Volta Ciclista A Catalunya 2014
view thumbnail galleryKatusha leader Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) claimed his second Volta a Catalunya victory in four years and his first stage race overall since the 2011 Tour of Burgos after successfully defending his slender general classification lead during the rain lashed final stage through the streets of Barcelona that culminated with eight hilly laps of the Montjuic Park.
Whilst the final stage win went to Holland’s Lieuwe Westra (Astana), the strongest survivor of an early break of 13, most of the media attention after the finish logically centred on Rodriguez, second last year behind Dan Martin (Garmin Sharp) and this time around back on the highest step of the Volta a Catalunya’s final podium again.
With a margin of just four seconds over closest pursuer Alberto Contador (Tinkoff Saxo), and a dozen riders at a minu ugg boots sale te or less, Rodriguez’s advantage since he took the overall lead on stage three could hardly have been smaller. But the 34 year old Catalan handled the main series of attacks well on the toughest mountain stage the next day to the blizzard enshrouded ski station of Vallter 2000, and for the following three stages he has always been well placed and attentive when it came to watching the other favourites. Combined with solid team work by Katusha and a route, post the mid race Pyrenees, that made counter attacking anybody with an initial advantage very difficult, Rodriguez’s ugg boots sale tiny advantage ultimately proved to be enough.
The final stage’s eight laps of the Montjuic park climbs looked potentially like the most dangerous terrain for Rodriguez since V ugg boots sale allter 2000 on stage four. But with heavy rain only easing slightly in the afternoon, the organisation opted to make some changes to the finishing circuit to make it less risky. The circuit ended up being 1.1 kilometres shorter and perhaps it became harder for attacks to stick, too, although its main challenge, the third category Montjuic climb, nonetheless, remained in place.
A 13 rider move formed almost immediately after the race rolled out of central Barcelona, and to the true depart in the westerly suburb of Hospitalet de Llobregat, containing no overall favourites but several well known breakaway specialists. Stage six winner and King of the Mountains Stef Clement (Belkin) needed no introduction to local fans whilst Marcus Burghardt (BMC) had already been in a long distance move on stage five and Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) had done his utmost to fend off the pack on stage two into Girona.
After Clement had further reinforced his overall lead in the KoM competition on two early third cat. climbs and the race had made its way through western Barcelona back towards the eight laps of the Montjuic Park, the break’s advantage of five minutes began slowly to shrink as Katusha steadily upped the pace. By the time they crossed the finish line on the finishing circuit for the first time as the rain began to fall more heavily again, their advantage was down to 3:40.
With four laps to go, Voeckler launched several attacks on the winding, well surfaced step like climb of Montjuic but it was Westra who managed to go clear. His solo move seemed very bold, but in fact as the rain teemed down and the break fractured into several smaller units, the Dutchman was able to exploit his time trialling skills which netted him the Dutch national TT title both last year and in 2012 to open up a gap of over a minute and capture Holland’s second win in Catalunya in as many days. Burghardt finally claimed second, 1:22 back, with Voeckler placing third in the same time.
“The break worked together for two laps as normal, it was a difficult race but a good day and I had good legs,” Westra said. “I was watching Voeckler, he went for it two or three times from behind me, and I thought I could do better than that by myself. I looked for the right place to attack, went for it on the top of the climb, and made it all the way to the finish.
“After yesterday” also won by a breakaway, Stef Clement (Belkin), but in a move with no Astana riders “the team was not happy that a break had managed to get away without any of us, so we made very sure to get somebody in today’s move. I was directly in the good group from the start of the stage and had a good feeling we could stay away.”
“It’s very important for me to win with Astana” a team which he joined this year. “I was pretty sure that I could win it, with two and a half laps to go I felt pretty certain. I’d been one of the better climbers in the group on the ascent, so I knew that if I got away, it’d be hard to pull me back.”
Chris Froome (Team Sky) had a scare when he crashed after 60 kilometres but he was able to continue with a grazed hip and still managed to finish sixth overall.
The attacks by the remainder of the big name rivals on Rodriguez failed to materialise until the very last lap. Contador made a long drive on the Montjuic climb, but Van Garderen ugg boots sale third overall and Rodriguez were quick to respond. The sweeping descent back down to the finish at the foot of the Montjuic Park did not leave any more room for attacking, and so Rodriguez second Volta a Catalunya was safely in the bag.