It would appear the contenders for the overall classification at the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya have been revealed after just the a single stage. The day looked better suited to the sprinters but at the end of the 159km stage Joaquím Rodríguez was the only rider from the Katusha sqaud to make it into the select 13-man group that surprisingly finished 28-seconds ahead of the main field.
A bunch sprint appeared to be on the cards for the opening stage of the Volta a Catalunya but the Sky squad had other ideas, pushing the pace on the final climb and continuing the impetus on the descent. Those at the front near the summit of the final Category-three Alt de Collsacreu climb were rewarded as the Great British team hurtled down the into the finishing town of Calella.
A select group sprinted to the line and while Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step) took his first win of the season, the resulting time differences were also a small victory for the likes of Bradley Wiggins (Sky), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Robert Gesink (Blanco), Daniel Martin (Garmin Sharp) and Michele Scarponi (Lampre) who have already established a considerably margin over the remaining GC rivals.
Rodríguez's teammate Denis Menchov finished in the main peloton that followed 28 seconds in arrears with the recent Tirreno-Adriatico stage winner now putting all his energy into capturing the overall title when the race reaches its conclusion in Barcelona on Sunday.
"We did not expect the race to break up on the descent and with such large [time] differences. There was even talk of a sprint finish, but I knew it was harder than that," said Rodríguez on biciclismo.com.
"I will fight to win the tour. The sensations are good and I am here as a favourite. I will put up a great fight," he added.
Last year's number-one rider in the UCI standings said the strength of Sky on the final climb caused the split, adding that Wiggins made his intentions extremely clear. Wiggins may have had the numerical advantage at the finish with teammates Dario Cataldo and David Lopez also at the front but last year's Tour de France winner has his eye on the overall.
"Sky led the race as they like, with a rapid pace [on the final climb]. And if there was any doubt, Wiggins has been shown he is here to win the race - from day one," said Rodríguez.
"At first we thought the key stages would be Thursday, Friday and the last one in Barcelona. But today we have seen that any stage, like today, you can make a difference."