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Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) remains in the Catalunya leader's jersey with one stage remaining
Catalunya leader has minimal margin on GC rivals for last stage
The good news for Volta a Catalunya leader Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) on Saturday evening was that he now goes into the final stage of the week-long race on Sunday with his four-second overall advantage over Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) intact.
However, with the top 12 riders on general classification separated by one minute, the chances of some all-out attacks by the other contenders, not just Contador, on Sunday's multiple laps of Montjuic park and the corresponding eight ascents of its third category climb are high.
Rodriguez knows, therefore, that for all he has responded perfectly to all the challenges so far, the clinching of his second Volta a Catalunya win in four years is yet to harden into an absolute certainty. The time bonuses on offer at the finish - ten, six, and four seconds - can only help make the challenge even more complicated.
On top of that, although the forecast rain was kind enough to stay away - just - on Saturday's stage, it looks all but certain to put in an appearance for the finale in the Montjuic Park in Barcelona.
"It's not just Contador tomorrow, there are a lot of rivals at less than a minute," Rodriguez said after Saturday's stage, won by Holland's Stef Clement (Belkin) from a nine-man break. "Sunday isn't going to be just about one rider, I'm going to need eight sets of eyes, or maybe more.
"I know the circuit well, but it's very tricky, with lots of twists and turns. This is not going to be easy."
Rodriguez admitted that he was worried Contador would attack on the last lap, "but if I've got the whole team with me, then it shouldn't be a problem. On the other hand, if it rains, then that'll make things very different again."
‘Purito' himself knows what it is like to go on the attack in Montjuic park, making a memorable charge off the front in stage nine of the 2012 Vuelta four kilometres from the finish alongside Philippe Gilbert (BMC).
After the stage, Gilbert told reporters that neither he nor Rodriguez had braked on any part of the descent off the Montjuic climb, but the risk-taking was arguably worth it. The two-man move netted the Katusha rider an additional 20 second cushion for his overall lead, whilst the Belgian won the stage, his first victory in 2012 and a morale boosting triumph just a month before he took a superb victory in the world championships in Holland.
Two years on, for the Volta's GC contenders, the prize for successfully attacking on the Montjuic - at the least a stage win; at most overall victory - is surely no less attractive.