Volta a Catalunya: Stef Clement wins stage six as Joaquim Rodriguez retains overall lead
By Matt Westby
Last Updated: 29/03/14 6:00pm
Breakaway rider Stef Clement won stage six of the Volta a Catalunya as all of the contenders for overall victory finished in the peloton to set up a potentially thrilling finale to the race on Sunday.
Clement triumphed by three seconds after riding clear from the main bunch early in the day with eight other men and then attacking his fellow escapees 1.5km from the finish line in Vilanova i la Geltru.
The peloton followed 55 seconds later and with the general classification remaining unchanged, the top seven riders will now go into the seventh and final stage separated by just 18 seconds.
Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) holds a slender four-second advantage over fellow Spaniard Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), while Britain's Chris Froome (Team Sky) lies 13 seconds further back in sixth.
Tense finale in prospect
The now-decisive last day includes no fewer eight ascents of the category-three Alt de Montjuic and although the climb is not conducive to large attacks, the gaps between the leaders is so small that an aggressive race is almost inevitable.
Stakes will also be raised by the fact that the first three riders over the finish line will receive ten, six and four bonus seconds respectively - all of which could prove decisive.
Froome told teamsky.com: “I think a lot of guys will be looking to finish the race off in style, and in terms of GC, it’s still really close. There is only 18 seconds between the top seven riders so it’s going to be a big battle for GC and I wouldn’t want to be in Rodriguez’s position right now, having to defend the jersey.
“Alberto Contador will no doubt try everything he can to take the jersey, but I’m just going to be happy to finish a good week of racing. I know where I am with my condition now. It’s nice to fight for the victory, but I’m not on the level of the other guys just yet, and the punchy circuit doesn’t suit me.
'Suits Rodriguez and Contador'
“It suits Rodriguez and Contador far more than it does me, but I’m really happy with the feelings and sensations I have had this week. We have one day to go now and I feel a lot better now than I did at the start of the race.”
Stage six did not appear to favour a breakaway, but the nine escapees took a lead of 3min 20sec into the last 25km and when they still had 1min 40sec with 12km left, the peloton was forced to concede defeat.
That triggered a spate of attacks from within the breakaway in the final 10km, with 42-year-old Jens Voigt (Trek Factory Racing), Pierre Rolland (Europcar) and Rudy Molard (Cofidis) all particularly active.
But Clement (Belkin), who was wearing the king of the mountains jersey and only joined the breakaway to add to his points tally in that classification, opted instead to conserve his energy for one big attack at the finale, and when he jumped at pace 1.5km out, his weary rivals could offer little by way of response.
Stage six result
1 Stef Clement (Ned) Belkin, 3:58:44
2 Rudy Molard (Fra) Cofidis, +3sec
3 Pieter Serry (Bel) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step, same time
4 Jens Voigt (Ger) Trek Factory Racing, st
5 Marek Rutkiewicz (Pol) CCC Polsat Polkowice, st
6 Antonio Piedra (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA, st
7 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Europcar, st
8 Damien Howson (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge, st
9 Nico Sijmens (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert, +9
10 Tosh van der Sande (Bel) Lotto Belisol, +55
1 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha, 27:03:13
2 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo, +4secs
3 Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC, +7
4 Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale, +10
5 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, same time
6 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, +17
7 Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Sharp, +18
8 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Ag2r-La Mondiale, +26
9 Warren Barguil (Fra) Giant-Shimano, +42
10 Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Trek Factory racing, +48