Volta a Catalunya: Stage 5

Alejandro Valverde’s solo win on the mountain stage sees him now lead overall ahead of  Froome and Contador

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Volta a Catalunya: Stage 5

Alejandro Valverde was again unstoppable on the Cat-1 climb of Lo Port at the end of stage five in the Volta a Catalunya.

The Movistar Team’s GC hope bit by bit moved back up to the race leaders on Friday, three days after having the leader’s taken from him by the race jury following a controversial, collective one-minute penalty after the Banyoles’ team time trial.

His win atop La Molina on Wednesday was the prelude for a sensational second victory in three days –his 5th of the season, the 102nd of his pro career– and the crowning glory of superb Movistar team-work all over the stage.

Despite many attacks early on in the race, no riders where able to establish a lead before the peloton started the second category climb, the Coll de Fatxes after 60 kilometres. Finally, as the riders headed towards the summit of the climb, a group of fifteen riders clipped off the front.

The sizeable group of leaders rode out to a maximum advantage of five minutes 40 seconds before being reeled in by the peloton ahead of the final important eight kilometre climb. The peloton arrived at the base of the climb mostly intact with the view of the steep mountain ahead with the summit finish at 1000 metres altitude.

It was a race of attrition to begin with as the peloton was whittled down to just 30 riders as they approached the five kilometres to go mark. Ruben Fernandez (Movistar) lifted the pace with four kilometres to go and quickly the group disintegrated even further. Adam Yates waited patiently before beginning his final effort and gradually worked his way back up to the front which was now just four riders, Valverde, Chris Froome (Team Sky), Marc Soler (Movistar) and Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo).

Inside the final 500metres the five leaders fought for the victory with Valverde coming out on top. The performance from the 24-year-old Adam Yates moves him up into fifth place overall.
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Alejandro Valverde: “It was a spectacular day for both myself and the team, I’m so glad I could finish this off. It was an amazing day, all thanks to my team-mates. We kept full focus in the dangerous part of the stage, exposed to the wind, and all over the stage I had different team-mates surrounding me. At the final climb, Rubén Fernández and Marc Soler did a sensational job for me. From the very foot of the climb I was feeling like I had good legs, and I asked them to go on full steam for as long as they could. At the final two kilometers, I sought for my distance and launched the move with a pace I could hold until the line.

“It’s a victory and a leader’s jersey really special, because of everything that happened during the last few days. Things like those, outside the racing itself, are not ones that we like. In the end, we managed to get people excited and happy about our racing, and that’s what counts. Soler? It’s a really talented boy, you all could see it. He won the Tour de l’Avenir, excelled into the mountains prior, but seeing how strong he rode this week, I can tell this to you: he’s got whatever he wants to win in his legs.”

Alberto Contador: It was a relatively simple stage because we only had the final climb, which was hard, but also a little open and with headwind,” said Contador. “The roads were good, and it was relatively easy to go in the wheels, and that has made it so that everyone arrived very fresh at the final. Although the climb had steep grades, the differences have not been as big as they would be in other conditions.

“My feelings were not bad, maybe I was a bit stuck and I lacked a little bit in the end to be able to fight for the victory. I have arrived ahead, but I didn’t have that final punch I would have liked to win.”

“Movistar played it well,” continued Contador. “They have done it perfectly: they had two riders in the top four, so I had a rider that I had to control, Marc Soler, and that did not allow me to be able to watch Alejandro. Then Alejandro attacked hard from behind and made enough room to reach the finish.

“But I’m super happy. It’s true that we couldn’t crown the work, but I’m very satisfied with my performance. The training and preparation are in the right direction, and that makes me motivated and eager.”

Former Race leader Tejay van Garderen (BMC):  “I felt really good and confident going into the final climb but the pace and the gradient weren’t treating me very well, and I couldn’t hold their wheel in the end. I’m obviously a little disappointed but there is still a long way to until my main goal of the year, and I feel like I am constantly making forward progress.

To win here would have been a good confidence boost but I don’t think it is time to panic. I definitely know what I need to work on during this next phase of training and I am ready to put in what’s needed to hopefully reach the end goal.”

“The race is certainly not over. Tomorrow is going to be a brutally hard stage, so it is not a time to sit up. We can now regroup as a team and see what we can do and look for other opportunities over the next two days.”

Chris  Froome: “Today, being the first big mountain top finish, was probably the first real big test so in that sense I’m really happy to be up there. Those are good indicators when I still have a long way to go until I’m at my best.

“Personally, it’s been an encouraging few days, especially given my track record here in Catalunya! It’s a race that I’ve usually found tough, being my first European race of the year and really just getting back into it.

“Having said that, we don’t want to be happy with second place as it’s not the reason we’re here. Valverde is looking really strong and I think beating him will take something special. But tomorrow’s stage has been quite understated – there’s hardly any flat in it and the weather might play a big part. After a day like today there will be some tired legs so we’ll stay on the front foot and look to take any opportunities.”

Stage 5
1. Alejandro Valverde, Movistar
2. Chris Froome, Team Sky :13
3. Alberto Contador, Trek – Segafredo
4. Marc Soler, Movistar Team :25
5. Adam Yates, ORICA-Scott :32
6. Daniel Martin, Quick-Step :46
7. David Gaudu, FDJ @58
8. Hugh Carthy, Cannondale-Drapac Pro Cycling Team 1:04
9. Jakob Fuglsang, Astana Pro Team 1:11
10. Steven Kruijswijk, Team LottoNL-Jumbo

11. Romain Bardet AG2R La Mondiale
14. Geraint Thomas Team Sky 1:25
21. Samuel Sánchez, BMC Racing Team 1:53
22. Tejay van Garderen, BMC Racing Team
52. Peter Kennaugh, Team Sky 5:54

1. Alejandro Valverde, Movistar Team
2. Chris Froome, Team Sky 0:21
3. Alberto Contador, Trek – Segafredo 0:47
4. Marc Soler, Movistar Team 1:00
5. Adam Yates, ORICA-Scott 1:15
6. Tejay van Garderen, BMC Racing Team 1:18
7. Geraint Thomas, Team Sky 1:34
8. Samuel Sánchez, BMC Racing Team 1:59
9. Daniel Martin, Quick-Step Floors 2:13
10. Steven Kruijswijk, Team LottoNL-Jumbo 2:40

30. Peter Kennaugh, Team Sky 7:03
31. Hugh Carthy, Cannondale-Drapac Pro Cycling Team 7:05



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