Frenchman Rémi Pauriol has taken over the lead in the Volta a Catalunya after yesterday's stage winner and yellow jersey Cyril Dessel was dropped from the peloton with 20 kilometres to go on the Alt de Paumeras. The 8.6-kilometre 9% climb took its toll on the AG2R rider, while Pauriol finished safely in the main peloton to seize the race's overall lead.
"I never expected Dessel to suffer so badly on the final climb, but it's given me the chance to take over as leader," Pauriol told Reuters. "Now I want to win this race. We've got a strong enough team to keep my rivals under control, and my morale is on a real high."
The stage win went to another French rider, this one Pierrick Fédrigo (Bouygues Telecom), who claimed his second victory of the season by out-foxing four breakaway companions on the race's longest stage. Fédrigo had a little help from Spanish team-mate Xavier Florencio, whose knowledge of the closing kilometres helped the winner hold off Alexandre Botcharov (Crédit Agricole) and Gustavo Cesar (Karpin Galicia) in the sprint.
"Xavier comes from this region, and he knows the last few kilometres like the back of his hand," Fédrigo said. "He'd told me before the stage about the ins and outs of the finish, and that made it much easier for me to calculate my strength and stay in contention. It was as if I'd already ridden the race route in my head, before I'd done it in reality."
Today's stage took the remaining 163 riders on a predominantly downhill journey for the initial 180 kilometres, finishing with the sharp category two ascent of Alto de Paumeres. A five man breakaway stayed away most of the day. Rubén Pérez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas), Andry Grivko (Team Milram), Michael Barry (High Road) and Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) gained four minutes at the mid-point of the stage, but was not gaining as much time as they'd hoped.
Flecha, placed highest on GC at 2'05 behind Dessel, was the main danger, and his breakaway companions tried to convince him to leave the group so they could have a chance at a stage win. The next highest placed rider was Pérez, 17'54" back.
As related on the Rabobank team web site, rabobank.nl, the argument grew heated. "He [Flecha] said to the others: 'You went after me, right? You should have stayed behind'. And so Juan attacked," said team director Adri van Houwelingen. The argument continued. "The whole fight, which got worse and worse, lasted one hundred kilometers. At that moment the gap was less than two minutes, and then Flecha slowed down. A waste of energy? Maybe, but he wanted to show himself here, and that happened. I am okay with that," the van Houwelingen said.
Ultimately, the effort took its toll, and Grivko gave up and went back to the peloton, and then Flecha also came to his senses. The other three soldiered on but were caught on the final climb.