Chris Froome (Team Sky) was a surprise participant in a late break alongside Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Valverde's team-mate Marc Soler in stage 4 of the Volta a Catalunya, although the Briton explained afterwards that his role was purely to act as a deterrent.
The Soler-inspired move went over the top of the last climb of the day, a short but punchy ascent of Turo del Puig, followed by a fast, twisty drop back down towards the finish town of Igualada.
The attack, which also contained FDJ's first year pro and former Tour of the l'Avenir winner David Gaudu, was eventually swept up by the sprinters' teams, with Froome remaining in fifth place overall, 49 seconds down, on the eve of the crucial mountain stage to Lo Port.
"A couple of the guys went over the top of the climb and I looked around, thought 'we don'’t want to be on the backfoot chasing this,'" Froome told Cyclingnews as he warmed down after the stage.
"I had the legs to get across, and Valverde quickly joined us as well. Soler made the first move and I didn't want to be chasing."
Once he was up there, Froome said, he felt it was "'job done', the move is covered now and now it's up to the sprint teams to bring it back, or maybe the other GC guys would start getting concerned" - and put their riders to work - "with me and Valverde up there as well."
His strategy was, he agreed, more of a deterrent than anything else, "more guard duty," as he called it, in other words a way of keeping his and Thomas' GC positions intact rather than as a way of gaining time. "We wanted to have all our bases covered."
At the other end of the stage, early on Froome and the rest of the peloton had to do 58 kilometres less racing after the UCI commissaires put the Extreme Weather Protocol into practice because of the snow, rain and freezing temperatures and suspended the first quarter of the day's racing because of the weather.
"Any decision in favour of the riders' safety is a good call, I'd rather be on the side of caution," Froome argued. "I don't think it was going to change much in terms of the racing and from the riders point of view, we really appreciate it when the organisers do these things."
Team Sky go into the crucial mountain stage with their options intact, with Geraint Thomas lying third overall and Froome in fifth.
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