Jan Hirt was among best climbers on the „queen stage” of Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, coming in in 17th place.
Info: March 24th, Valls – Lo Port (Tortosa), 182km
Course: mountain top finish – 8,4km, avg. 9%, max. 20%
The breakaway of the day was being formed in the first 60 kilometers of the stage. Eventually, on the climb to Coll de Faxes (cat. 2) 14 riders managed to create a gap – Cyril Gautier (AG2R La Mondiale), Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo), Dario Cataldo (Astana), Daniel Navarro (Cofidis), Robert Kisterlovski (Katusha-Alpecin), Damien Howson (Orica-Scott), Laurens de Plus (Quick-Step Floors), Pierre Rolland (Cannondale-Drapac), Tsgabu Grmay (Bahrain-Merida), Antonio Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), Valerio Conti (Team UAE Emirates), Hector Saez (Caja Rural), Aldemar Reyes (Manzana Postobon), Nick van der Lijk (Roompot – Nederlandse Loterij).
They stretched out their lead to almost 6 minutes, but the peloton was eager to bring it back. They materialized their plan with 32km to go and the bunch approached the final ascent all together. It was shrinking with every pedal stroke, due to strong pace set by Movistar, Team Sky and Trek-Segafredo. Jan Hirt held on with the strongest group until 5km to go, when it consisted of just 27 best climbers. Later he was able to find his right rhythm and eventually reached the top in 17th place, ahead of such riders as GC leader, Tejay van Gerderen (BMC Racing), Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) or Davide Formolo (Cannondale-Drapac).
It came down to battle of the biggest names in the race – Alejandro Valverde (Mostiar), Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) and Christopher Froome (Team Sky). They entered final 1km together but then Valverde put the hammer down. He won the stage, with 13 seconds of advantage over Team Sky and Trek-Segafredo rider.
Hirt was 1:31 behind and moved up to 20th in the standings. Valverde leads the race, ahead of Contador and Froome.