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After De Clercq had been dropped in the crosswinds, Valverde repeatedly attacked from an 11-rider lead group until he finally soloed clear to take his second stage win; Porte took the overall lead

Photo: Sirotti

ALEJANDRO VALVERDE

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MOVISTAR TEAM

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PAOLO TIRALONGO

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RICHIE PORTE

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RIGOBERTO URAN

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TEAM SKY

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VOLTA A CATALUNYA

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27.03.2015 @ 18:28 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

One day after his big disappointment in the queen stage, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) bounced back in the most incredible way when he took a huge solo win on a very dramatic stage 5 of the Volta a Catalunya. Having helped created the selection in the crosswinds that distanced Bart De Clercq (Lotto Soudal) and Daniel Martin (Cannondale-Garmin), he made it into an 11-rider group over the top of the final climbs and after several attacks, he finally got clear to take the victory. Richie Porte rolled across the line in fourth to complete the podium.

 

After a great start to the race that included a stage win on stage 2, Alejandro Valverde has had a hard time in the Volta a Catalunya. He crashed at a bad time in stage 3 and yesterday he was unable to match the best in the queen stage.

 

However, the Movistar leader had warned that the race is far from over and today he bounced back in the fifth stage which on paper had looked like a pretty calm affair that could potentially be won by an early breakaway. However, crosswinds wreaked havoc on the race and turned the GC upside down and in the end Valverde emerged from the carnage as the stage winner.

 

Valverde and his teammate Ruben Fernandez created the selection with 40km to go on a long, gradual uphill drag that was marked by strong crosswinds. The Movistar pair hit the front after they had tried a similar move a little earlier and their fast pace made the group split to pieces.

 

Race leader Bart De Clercq and Daniel Martin were the two main names who had missed out when a 17-rider lead group had formed. Most of the GC contenders were there and as BMC, Sky and Astana had strength in numbers, there were lots of riders to keep the move going.

 

Further back, IAM, Cannondale and Katusha chased hard in a second group that included Martin while De Clercq found himself even further back in a third group. Those two groups constantly lost time to the leaders and as they hit the final climb with less than 15km to go, it was clear that they wouldn’t get back.

 

Valverde made his first attack near the top and whittled the group down to just 11 riders as he was joined by Rigoberto Uran, Richie Porte, Paolo Tiralongo, Fabio Aru, Domenico Pozzovivo, Alberto Contador, David Lopez, Darwin Atapuma, Tejay van Garderen and Rafael Valls. They worked well together on the descent to keep their chasers at bay but Valverde had his eyes on the stage win.

 

The Spaniard made several attacks but it seemed that none of them would pay off. With 2km to go, however, the elastic finally snapped when he made his final move and he soloed clear to take his second stage win. 5 seconds later Uran beat Tiralongo in the sprint for second from a group that contained most of the favourites.

 

Martin lost 1.35 while De Clercq was distanced by 2.53. This means that Porte now takes the leader’s jersey and he goes into the penultimate stage with a 5-second advantage over Pozzovivo. The wind could again wreak havoc on tomorrow’s stage but as the final 40km are completely flat after the riders have gone over a category 1 climb in the early part, it could be a day for the sprinters.

 

A hilly stage

After the big queen stage, the Volta a Catalunya headed into flatter terrain for stage 5 which brought the riders over 195.4km from Alp to Valls. After a long gradual descent in the first third, the riders hit a flat middle section before they reached a hillier finale. An uncategorized climb was followed by the category 2 Alt de Lilla which summited just 14.2km from the finish and from there it was a fast descent that led to the flat a technical finale in Valls.

 

There were two non-starters when the peloton left Alp to head towards Valls under a beautiful sunny sky. Romain Bardet (Ag2r) crashed a few days ago and decided to go home to recover from his injuries while Alberto Losada (Katusha) was suffering from stomach problems.

 

A 15-rider break

The stage was expected to suit a breakaway and so it was no surprise that it got off to a very fast start with lots of attacks. As a consequence, a big 12-rider group got clear and they ended up animating the first part of the stage.

 

Martin Elmiger (IAM), Jan Polanc (Lampre-Merida), Christian Meier (Orica-GreenEDGE), Lawson Craddock (Giant-Alpecin), Jasper Stuyven (Trek), Lluis Mas (Caja Rural), Florian Vachon (Bretagne), Marek Rutkiewicz (CCC), Romain Hardy, Loic Chetout (Cofidis), Bryan Coquard (Europcar) and Matco Minnaard (Wanty) fought hard to get a big gap and after 4km of racing, they were 12 seconds ahead. Meanwhile, Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) left the race.

 

Martin picks up a bonus second

As the gap had reached 20 seconds, Anton Vorobyev (Katusha) tried to bridge the gap but he had no success. For more than 20km, the gap stayed around that mark but at the 26km mark, it was all back together.

 

This opened the door for new attacks but things were still together when the riders reached the first intermediate sprint. Here Lotto Soudal did a good job to pick up bonus seconds as Boris Vallee and Greg Henderson were first across the line but Daniel Martin (Cannondale) sprinted his way to the final second on offer.

 

The break is formed

At the 45km mark, no one had still managed to escape but moments later the elastic snapped when Polanc, Calvin Watson (Trek) and Yoann Bagot (Cofidis) got clear. As the peloton slowed down, the gap started to grow quickly and it was 1.14 after 52km of racing.

 

The gap continued to grow slowly. At the 60km mark, it was 2.40 and it reached a maximum of 4.30 after 80km of racing. 7km later, the peloton had reduced it to 3.40 but as the peloton again stepped off the gas, it was 5.00 when Watson beat Polanc and Bagot in the final intermediate sprint.

 

The peloton splits up

As the peloton hit a windy section, the pace was increased dramatically and the gap came down quickly. At the 126km mark, it was only 2.45 and 17km later, it was just 2 minutes.

 

While Danilo Napolitano (Wanty) left the race, the drama started when Katusha, Movistar and Sky attacked in the crosswinds. A very small group got clear but after he had initially been distanced, De Clercq managed to bridge across.

 

Fernandez creates the selection

The peloton split to pieces but as the first echelon was brought back, the race again settled into a steady rhythm. However, Sky and Etixx-QuickStep kept the pace high and as consequence the break was caught with 44km to go.

 

3km later, Fernandez upped the pace on an uphill drag and that made the group split as they were hit by strong crosswinds. Sky also came to the fore and as Valverde and Astana also contributed, De Clercq was distanced.

 

Martin loses ground

A few more riders were dropped from the lead group until only 17 riders were left. With 38km to go, De Clercq had already been distanced by a minute while Martin found himself in the second group at 25 seconds.

 

The Martin group managed to bring it down to 20 seconds as IAM and Katusha were working hard but as the domestiques started to blow up, they lost ground. With 20km to go, they were 53 seconds behind.

 

Valverde attacks

As they hit the Alt de Lilla, Martin was forced to do a lot of work himself but as they approached the top, he had been distanced by 1.40. Meanwhile, Valverde made his attack and after Contador had shot it down, an 11-rider group emerged.

 

They sped down the descent before Valverde started his many attacks. In the end, he made the decisive move while Porte took the overall lead.

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