An early 4-rider breakaway, from which Latvian Gatis Smukulis was the only one able to stand the punch by the first peloton, avoided the first mass sprint in the 90th Volta a Catalunya to be held in Lloret de Mar, and this way, the chances by José Joaquín Rojas to take the first leader’s jersey of the race.
The Spaniard from Movistar Team came in 3rd place in the sprint, half a minute behind the escapee and only outsprinter by Italy’s Alessandro Petacchinto the first bunch, split during the ascent to the Alt de Sant Grau (Cat. 1), just over 30 kilometers from the finish. In this 80-rider leading group -only fifty were able to make it through the summit, with Petacchi joining during the downhill-, the other big hopes from Movistar Team were making part: apart from Rojas, Tondo, Intxausti and Pasamontes were there, but it wasn’t the case for Colombia’s Mauricio Soler, who struggled after his long competitive stop from this year’s Vuelta a Murcia. “It was a bad thing that Erviti and Fran Pérez could not hold on for a bit, because I think we could have chased down with them,” commented José Luis Arrieta, Movistar Team sports director. The second chapter in this race will come tomorrow in the eve of the awaited Queen stage to Andorra on Wednesday. It will be a 169km trek from Santa Coloma de Farners to Banyoles, with the Cat. 1 Alt dels Àngels halfway the course.
“It’s been just a mixture of everything,” commented Rojas as an explanation of the calculation error in the chasing from the bunch. “We didn’t have much references in the finale, there hasn’t been real cooperation, and at the end we missed 20-some seconds to sprint for the victory. Also, the climb took many people down who could have pulled a bit. Pasamontes has done an excellent job since we made it through the climb, but we couldn’t squeeze Tondo and Intxausti because they may fight for the overall. I started sprinting from too far because I saw we couldn’t bring him back, and at the end Petacchi overtook me. But it’s really different to sprint for first than doing it for second. In theory, there are five days with options to come into a sprint, and I’m not afraid of playing my cards with him. After how I felt in Paris-Nice or Milano-Sanremo, I have to compete with my moral high. It’s always a pity, because it’s one less opportunity, but I’m happy with the sensations I had today again, and seeing I recovered from the hard ride on Saturday.“