Felix Grossschartner and Jan Hirt put on solid performance in the mountainous stage of Volta Ciclista a Catalunya to La Molina, riding with the strongest until the finale.
Info: March 23th, Mataró – La Molina, 188,3km
Course: mountainous (Alt de Palpers – cat. 3, 5km; Alt de Toses – cat. 1, 123km; La Molina – cat. 1, 156km; La Molina – cat. 1, 187km)
The battle for the spot in the break was fierce and lively. It took almost 60 kilometers to finally form the escape and those who managed to go clear were Pieter Serry (Quick Step Floors), Natnael Berhane (Dimension Data), Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Diego Rubio (Caja Rural- Seguros RGA). Initially also Gianluca Brambilla (Quick Step Floors) was up there with them, but since the Belgian team had already representative in the front, he decided to return to the bunch.
The leading four recorded the biggest advantage of the day at 7 minutes, just before entering the mountains. When the road kicked up Ackerman couldn’t keep up with his fellow escapees anymore and got dropped on the climb to Alt de Toses.
In the tough terrain the peloton was also shattered, to just around 40 riders. Among them there was Jan Hirt and Felix Grosscharter. They both were up there, with the strongest, when they caught the last escapee standing, Berhane, with 8km to go.
On the last climb to La Molina the pace was set by Trek-Segafredo. They reduced the pack even more. Grosschartner had to let it go 7km from the top and Hirt was left behind with only 4km remaining. Eventually Czech reached the top in 26th place, 44 seconds behind.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) took the win, beating in an uphill sprint Daniel Martin (Quick Step Floors) and Adama Yatesa (ORICA-Scott). Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing), who was 8th at the line, took over the GC lead.