Volta a Catalunya (st. 6)
Catalan youngster now 3rd overall after fast-paced penultimate stage in Catalunya leaves Froome out of contention. Valverde -2nd at Reus' finish- comes few centimeters short for 'hat-trick'
The Volta a Catalunya (photo gallery) doesn't stop making headlines day after day, as Saturday brought another amazing stage where the bunch broke into three echelons just after thirty of the 189km day six from Tortosa to Reus. Splits into a technical, wet descent of the Coll de Bot (Cat-3) created a 50-rider front group that included all six Movistar Team riders –Castroviejo, DNS on Friday, and Amador, DNF early today with illness-, set to cover the remainder of their journey at the front with no opposition.
The stragglers of the elite group included Chris Froome (SKY), whose second group finished a whooping 26 minutes behind -just one minute inside the time limit-, which puts Marc Soler in a fantastic 3rd place overall just behind Alberto Contador (TFS). An attack by the Madrilian over the final ascent to La Mussara (Cat-1) was quickly aborted by the Movistar Team as race leader Alejandro Valverde defended himself without any problems to keep the 'blanc-i-verd' jersey. The 'missile from Murcia' even took a shot at what could have been his third stage victory, sprinting into the reduced field and coming second only to South Africa's Daryl Impey (ORS).
Valverde, who now holds a 53-second advantage against Contador and 1'06" over Soler, will chase his second overall success in the Volta's showdown in Barcelona, a 138km stage seven which includes a circuit (eight laps) over the 'Magic Mountain' of Montjuïc, a traditional loop in the Olympic area of the Catalan capital that will pay tribute to the Blue heroes.
Alejandro Valverde (video, Spanish): “It was another really tough day. The beginning of the stage was so fast, and it was all split down the first climb, which was even more difficult than the climbing itself. We always kept the front of the group and caught Froome unprepared behind, yet we only put Erviti out to work. There were so many teams interested on making that group stick, and the riders behind didn't have a chance to make up terrain. Now it's all down to Sunday. It shouldn't be a problem to keep the leader's jersey, yet we must race as focused as we've done over the week. There will surely be attacks and many riders are still pretty much together and up for the podium and top-ten fights. We will just try to continue as we've been doing during the last few days. Keeping our team together and working as brilliantly as my team-mates have done over the entire race is the only way to win this."
Pictures ©: Namussfilms / Volta a Catalunya