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Having joined an 8-rider break after a frantic first half of the race, Poels dropped his companions on the final climb before holding off four chasers to win stage 5 of the Volta a Catalunya; Cataldo and Bille completed the podium

Photo: ANSA / DAL ZENNARO - PERI

DARIO CATALDO

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MOVISTAR TEAM

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NAIRO QUINTANA

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TEAM SKY

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VOLTA A CATALUNYA

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25.03.2016 @ 18:32 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Wout Poels saved what has been a very disappointing race for Sky by taking an impressive solo win for the British team on stage 5 of the Volta a Catalunya. After joining an 8-rider group after a frantic start to the stage, he dropped his companions on the final climb and then held off four chasers on the descent to take the win. Dario Cataldo (Astana) beat Gaetan Bille (Wanty) in the sprint for second while Nairo Quintana (Movistar) lost one second to Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) due to bonuses an intermediate sprint.

 

At the start of the week, Sky did nothing to hide that they arrived in Spain at the Volta a Catalunya with the aim to win the race with Chris Froome. They lined up their A team that also included co-captains Geraint Thomas and Wout Poels who provided them with several options for the mountain stages.

 

However, after the two battles in the Pyrenees, the team was left empty-handed. Froome has been off the pace and is only sitting in 8th overall. Thomas left the race today after a hugely disappointing race and Poels has also lost considerable time.

 

However, the team is still determined to get results in the race and has refused to give up in the final three stages which are suited to breakaways and sprinters. Today they proved why their team is regarded as the strongest in the race as Poels bounced back in impressive fashion by winning stage 5.

 

Poels had attacked repeatedly in a very fast first part of the race that saw the riders average 51km/h during the first hour. He was there when an 8-rider group was finally formed after more than 100km of fast riding. Carlos Verona (Etixx-Quick Step), Dario Cataldo (Astana), Tosh Van der Sande (Lotto Soudal), Jan Polanc (Lampre - Merida), Kanstantin Siutsou (Dimension Data), Gaetan Bille and Frederik Veuchelen (Wanty) j joined him and they quickly pushed their advantage out to 40 seconds.

 

The gap went out to 4 minutes before Verona beat Poels and Polanc in the second intermediate sprint with 64km to go and it was still growing. It reached a maximum of 4.45 before IAM, Orica-GreenEDGE and Movistar started to chase. Amets Txurruka (OricaGreenEDGE), Marc Soler (Movistar) and an IAM rider traded pulls to slowly reduce the gap which was down to 4.15 with 46km to go where Kruijswijk and Froome rejoined the peloton after three hours at an average speed of 47.7km/h.

 

Katusha alco came to the fore to lend a hand and as consequence, the gap came down faster. With 40km to go, it was only 3.25 and it had dropped to 3 minutes as they entered the final 30km.

 

The escapees were working well together and still had 2.35 with 25km to go. In the peloton, Anton Vorobyev was taking huge turns for Katusha and Geoffrey Soupe was now also working hard for Cofidis.

 

The alliance got even bigger and with 20km to go, Giant-Alpecin, Katusha, Orica-GreenEDGE, Movistar and IAM were all riding on the front, with Imanol Erviti doing a huge amount of work for Quintana. However, the gap was still 1.33 when they hit the final climb with 15km to go.

 

Tinkoff and Katusha upped the pace on the ascent and Poels quickly realized the danger. He attacked hard on the lower slopes and no one was able to follow the strong Dutchman.

 

Katusha and Orica-GreenEDGE were working hard in the peloton but couldn’t prevent Daniel Navarro (Cofidis) from attacking. The Spaniard got a small advantage and stayed clear for a little while until a big surge from Mathias Frank (IAM) brought him back.

 

Having caught Veuchelen, the GC riders continued the attacking when Romain Bardet (Ag2r) attacked near the top but Tejay van Garderen (BMC) quickly brought him back. However, it was Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale) who came flying and crested the summit with a small advantage, with van Garderen taking off in lone pursuit. However, both were quickly brought back.

 

Poels was flying down the descent but was chased hard by Verona and Cataldo who were his nearest pursuers. They were 20 seconds behind with 8km to go but weren’t working well together. Things were better when Siutsou and Bille joined them and the quartet had reduced the gap to 15 seconds with 5km to go.

 

At this point, the peloton was still 1.15 behind and despite hard work from IAM, Damien Howson (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Alberto Losada (Katusha), it was clear that it was too little too late. Meanwhile, Poels dug deep to maintain a 10-second gap.

 

It was still 9 seconds with 2km to go and when it hadn’t changed at the flamme rouge, it was clear that he would take the win. He had plenty of time to celebrate before Cataldo beat Bille in the sprint for second 11 seconds later.

 

In the peloton FDJ had come to the fore with Lorrenzo Manzin (FDJ) but it was Daryl Impey who hit the front with 1km to. He did the perfect lead-out for Simon Gerrans who held off Alexey Tsatevich (Katusha) and Enrico Gasparotto (Wanty) in the sprint for sixth.

 

Quintana finished safely in the bunch and retained the lead but saw his advantage over Alberto Contador (Tinkoff)being reduced to 7 seconds after the Spaniard had picked up a bonus second in an intermediate sprint. He will try to defend his position in tomorrow’s penultimate stage which is the easiest of the race. There’s a early category 3 climb and a category 2 climb just after the midpoint but otherwise it is a mainly flat – and potentially windy – affair that could suit the sprinters or a breakaway.

 

A hilly finale

After two days in the mountains, the terrain was much easier in stage 5 which brought the riders over 187.2km from Rialp to Valls. It was a mainly flat stage with a category 2 climb in the first half of the race but it had a nasty sting in its tail as the riders tackled the category 2 Alt de Lilla in the finale. It averaged 4.8% over 4.1% and the summit came just 10.6km from the line. From there, it was mainly a downhill run to the final few kilometres in the city which ended with a slightly uphill sprint.

 

It was a cloudier than usual when the riders gathered for the start in the Pyrenean city of the Alps but there wasn’t much wind. Geraint Thomas (Sky) who decided to rest for the Tour of Flanders, Jordi Simon (Verva) and David de la Cruz (Etixx-QuickStep) were the non-starters as they headed out for the neutral ride.

 

A furious pace

Everybody knew that this could be a day for a breakaway so it was no surprise that it was a brutally fast start to the stage. After 25km of attacking, no one had escaped but as the peloton took a small breather, it briefly looked like an attempt was getting some ground. However, it was quickly neutralized and Lluis Mas (Caja Rural) didn’t have any luck either when he tried after 30km of racing.

 

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) had to spend some energy to rejoin the peloton after a mechanical while the attacking continued. No one had escaped after the first hour during which 51km were covered. At this point, Etienne van Empel (Roompot) left the race.

 

Bonus seconds for Contador and Martin

The peloton was still compact when they hit the first categorized climb. Halfway up the ascent, they contested the first intermediate sprint where Daniel Martin and his teammate Gianni Meersman (Etixx-QuickStep) did very well to take a 1-2. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) scored an important bonus second by being third across the line.

 

There were any attacks on the climb while lots of riders got dropped. Wout Poels (Sky) put in a strong move near the top and was joined by seven riders. Another three riders made it across to make it an 11-rider group that crested the summit with a small advantage. Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) won the KOM sprint by beating Poels and Hubert Dupont (Ag2r).

 

A dangerous 18-rider group

Seven riders got clear from that group and as they went down the descent, Davide Formolo (Cannondale), Dario Cataldo (Astana), Carlos Verona (Etixx), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), Hubert Dupont (AG2R), Alberto Losada (Katusha) and Boris Dron (Wanty) fought hard to maintain a 5-second advantage. However, that move was neutralized too and there was no luck for the next 13-rider group either.

 

After the feed zone, Philippe Gilbert, Ben Hermans (BMC), Jose Herrada, Marc Soler (Movistar), Rein Taaramae (Katusha), Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-QuickStep), Yury Trofimov (Tinkoff), Tosh Van der Sande, Louis Vervaeke (Lotto Soudal), Georg Preidler (Giant-Alpecin), Sebastien Minard (Ag2r), Matteo Bono (Lampre-Merida), Bert-Jan Lindeman (LottoNL), Michael Woods (Cannondale), Rudy Molard (Cofidis), Gatean Bille and Marco Minnaard (Wanty) got clear and they quickly got a 25-second advantage. It went out to 30 seconds but as Sky had missed the move, they started to chase hard. After a tough fight, it all came back together again.

 

Two riders attacked immediately and the group swelled to eight riders before the peloton finally took a breather. That proved to be the race-winning move from which Poels emerged triumphant.

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