85th Volta a Catalunya - PT
Spain, May 16-22, 2005
Stage 7 - May 22: Pallejà-Barcelona (Sants), 113,1 km
Popo wins Catalunya
Hushovd leads home the procession
With the predicted bunch sprint in Barcelona (Sants) early this afternoon, won by powerful Norweigan champion Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole), Ukrainian Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery Channel) wrapped up overall honours in the 85th edition of the Volta a Catalunya.
It was the enormously talented 25 year-old's first victory of 2005, and will no doubt provide team manager Johan Bruyneel renewed confidence in Lance Armstrong's bid for a seventh Tour de France title come July. With Tour stalwart Viatcheslav Ekimov the victim of a training crash a number of weeks ago, the Discovery Team lost one of its key members; however, one of the team's strengths is their depth of talent, and Popovych's victory was a case in point.
Brilliant riding by Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier Duval-Prodir), who won the fourth stage and placed second behind team-mate Iñigo Cuesta in the following day's uphill time trial, saw the 33 year-old Italian finish just 20 seconds off the place to claim second overall.
Frenchman David Moncoutie (Cofidis) also finished less than a minute behind, with Michael Rogers (Quick.Step) fourth and Aitor Osa (Illes Balears) fifth. Miguel A.M. Perdiguero (Phonak), who held the race lead for the first three days, ended up seventh. Other notable final placegetters were: Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile Team), who finished 18th overall, on the same time as Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner); and Euskaltel-Euskadi's Iban Mayo, who recently declared the Tour de France his one and only objective for the year [see previous news story].
The seventh and final stage from Pallejà to Barcelona was punctuated by three Cat. 3 climbs including another uncategorised ascent the start. However, they did little to split the field, with the 113 kilometre parcours more of a procession of sorts, and a sprint finish was always more than likely.
In the end, it was 27 year-old Credit Agricole rider Thor Hushovd who took line honours, who is on his way back to top form after a solid Spring Classics campaign that included top 10 placings in Milano-San Remo, Gent-Wevelgem, and Paris-Roubaix. Second was American Fred Rodriguez (Davitamon-Lotto), with early race leader Perdiguero (Phonak) rounding out the podium for the day.