Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) moved himself to within shouting distance of the Volta a Catalunya podium, but fell just shy after being passed by Richie Porte (Sky) in the final few hundred meters of the finish on La Molina.
“It was a fast stage because a number of teams tried to drop the riders of the first stage’s breakaway, which resulted in a high pace from the start," Contador said. "However, the last climb wasn’t tough enough and there was a strong headwind, which made it complicated to build a big gap. I attacked before what I had initially planned because a number of riders started attacking and nobody was reacting. I paid the price for that in the last 300m of the stage.
“Despite the final result, I’m happy with my performance because my form keeps improving every day ahead of my goal, which is the Giro. The only thing I wish for is to stay healthy and avoid crashes. I focus on recovering and take every day as it comes."
Contador is fifth overall, 28 seconds from leader Bart De Clercq (Lotto Soudal), with Porte and Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R La Mondiale) at 21 and 26 seconds, and Dan Martin (Cannondale-Garmin) at 27.
“In the remaining stages of Catalunya it will be difficult to move up in the GC although just 2 seconds separate me from the podium. However, we all knew that in this race, bonus seconds would prove important," Contador concluded.
Zoidl zooms in breakaway
Riccardo Zoidl, champion in the time trial and road race from Austria, has been under the gun to translate his national success to the WorldTour, and gained some important experience in the breakaway of stage 4 in the Volta a Catalunya. The Trek Factory Racing rider was part of a five-man breakaway that escaped at the start and gained over seven minutes on the peloton. He and Tom Danielson (Cannondale-Garmin) were the two last riders caught on the race's queen stage.
“The objective today was to have Riccardo in the break; that was our plan,” said Trek director Alain Gallopin. “We were disappointed after the result of yesterday. I know Haimar [Zubeldia] is planning to be at top form for Pays Basque and right now is progressing well towards that goal, but Riccardo needs to bring more right now. I told him he has nothing to lose and to try something today. If they had given more space to the break it was possible to win the stage today.
“I think we showed our value today. And Riccardo deserves this; he’s a nice guy, a good guy, and a very strong rider, but he often expends too much energy in the peloton. He has a problem to gain more confidence, and being with Danielson, who is a specialist of a long breakaway and a good climber, he showed good things today that should help him.”
Zoidl pushed through a "crisis" on the day's hors categorie Alt De La Creueta, but ran out of gas as the chasing group of favourites, led by Team Sky, motored past. “With 4k to go they caught us, and then I stayed with the leaders but couldn’t hang anymore with 2k to go; I was empty. In the end I was not too far from the winner.
“It was very hard. Maybe if they would have given us more advantage on the long climb I could go for a stage win, but when the gap is always 1-2 minutes you have to ride hard in front.”
Zoidl ended the stage in 25th place at 1:22 from stage winner Tejay van Garderen (BMC).
Orica-GreenEdge director Dave McPartland was pleased to see Esteban Chaves finishing just 30 seconds behind the Volta a Catalunya stage winner Tejay van Garderen today. The Colombian is making good progress in his third WorldTour season.
“Considering the guys that are racing, Esteban did a really good job today,” McPartland said. “Today was a really good measuring tool to see where he is at compared to some of the best in the world.
“14th overall is very respectable. If you compare it to this time last year he was not making the front group. There would be 20 guys and he was not in it but this year, he is in it and he is not far off so it shows to us he has made great progression in the 12 months.
“When it was steady he said he felt quite comfortable, but when the big attacks can’t he has trouble following so that’s some great feedback from him and something we can work on.”
Kelderman on the attack
Wilco Kelderman (LottoNl-Jumbo) launched an impressive attack on La Molina, bridging across to Cannondale-Garmin's Dan Martin, who had gone in pursuit of eventual stage winner Tejay van Garderen. He ended up being caught and finished fifth in the same time as Martin and Alberto Contador, and is now 8th overall at 50 seconds and extended his lead in the young riders classification.
“Today was really hard, but for me it went well,” Kelderman said. “I’m happy. Yesterday, I was a little angry because I was caught on the line by the peloton, so my attacking efforts were for nothing. That made me extra motivated to make a difference today.
“I’m glad things are going my way again. Paris-Nice wasn’t what I’d expected. During the first days here, I already felt fitter – even more so today. This proves that I’m on the right track, that’s good for my confidence.”
Director Frans Maassen was pleased with Kelderman's performance. “It’s nice that Wilco confirms his ability, especially as there are more world class riders here than there were in Paris-Nice. This is a boost for the entire team after all the illnesses.”