Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) won the Queen stage of the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya after being the sole survivor from an early 10-man breakaway. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) finished 2nd and Richie Porte (BMC Racing) was 3rd on the stage.
It was a hard start to today’s 172km queen stage from Baga to Port Aine as the peloton split in two on the starting cat 3 climb of the day. Cameron Meyer also came into some difficulty during the fast start and crashed in the opening kilometers. Our Australian was not too badly injured though and was able to get back into the race.
It took a while for calm and order to be restored but eventually 10 riders escaped and the peloton regrouped. The leaders rode ahead to more than an 11-minute lead with Etixx-Quickstep riding on the front of the peloton. With 2 out of category and a single category 1 climb coming in the last half of the stage, it was going to be touch and go on whether the break would survive.
By the time the race hit the final 15km climb, there were just 3 riders left in the front, De Gendt, Pieter Weening (Roompot) and Imanol Erviti (Movistar) and they still had a 7-minute lead. Our Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka squad was once again protecting Merhawi Kudus and he started the final climb in good stead. Etixx-Quickstep and Tinkoff set an uncomfortable pace for the duration of the climb which discouraged any attacks.
Up front though, De Gendt had gauged his effort to perfection while the other two cracked. The peloton had slowly been whittled down to just 40 riders with 3km to go and Merhawi Kudus was there with Igor Anton supporting him. The attacks then came from the favourites and it was up to Kudus to follow the wheels. De Gendt would not be caught and took a fine win with Quintana the first of the favourites to finish, in 2nd place. Kudus hung tough to be our highest placed rider in 29th position.
Alex Sans Vega – Sport Director
It was the Queen stage of the Volta Catalunya with a tough, long final climb of almost 20km’s. A break of 10 riders went ahead and we were part of all the early moves except for this final one that stuck. We then had to focus on the final with Merhawi, and Igor Anton was the last rider protecting him. We had the idea of possibly going for the young rider jersey but we were not able to get it. Merhawi is a bit more than 1 minute behind the white jersey leader. The guys did their best but tomorrow we need to be more active and try to get into the break.