Volta a Catalunya (st. 5)
Spanish rider, Movistar Team remain solid on their way to Vielha, stay first in Volta a Catalunya’s overall standings with two days remaining in the event.
Jarlinson Pantano (TFS) took the day’s honours at the longest stage of the 2018 Volta a Catalunya, over 212km from Llívia to Vielha. The Colombian took a long, 12-man breakaway to fruition by a handful of seconds over a group of favourites where the Movistar Team of race leader Alejandro Valverde always kept things under control.
Riding around three minutes behind the riders in front, the Blues kept their team captain calm and comfortable near the top of the bunch. Valverde only had to intervene with an acceleration at the favourites’ group to calm things down into the long, non-rated climb of the Túnel de Vielha, 15km before the finish. Rojas, Anacona, Soler, Pedrero and Erviti completed an excellent job from start to the very finish, with José Joaquín (7th) leading the bunch together Alejandro (8th, both +15″).
The three-second bonus taken by Bernal (SKY) into the day’s first intermediate sprint take the gap between the young Colombian and Valverde down to 16″. Nairo Quintana remains in 3rd place (+26″) and Marc Soler gains one spot (now 6th, +1’18”) as Pinot (FDJ) lost nearly twenty seconds at the back of the group. Saturday should see sprinters and adventurers play their cards on stage six -194km finishing at Torrefarrera-, with a gently downhill second half of the route.
REACTION / Alejandro Valverde:
“The team controlled the race really well, as well on the flat sections as on the climbs. They’ve supported me 100% all over this race, and I couldn’t even think of aiming at the win without their support. I don’t think Bernal’s bonus should be decisive, though those three seconds, with these margins on the GC, are always significant. In the end, we put time on them yesterday at the mountain-top finish and they got it back today. We were focused on going for that intermediate sprint, but there was some swerving and someone slowed drastically at a roundabout – Bernal was in a better position that I, and profited from it. At the final climb to Vielha, lots of riders started to make moves and I thought: can I try one myself? That acceleration made the group calm down and everyone started thinking about pulling more orderly to bring the escape down.
“It’s clear that the toughest mountains are now over, but these two days ahead will be really tricky. There’s rain scheduled for tomorrow, and that will make for a tougher course. We’ve got just sixteen seconds, and before we finish in Montjuïc on Sunday, this is not done. Still, I think it’s down to Bernal to go and seek for a place to attack to put some seconds on us – we should just focus on defending our position. I’m feeling strong at the moment, and should everything go just ‘normal’, we should have no problems, but there’s always something which could arise: punctures, crashes – even bad weather can hurt you and make you lose everything. I’m closer to the overall win, but this is not sealed at all.”
Picture (c): Photo Gomez Sport