Quick-Step Floors in the thick of the action at Volta a Catalunya
Our team split the field and rode full gas on the penultimate day of the race, helping Dan Martin move up three places in the overall standings.
A complicated day, with six climbs out of which four were classified, loomed on the horizon Saturday at noon, when the 168 riders left in the Volta a Catalunya lined out at the start in Tortosa. As soon as the peloton arrived at the bottom of the Alt de Bot, it became even more obvious that we were in for a great day of racing, and Quick-Step Floors took again center stage, setting the pace in the bunch on the slopes of the third-category climb and blowing the bunch to pieces.
Gianluca Brambilla, Laurens De Plus, Dan Martin, Enric Mas, Maximilian Schachmann, Pieter Serry and Petr Vakoč were all part of the main group, driving the pack on the slopes of the climb and on the fast descent, and putting more and more daylight between them and the chasers, which included Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Samuel Sanchez (BMC). By the time they left the ascent behind, the gap rose to 1:40, but Quick-Step Floors didn't stop there, and with the help of LottoNL-Jumbo and Orica-Scott, pushed the pedal to the metal and took the advantage to more than five minutes before the peloton hit Alt de Falset, the second hurdle of the stage.
With 40 kilometers left, on Alt de la Musara, Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) attacked, but Quick-Step Floors and Movistar made sure the Spaniard didn't stay too much out on the front, so on the final descent it was all back together. There, Dario Cataldo (Astana) and Alessandro De Marchi (BMC) broke clear and built a 15-second gap, only to see their chances of a stage win go up in the smoke inside the last 100 meters, as the victory got decided in a sprint, which the versatile Petr Vakoč concluded in fourth place.
"It's a pity I didn't get the win, as I was confident I could do it today, but the finale was really chaotic", explained Petr after the stage. "We caught the two attackers with only 100 meters to go and that made the sprint a scrappy one. Fourth isn't that bad, but I know I could have done better. Anyway, this stage is done and dusted, so now we'll focus on the one in Barcelona, as the Montjuic circuit suits us."
Dan Martin – one of the 20 Quick-Step Floors riders to score in the World Tour rankings this year – rounded out the podium in Reus, the town of Antoni Gaudi, and at the end of this intense and old-school day of racing, he moved up in the general classification to sixth position, while teammate Laurens De Plus – who's racing his first World Tour event of the season – cracked the top 25 one day before the Volta a Catalunya brings down the curtain on the 97th edition.
"We went full gas in the first part of the stage, as we knew it could have been a crucial one and there was a good chance to make the difference there. We brought seven guys to the front and we were all committed and motivated to give everything and ride hard. I think we can be proud of our job and of showing again the fantastic fighting spirit of this team", said Dan Martin in Reus.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele