Discovery Channel rider Yaroslav Popovych's lead in the Volta a Catalunya increased yesterday as the race tackled a tough 17.1km mountain time trial, won by Iñigo Cuesta (Saunier Duval-Prodir).
Popovych finished fifth, which was enough to retain a leader jersey that Discovery Channel directeur sportif Dirk Demol says the team intends to defend, despite not having the idea line-up for the hilly final two days.
"It was perhaps the first real big uphill time trial stage of his career," said Demol in a team statement. "We went out to see the course this morning. I know these roads and remember how hard they are. We tried to do the stage in three parts - stay under control in the first part, go faster in the second part and then save some for the end. Popo was very good until about five kms to go. You could see he was on the limit and it had to fight through. He has had much competition this year and you could see at the end he was at his maximum."
Discovery will have to fight to keep Popovych in the lead to the finish. "We expect attacks from the gun tomorrow for sure," Demol said. "We'll do our best to try and control the race - it's a long one. I'm more worried about the stage after tomorrow. It's shorter but very hilly."
Demol added the team around Popo is motivated to defend his lead even though it's not a team for the mountains, comprised mainly of riders from the Classics.