So near but so far: Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) has remained in second place overall in the Volta a Catalunya after covering all of his rival’s attacks barring the last by Nairo Quintana (Movistar), who moves ahead of the Spaniard and into the race lead.
With so many top names so close together on time prior to stage 4, by far the toughest and the most decisive of the entire race, the final kilometres of Port Ainé were always likely to see the sparks fly – and so it proved.
Contador, having distanced leader Dan Martin (Etixx-Quick Step) some two kilometres from the line, and by default – with Martin struggling – the best-placed favourite in the race, was faced with the uphill task of then keeping all of his rivals for the lead under control at a point when he was running out of energy himself. Finally, as Quintana shot away, Contador was left trying to limit the damage and hoping that his 13 margin on GC on the Colombian would be sufficient.
It didn’t work out. Instead, Contador was caught by BMC Racing co-leader Richie Porte, who followed up his teammate Tejay Van Garderen’s ultra-strong challenge – which had effectively opened up the final round of hostilities on the snowlined summit of Port Ainé – with his own counter-attack.
Porte even edged the Spaniard out for third place behind stage winner Thomas de Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) and Quintana, which left Contador in fourth place, 15 seconds down on Quintana and outside the time bonuses.
Overall the Spaniard is now eight seconds back on Quintana, a minimal margin but which in a race like Catalunya, won by four seconds last year by Porte over Quintana’s teammate Alejandro Valverde, such small gaps are often decisive.
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