Barcelona - Australia's Richie Porte sealed victory at the Tour of Catalonia on
Sunday despite Spaniard Alejandro Valverde winning his third stage of
the seven-day race.
Valverde picked up a total of 12 bonus seconds on the day thanks to
the stage win and an earlier intermediate sprint, but Porte didn't lose
any more time on the hilly 126.6 kilometre circuit around Barcelona to
win by four seconds.
Victory continued 30-year-old Porte's fantastic early season form
having also won his second Paris-Nice title just two weeks ago.
"It’s unbelievable to be honest," said Porte, who was also second on home soil at the Tour Down Under to start the campaign.
"It’s capped off a pretty awesome start to the season - starting from
Down Under to now. I really couldn’t have imagined it would go this
well after the year I had last year."
Porte stands at the top of the World Tour standings and is confident
of a strong showing at his first major target of the season at the Giro
d'Italia in May.
Indeed with the exception of Valverde the other four riders to finish
in the top six -- including two-time Tour de France winner Alberto
Contador -- will also line-up in the Giro, the Tour of Catalonia is a
race considered ideal preparation for the challenge of the Italian race.
"We’ve got a good little run-up to the Giro so we can hopefully hit
that in top form. I’m quite confident now that I can go there and fight
for the podium," said Porte.
France's Bryan Coquard was second in the stage just ahead of Russian
Sergei Chernetski, who won his first World Tour stage on Saturday.
Italian Domenico Pozzovivo was just a second behind Valverde in third
overall with two-time Tour de France winner Alberto Contador a further
two seconds adrift in fourth.
"We wanted to try and get the overall win and we fought all day for
it, although we knew it was going to be very, very difficult," said
"We go away from here with three victories and second in the general
classification, so you can't ask for more. It was a very balanced race."
An early three-man breakaway group of Marek Rutkiewicz, David Arroyo
and Walter Pedraza was kept in check by Movistar as they looked to set
up Valverde for a push at winning the general classification.
The 34-year-old then made his move on the last of eight laps up the
Alt de Montjuic with five kilometres to go, but quickly abandoned any
hopes of making a solo run to the line as Pozzovivo and Porte followed
Irishman Dan Martin attacked two kilometres later, but he too was
caught in the final few metres as Valverde had just enough power to get
to the line first in a congested sprint finish.
Results from the 126.6km seventh stage of the Tour of Catalonia around Barcelona on Sunday:
1. Alejandro Valverde (ESP/MOV) 2hr 47min 33sec, 2. Bryan Coquard
(FRA/EUC) at same time, 3. Sergei Chernetski (RUS/KAT) s.t., 4.
Jarlinson Pantano (COL/IAM) s.t., 5. Romain Hardy (FRA/COF) s.t., 6.
Jose Rojas (ESP/MOV) s.t., 7. Rigoberto Uran (COL/EQS) s.t., 8. Domenico
Pozzovivo (ITA/ALM) s.t., 9. Rafael Valls (ESP/LAM) s.t., 10. Gianluca
Brambilla (ITA/EQS) s.t.
1. Richie Porte (AUS/SKY) 30hr 30min 30sec, 2. Alejandro Valverde
(ESP/MOV) at 0:04, 3. Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA/ALM) 0:05, 4. Alberto
Contador (ESP/TCS) 0:07, 5. Rigoberto Uran (COL/EQS) 0:18, 6. Fabio Aru
(ITA/AST) 0:27, 7. Darwin Atapuma Hurtado (COL/BMC) 0:33, 8. Rafael
Valls (ESP/LAM) 0:43, 9. Daniel Martin (IRL/TCG) 1:35, 10. Jarlinso
Pantano (COL/IAM) 2:16