Everything was in store for a thrilling day during the 166 kilometer long fourth queen stage of Volta a Catalunya containing five climbs and a mercilessly steep uphill finish to Vallter in 220 meters altitude. With only seconds separating the top contenders, the overall lead was within reach for several riders.
Four guys, Maxime Mederel (Europcar), Stef Clement (Belkin), Ruben Plaza (Movistar) and Thomas De Gendt (Omega-Pharma Quick Step) used the first climb as a launching pad to rocket away from the pack where Katusha spent the first part of the day as a locomotive for the peloton. But entering the final 40 kilometers, Tinkoff-Saxo went to the front of the field with Contador dancing on his pedals at the back of his train.
As the escapees took on the final climb, the front group shattered and De Gendt and Plaza were the only survivors as Tinkoff-Saxo started to stir things up in the peloton. Two degrees in first rain, since snow clearly started to have a visible affect on the supermen of the field and riders were parked on the steep slope grinding their teeth in agony.
With 8 kilometers to the snowy and foggy finish line, the breakaway was reeled in and Tinkoff-Saxo continued the pace making. It seemed like everything was played into the hands of the leading rider, Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) as none of the favorites wanted to launch an early attack. Warren Barguil (Giant-Shimano) eloped the group of favorites with 3 kilometers to go while the favorites kept eying each other until the final two kilometers where Chris Froome (Sky) finally launched a stinging attack.
But Alberto Contador quickly and firmly shut down the gap and went past the Sky-rider and as Rodriguez hung on to his wheel, the Tinkoff-Saxo-rider paused and Tejay van Garderen (BMC) took advantage of the situation by continuing the pace going clear shadowed by Romain Bardet (ALM) but Van Garderen made it to the finish line. Alberto Contador finished third, a few seconds ahead of Rodriguez and Quintana. Froome finished 7th.
Despite the demanding stage, the GC wasn’t altered dramatically. Tinkoff-Saxo’s Alberto Contador remained second overall:
“It was a very tough day for everyone and our boys did a lot of work pulling the peloton for a lot of kilometers. Towards the finish, it was all up the GC favorites and they are obviously all very strong and unfortunately for us the time differences were small crossing the finish line. But it doesn’t mean that it’s completely hopeless. With 4 seconds separating us from the win, it would be unwise not to think of ways to come by it. But it will be difficult as Katusha and Purito (Rodriguez) are looking mighty strong,” said Tinkoff-Saxo DS, Philippe Mauduit.