop the time trial specialist.


Westra held off both his chasers and the peloton all the way to the line and when he reached the finish for the final time, he had a comfortable 1.22 in hand over his four former companions. Marcus Burghardt (BMC) beat Voeckler in the sprint for 2nd to complete a strong showing in the weeklong race.


In the peloton, Robert Kiserlovski (Trek) and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) had both made dangerous attacks from afar but Katusha had proved their strength by shutting things down before the final lap. The final time up Montjuic, Alberto Contador launched his expected attack but Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) had no trouble shutting it down and so a 25-rider arrived at the finish together.


Hence, Rodriguez defended his overall lead to take home the second win in his home race while Contador and Tejay van Garderen (BMC) rounded out the podium. Tour winner Chris Froome (Sky) had to settle for 6th in his first European race of the season.


Yesterday's winner Stef Clement (Belkin) was again in the break and secured himself the win in the mountains classification while Michel Koch took the win in both the sprints and the Miguel Poblet competitions. Garmin-Sharp won the teams classification.


With his second place, Contador takes the lead in the WorldTour ranking. The season-long series continues next Sunday with the Ronde van Vlaanderen while the next race on Spanish soil is the GP Miguel Indurain on Saturday, the race kicking off a week of exciting race in the Basque Country.


A hilly stage

For the second year in a row, the Volta a Catalunya ended with a short 120.7km stage in Barcelona that included 8 laps on a difficult 6.15km finishing circuit that brought the riders up and down the famous Montjuic climb. After the start in Barcelona, the opening part of the stage included two category 3 climbs but all was set to be decided on the final climb that was expected to be the scene of some attacking racing that could put race leader Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) under pressure.


As it was raining heavily in Barcelona though, the organizers decided to shorten the finishing circuit, reducing it by 600m and so cutting the overall distance by 4km. The decision took out the most technical part of the descent that had been feared by many riders due to the very slick roads.


A big group takes off

The race kicked off in very wet conditions to make it a fitting end to a race that has had to deal with some very bad weather. As expected, the pace was fast from the gun, with several riders trying to take off in a stage that seemed to suit a strong breakaway.


Such a strong group was formed after 7km of racing when Westra, Voeckler, Burghardt, Clement, Daniele Ratto (Cannondale), Cedric Pineau (FDJ), Boris Vallee (Lotto Belisol), Perrig Quemeneur (Europcar), Fumiyuki Beppu (Trek), Maciej Paterski (CCC), Yoann Bagot (Cofidis), Jerome Baugnies and Michel Kreder (both Wanty) took off. At the 9km mark, they were already one minute ahead as the peloton seemed to be content to let them go.


Clement secures mountains jersey

Burghardt passed first through the first intermediate sprint - ahead of Kreder and Baugnies - while Clement started to secure his win in the mountains classification by cresting the summit of the first two climbs in first position ahead of Quemeneur/Kreder and Pineau/Quemeneur respectively. After 38km, the front group was 3.15 ahead and it reached 5 minutes at the 46km mark.


Katusha now started to control the situation as they kept the gap stable around that mark. Meanwhile, Vallee beat Paterski and Pineau at the final intermediate sprint at which point Katusha had brought the gap down to 4 minutes.


The break falls apart

At the second passage of the line, the gap was down to 3.20 as Katusha continued to set a hard pace on the front. At this point, riders had started to fall off the pace, with Ratto being one of the riders to get dropped from the front group.


On the third lap, Voeckler attacked on the Montjuic but it was Westra and Burghardt who made the selection. When the dust settled, a 5-rider group had formed with the duo being joined by Voeckler, Bagot and Paterski.


Omega Pharma start to chase

Omega Pharma-Quick Step had missed the move and so started to chase hard in the peloton but at the end of the third lap the gap was still 3.22. After another lap, it was still 3.10 and it now appeared likely that the group would stay away.


Omega Pharma-Quick Step launched their attack when they sent Gianluca Brambilla up the road. The Italian was joined by Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) but opened up a solid gap.


Katusha back on the front

Pinot was a potential GC danger and so Katusha again started to chase. Meanwhile, Voeckler tried to attack but Westra was quick to respond.


The Dutchman made two attacks on his own and the final one was the successful one. At the end of the sixth lap, he was 2.58 ahead of the peloton.


Kiserlovski and Fuglsang make a move

On the climb, more riders had bridged across to Pinot and Brambilla, including Kiserlovski and Fuglsang which suddenly made the group a big threat. Katusha now had to ride hard to get them back.


The chasers continued to lose time and with two laps to go, Westra was 40 seconds ahead of the Voeckler group. Meanwhile, the Kiserlovski group was 20 seconds ahead of the peloton.


Solo win for Westra

When Westra started the final lap, he was more than a minute ahead while Movistar were now leading the peloton. The Dutchman safely negotiated the final lap and took a beautiful solo victory while the chasers had to sprint it out for 2nd, with Burghardt beating Voeckler.


While Westra savoured his win, Contador launched the expected attack but Tejay van Garderen (BMC) and Rodriguez had no trouble responding. Hence, it came back together with a 25-rider group to sprint it out for 6th, with Jan Polanc (Lampre) beating Contador, while Rodriguez took the overall win.



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