Stephens says team won’t give up race lead without a fight
GreenEdge went into the Volta a Catalunya earlier this week with a modest goal – stage victories however, it's looking more and more likely that the WorldTour neophytes could ride away with yet another overall victory with Michael Albasini holding into the race lead with three stages remaining.
The team had a few nervous moments on Thursday's fourth stage with the Swiss rider isolated the second time up the Alt de Les Paumeres. Just prior to the summit Sylvester Szmyd (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) attacked from the lead group. Olympic champion Sammy Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) bridged across with an elite selection in tow and the hard-driving Spaniard would be the first to crest the summit. A six man break then consolidated their lead early on the descent, comprised of Sanchez, Leipheimer, Szmyd, Rigoberto Uran (Sky), Denis Menchov (Katusha) and David Moncoutie (Cofidis). The group was eventually caught with around 400 metres left to race with Rigoberto Uran (Sky Procycling) taking the stage win ahead of Dennis Menchov (Katusha) and Szmyd.
Albasini meanwhile, finished safely in the bunch, 24th man across the finish line to maintain his 01:32 advantage over BMC's Steve Morabito.
"We were really on the rivet the second time up the climb," admitted GreenEdge sports director Neil Stephens. "Throughout the stage, I had to hold the guys back a little. They're extremely excited and eager to help Michael – maybe a bit overexcited and overeager. We could have assisted Michael more in the finish if we hadn't done so much early on. Tomorrow we'll remember we need to help a little less early on so that we're able to help for a longer time."
GreenEdge rocketed back up the UCI WorldTour rankings following Simon Gerrans' victory at Milan-San Remo with the Australian on top of the individual table on 210 points. Gerrans was in a similar position after his win at the Tour Down Under, but had slipped back to fourth prior to his La Primavera triumph. Should Albasini hold onto his lead at Catalunya, GreenEdge stocks will have again markedly improved and will have the enviable record of being three WorldTour wins from the five so far contested.
"It's a different mentality to race for the general classification," said Stephens. "We went into this thing saying we wanted to win a stage. We've come out with two and have a real chance to win the race. We're still taking it day by day, but if we lose, you can be sure we're not going to go down without a fight."
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