Team Sky leader Chris Froome stayed in contact with the main group of favourites on the Port Ainé climb to finish eighth on stage 4 at the Volta a Catalunya, and he remains in eighth overall with three stages to go. But as the team's director Nico Portal said afterwards, although the Briton gave it everything on this day, 'he did not have the legs to go on the attack.'
“There are no regrets today. Chris told me straight that he had given it everything but he couldn’t go any faster. It was simply that the best rider on the day won,” Portal told a small group of reporters including Cyclingnews.
One promising move by Sky came when Wout Poels, 28 seconds down overall on overnight leader Dan Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) after stage 3, shot out of the pack on the descent from the second last climb of the day. But after Ben Swift, present in the break, worked hard for Poels on the flat approach road to the Porte Ainé, the Dutchman was finally caught seven kilometres from the line.
“Ben could help Woet in the final and Mikel [Nieve] made a good attack, too, on the final climb, to try and isolate Richie [Porte], Tejay [van Garderen, both BMC Racing], Alberto [Contador, Tinkoff] and Dan Martin,” Portal commented.
“We tried to isolate them, and we had Wout and Mikel there, to do the maximum for Chris and toughen up the course. And then Chris tried to do the maximum himself, but it just wasn’t to be. We sacrificed riders to try and make the race tougher, we didn't just sit and wait at the back of the bunch. We can’t have any regrets.”
Froome had struggled when there were a flurry of attack with around three kilometres to go, Portal said, but as he pointed out, “he could get back to the group and he was still not that far back at the finish, maybe 25 seconds off Contador.”
Geraint Thomas (Sky) suffered on the final climb to finish nearly 14 minutes down. Thomas had already said after struggling slightly on stage 3 that he was not in the same form as in Paris-Nice - something that Portal confirmed after stage 4, saying Thomas had not managed to recover well after his victory in France.
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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