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After having been given the perfect lead-out by Rojas, Valverde held off Coquard and Chernetskii in a sprint to take his third stage win and move into second in the Volta a Catalunya; Porte took the overall win

Photo: Sirotti

ALEJANDRO VALVERDE

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BRYAN COQUARD

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DOMENICO POZZOVIVO

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MOVISTAR TEAM

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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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29.03.2015 @ 19:13 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Alejandro Valverde completed an excellent effort by the Movistar team to take his third stage win at the Volta a Catalunya on the final stage that was held on a hilly circuit with the Montjuic climb. After his late attack had been fruitless, he focused on the sprint from a 30-rider group and managed to hold off Bryan Coquard (Europcar) and Sergei Chernetskii (Katusha) to take the win. Richie Porte (Sky) finished safely in the group and won the race overall while Valverde moved into second ahead of Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r).

 

Alejandro Valverde went into the Volta a Catalunya as the big favourite but an untimely crash on stage 3 set him back. With two stage wins and a fourth place overall, his race was still a big success as he went into the final stage.

 

However, the Spaniard was in a determined mood to improve on an already very good balance as he took off from Barcelona to take on the final leg. The short stage ended with 8 laps on a 6.4km circuit that included the 2km Montjuic climb and this made it an obvious one for Valverde to target.

 

The Movistar leader already showed his intentions in the early part of the stage when he sprinted to second in the first intermediate sprint to pick up two valuable bonus seconds. The time bonus meant that a stage win would now elevate him to second if Domenico Pozzovivo and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) didn’t finish in the top 3.

 

Valverde now allowed three riders to get clear before his Movistar team took control. All day they kept the gap below the 2-minute mark before they made a big acceleration with three laps to go on the hilly circuit.

 

The fast pace spelled the end for the early breakaway which was caught shortly before they started the penultimate lap. Together with Etixx-QuickStep, Movistar kept the speed high and brought back a brave attack from Daniel Martin (Cannondale-Garmin) and so all was set to be decided on the final lap.

 

Crossing the line for the penultimate time, Sky had taken control with Leopold König and as they approached the climb Vasil Kiryienka took over. After Jerome Coppel (IAM) and Diego Rosa (Astana) had tried brief accelerations, it was David Lopez who completely controlled the pace for the British team as they went up the climb.

 

As they approached the top, Maciej Paterski (CCC) and Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE) made the first attack but everyone was looking for Valverde to make his expected move. He did so just before the top and flew past the two leaders to crest the summit in first position.

 

Pozzovivo and Porte were following a little later with a few more riders on their wheel while Contasdor had briefly been distanced. However, Valverde decided to sit up and a 30-rider group gathered as Wout Poels hit the front for Sky.

 

Rafael Valls (Lampre-Merida) tried to attack but Valverde quickly shut it down. Instead, it was Martin who made what looked like the race-winning move.

 

While Poels set a steady pace, the Irishman got a big gap and an attack by a BMC rider didn’t pay off. However, Katusha had Sergei Chernetskii ready for the sprint and so they started to chase.

 

This spelled the end for Martin who was caught with 500m to go after Lotto Soudal had done an effort. From here, Movistar dominated as Jose Joaquin Rojas led Valverde perfectly out and he managed to hold off a strong comeback by Bryan Coquard to win the stage while Chernetskii completed the podium.

 

Richie Porte finished safely in the group and so took his second win a WorldTour stage race this year. Valverde moved into second, 4 seconds behind, while Pozzovivo completed the podium. Tom Danielson (Cannondale) won the mountains classification, Lluis Mas (Caja Rural) took the sprints jersey and BMC turned out to be the strongest team.

 

The Spanish racing calendar now moves to Spain for the GP Miguel Indurain on Saturday which is followed by the next WorldTour stage race, the Vuelta al Pais Vasco. The next WorldTour race is the Tour of Flanders which takes place next Sunday.

 

A difficult circuit

After yesterday’s breakaway stage, the GC was expected to come into play in the short final stage that saw the riders tackle 126.6km around Barcelona. After an opening loop that included a small category 3 climb and lots of flat roads, the stage ended with 8 laps of a 6.4k m circuit. It consisted of the famous 2km Montjuic climb and a descent back to the finish, meaning that there was room for attacks right until the end of the race.

 

There were two non-starters when the remaining riders in the Volta a Catalunya left Barcelona under a beautiful sunny sky. Carter Jones (Giant-Alpecin) and Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre-Merida) who crashed yesterday, decided not to do the final short leg of what has been a tough race.

 

KOM points for Danielson

The stage has been won by breakaways in both 2013 and 2014 and so it was no surprise that lots of riders were keen to go on the attack. This meant that the race got off to a very fast start in which no one was able to get clear.

 

The peloton was still together by the time they reached the summit of the first climb after 18.7km of racing and it was Leonardo Duque (Colombia) who won the KOM sprint ahead of Cyril Gautier (Europcar), Davide Malacarne (Astana) and Tom Danielson (Cannonale). On the descent, it split into several groups but as they again reached flat roads, it was back together.

 

Valverde takes bonus seconds

This meant that the GC riders could contest the first intermediate sprint. Giant-Alpecin had Luka Mezgec take away the three bonus seconds but Movistar did a great job to have Alejandro Valverde and Jose Joaquin Rojas crossing the line in second and third, with the former reducing his deficit to Richie Porte to 14 seconds.

 

The peloton now allowed a three-rider group of David Arroyo (Caja Rural), Marek Rutkiewicz (CCC) and Walter Pedraza (Colombia) to go clear but they never got much of an advantage. With 75km o go, they only had a gap of 1.45 and Movistar had already started to chase with Marc Soler, Winner Anacona and Rory Sutherland.

 

Movistar in control

While the peloton relaxed a bit after the hectic start, those three riders worked well together to keep the gap stable at around 1.30 for a long time. As they approached the circuit, the tension rose and the teams started to gather near the front.

 

At the start of the first lap, the escapees had extended their advantage to 2.15 but it was back to 1.40 when Rutkiewicz led Arroyo and Pedraza over the top and he was again first at the second passage, followed by Pedraza and Arroyo. Meanwhile, Soler, Anacona and Sutherland kept the gap at around 1.40.

 

Coquard goes down

On the third lap, Coquard and Leonardo Duque (Colombia) went down in a small crash but they both managed to rejoin the peloton. Meanwhile, Rutkiewicz dropped his chain just before the top of the climb and so it was Pedraza who led Arroyo across the line before the Pole rejoined them.

 

While Wilco Kelderman (LottoNL-Jumbo) fought his way back from a mechanical, Rutkiewicz led Arroyo and Pedraza over the top at the fourth passage. Soler, Anacona and Sutherland still kept the gap at 1.30.

 

Etixx-QuickStep start to chase

With 26km to, David de la Cruz and Carlos Verona (Etixx-QuickStep) started to work with the Movistar riders and now riders started to get dropped. As Arroyo led Pedraza and Rutkiewicz over the top, the gap had come down to 30 seconds.

 

As they started the sixth lap, Movistar started to use their climbers as Jose Herrada and Ruben Fernandez were now working with Petr Vakoc (Etixx-QuickStep). This forced the escapees to react and so Rutkiewicz got dropped.

 

The break splits up

Just before the top, Pedraza attacked and he crested the summit with a 24-second advantage. Arroyo managed to rejoin him on the descent and tried to make a countermove. He didn’t get clear and instead Pedraza again took off on his own but with 14km to go, it was all back together.

 

Vakoc, Fernandez and Herrada still set the pace as they hit the climb for the seventh time. Martin attacked from the bottom and he crested the summit as the lone leader while more riders, including Chris Froome (Sky), were dropped.

 

Vakoc, Rojas and Valverde led the peloton down the descent and the Czech managed to catch Martin. That’s when Sky took over and it was Leopold König who led the 50-rider group onto the final lap.

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