Frenchman Pierrick Fédrigo has claimed his second victory of the season after out-foxing four breakaway companions on the Volta a Catalunya's longest stage. The Bouygues Telecom rider had a little help from Spanish team-mate Xavier Florencio, whose knowledge of the closing kilometres helped the winner hold off Alexandre Botcharov (Crédit Agricole) and Gustavo Cesar (Karpin Galicia) in the sprint.
"Xavier comes from this region, and he knows the last few kilometres like the back of his hand," Fédrigo told Reuters. "He'd told me before the stage about the ins and outs of the finish, and that made it much easier for me to calculate my strength and stay in contention. It was as if I'd already ridden the race route in my head, before I'd done it in reality."
Today's stage took the remaining 163 riders on a predominantly downhill journey for the initial 180 kilometres, finishing with the sharp category two ascent of Alto de Paumeres. The final climb was not expected to cause major difficulties, but race leader Cyril Dessel (AG2R La Mondiale) was dropped from the main peloton, handing the lead to Rémi Pauriol (Crédit Agricole).
"I never expected Dessel to suffer so badly on the final climb, but it's given me the chance to take over as leader," Pauriol told Reuters. "Now I want to win this race. We've got a strong enough team to keep my rivals under control, and my morale is on a real high."
A strong team will certainly be needed with the gruelling mountain stages to follow on Friday and Saturday. Sunday's final stage to Barcelona is also no picnic, with three category three climbs dotted along the route.
For full results and report, visit Cyclingnews.com.