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Volta Ciclista a Catalunya 2017: Stage 6

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Hello and welcome to the penultimate stage of this year's race. It's the final day in the mountains and the last chance for the GC contenders to try and improve their positions. No summit finish but there's enough terrain out there to cause a few surprises, and that's exactly what's happened so far in the race. We'll bring you up to speed in just a few minutes. Here's a look at the top ten heading into today's action. 

 

143km remaining from 189km

Movistar and Trek continue to push the pace early on and Froome is now 50 seconds back. There's still a long way to go in the stage but this is a worrying sign for Team Sky. They came into the race with the idea of backing Geraint Thomas but it's Froome who has assumed the role of team leader after an impressive ride on stage 5. Dangerous times for Team Sky though - reminiscent of last year's Vuelta, when Contador and Chaves caught the British team napping. 

Just over 50km covered in the stage and the gap to the Froome group has gone out to a minute. No confirmation yet on the numbers in each group, but early reports suggest that there are 50 riders in the Valverde/Contador selection. 

There's still a huge amount of climbing to come in the stage with three more categorised climbs, and a final dig upwards towards the line. The time gap between the Contador/Valverde and Froome group is still at roughly one minute. 

120km remaining from 189km

In other news, Bradley Wiggins has spoken for the first time in months. He appeared on Soccer AM. For those of you outside of the UK, that's a soccer/football TV show on Sky Sports. In terms of tone I think the word 'banter' probably sums it up perfectly. Anyway, Wiggins has talked about the UKAD investigation. You can read what he had to say, here.

While we don't know how many Trek riders have made the split, we do know that Valverde has five Movistar men around him. The Spaniard is extending his control over the race and surely only a late attack from Contador can stop him now.

The gap between the leaders and the Froome group is up to 1'25. It's growing, albeit slowly. 

Orica Scott's Adam Yates has also made the first group with Contador, Valverde and D Martin.

Under control? The Froome group have their rivals at one minute, so the gap has come down slightly. 

Van Garderen has also made the front group. The American came into the stage 6th on GC. 

Joining Froome in the second group are Samuel Sanchez, Geraint Thomas, Bauke Mollema and Pantano - although we did have reports earlier that the Colombian was in the front group. Either way the onus is very much on Team Sky to lead the chase. 

The latest unconfirmed time gap has the Valverde/Contador group 1'50 ahead of the Froome chase. The British rider came here for racing miles but he started the stage second overall. Any chances of a podium place are quickly slipping away, however. 

106km remaining from 189km

The race radio has confirmed that Froome is now 2'00 off the lead group. He's just about clinging onto a top-ten place on GC. Here's how things lined out this morning:

Froome and Sky briefly brought the gap down to 1:15 but it's shot out to 2'35 with the stage half-way completed. The only top ten rider who missed the split was Froome. 

Sensing that they can distance Froome for good, QuickStep Floors, LottoNL and Orica have started to set the pace on the front of the peloton. The gap to the second group is only going to move further out at this rate. 

80km remaining from 189km

83km remaining from 189km

There's talk on social media of Froome now slipping off the podium but as things stand he's well outside the top ten. The task for the leader, Valverde, is to try and neutralise Contador, should the Trek rider attempt a late move. The gap between the pair is 47 seconds and given the form Valverde has shown this week it would be hard to best against him. 

7 minutes now for Froome. Along with Samuel Sanchez, he's the big loser in terms of today's overall standings. 

53km remaining from 189km

52km remaining from 189km

Cannondale and QuickStep are on the attack on the descent with riders from LottoNL looking to bridge over. It's coming back together for the lead group but there's still a look at stake today with the stage win up for grabs.Tomorrow is for the sprinters so this is the last chance for a number of riders and teams.

48km remaining from 189km

Movistar and LottoNL are sharing the pace duties with Gesink in second wheel. This is the sort of stage that could suit the Dutchman but he's working for Steven Kruijswijk by the look of things.

Gesink lines out the lead group, grimacing as he gets out of the saddle. Contador in a black jacket, is around 10 riders back as we start to climb again. This climb is around 11km in length but it would be a real surprise to see Valverde go into the red.

Cannondale are well represented in the front group with Rolland near the front. He's desperate for a win having not crossed the line first since his move from Europcar at the end of 2015. A few top tens, a few crashes, but he looks to be finding some form in recent weeks. 

Dimension Data also have a couple of riders in the lead group, including Lachlan Morton. It's still Gesink on the front though, and he's drilling it. A few more riders have slipped off the back of the group but this is all playing into Valverde's hands. 42km to go.

Valverde is surrounded by Movistar mafia just a few wheels back from Gesink. Rolland and Formolo are riding near each other, while Yates, Impey and Verona represent Orica Scott. 

41km remaining from 189km

Who chases this because Gesink peels off almost right away. Contador accelerates again and Movistar usher themselves to the front. The gap is only a couple of seconds though and Contador may well sit up. The terrain has levelled off for now.

Movistar are just allowing Contador to sit out there and tire himself out. That attack lacked any real power, it must be said and Contador is brought back. 

Contador moves back into fourth wheel as Movistar accelerate at the front. We've lost a few more riders but this lead group is still at around 30-strong.

Contador was just testing the waters there. Interesting that he's not asked one of domestiques to raise the pace though. Pantano is in the lead group according to our information. 

The closer we get to the top, the more snow we have on the side of the roads. If Contador has any inclination of winning this race then he needs to move now. 2km from the summit of this climb but we have four Movistar riders on the front. Contador is looking back, constantly, as if trying to anticipate a move. 

37km remaining from 189km

Valverde is waiting for Contador to attack, looking at him, almost daring him to do it. 1km to go until the top. 

The road has flattened out before the descent proper. Movistar continue to set the pace. You wouldn't bet against Valverde in the sprint today either. 30km to go.

The road starts to dip and we'll hurtle through the descent before the final rise to the finish line. A few more riders are coming back having been dropped on the last part of that ascent. Froome though is nearly 20 minutes down, however, and no Sky rider made the front group today.

And Rolland has taken a flyer. He's being chased by Gautier though and it's coming back together.

Very surprising to see a lack of attacks from the lead group. However the pace from Movistar has really put a number of riders off. We're on the long run-in to the finish with the Spanish team setting the pace. 

This long descent is playing havoc with the lead group as gap start to appear. Valverde, as you'd expect, is near the front and making sure that he takes the right line through the corners. 

20km remaining from 189km

Valverde and Orica will want a sprint so they're likely to work together in terms of controlling the field. 

And there's an attack from Cataldo and De Marchi. The pair move in unison and quickly establish a lead over the chasing bunch. 14km to go.

There's an attack from a Sunweb but Orica Scott are leading the chase. They want the sprint for Impey. 13km to go.

No time gap yet between the Cataldo group and the bunch. QuickStep have also started to chase with just a few seconds between the leaders and the chase.

10km remaining from 189km

The leaders steal a few more seconds as they navigate through a couple of tough corners but it's advantage to the chase at the moment as we're back on the long flat roads before the final rise. 

Vichot is in the chase too. The French champion could push Impey and Valverde for sure, if he can position himself well in the long drag to the finishline. 

5km remaining from 189km

Orica and QuickStep have one man each on the front of the bunch but the two leaders are holding their own with 3.5km to go. 

Cannondale have started to chase as well. The two leaders look good but the gap is starting to come down.

3km remaining from 189km

1000 meters to go and Cataldo and De Marchi could do this... The BMC rider leads into the long straight to the line. 

Cataldo takes over with 800m to go.

De Marchi waits with 200m to go .

The BMC rider opens up his sprint.

But here come the bunch with 150m to go. Impey and Valverde have come around Cataldo and De Marchi.

And Impey takes the win ahead of Valverde. They timed the catch to perfect. 

It was Movistar who made the difference as the two leaders approached the line. De Marchi opened up his sprint first but Impey comes through on the far side to take a huge win. Vichot finished third on the stage. 

Impey is already on the podium as we await Froome at the finish.

Froome has just come over the line. Almost 27 minutes down on Impey and the leaders. He's just made the time cut by the skin o his teeth. 

Here are the top ten for the stage, and the new overall: 

 

Thanks for joining us today. You can find our report and results from today's stage, right here.

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