Volta a Catalunya: Tadej Pogacar's 30km solo seals stage 6 win on momentous mountain day

Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) stormed through the final 30km solo to win stage 6 of the Volta a Catalunya and solidify his overall lead with one day remaining.

The race leader exploded from a reduced front group on the Collada de Sant Isidre to disrupt the cadence of contenders on the steady category 1 climb and no one could match the acceleration. It was his third stage win of the week and an exclamation point on the final day in the mountains.

Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) won the battle for second place against Mikel Landa (Soudal-QuickStep) as the duo could never reel back the Slovenian, finishing 57 seconds back.

"Today was a really hard stage," Pogačar said later. "We stayed together until the climb [Collada de Sant Isidre], and Movistar tried to attack there, and I just launched it there. I saw some people follow, but I said, 'OK, we go to the top', and the rest is history, solo [in the descent].

"I took it with care and the final climb was really nice with all these people, but I was suffering a lot."

Landa retained his second position in the GC, but lost 1:04 and now sits 3:31 off the overall lead. Bernal’s strong ride reshuffled the leaderboard in his favour, jumping from ninth overall to third, 4:53 back, and displacing Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe) to fourth, now 5:46 in arrears. 

Enric Mas (Movistar) finished fourth on the stage after attempting to chase down Landa and Bernal to move into third overall. He ended up coming home 2:14 down, however, moving past Chris Harper (Jayco-AlUla) and Lenny Martinez (Groupama-FDJ) into fifth, tied on time with the Australian. Martinez is now another second behind the duo in seventh. Only five seconds separate the group, but they are well over five minutes behind Pogačar.

Visma-Lease a Bike leader Sepp Kuss would finish in 15th place on the stage, 3:52 off the winning time to drop out of the top 10 on GC.

How it unfolded

Difficult roads stretched across 154.7km from the start in Berga, with five categorised climbs punctuated by the hors category Coll de Pradell just beyond the mid-point and then the uphill finish at Queralt just after a pass back through Berga.

Hugh Carthy (EF Education-EasyPost) and Bauke Mollema (Lidl-Trek) wasted no time in surging out of the peloton and striking out in tandem to take on the mountain climbs. The duo carved out an advantage of just over 2 minutes over the first 30km, taking them over the first categorised climb, Coll de la Batallola (11.7km at 3%).

Carthy grabbed the top KOM points on the opening two climbs as the duo stayed intact across Batallola and then Collet de Cal Ros (10.1km at 4%).

A monster of a climb followed on the Coll de Pradell, with an average of 7% over 14.6km. Mollema gave up his efforts before the steep banks ensued on the climb, and 75km still to race. A few corners and steeper ramps later, Carthy was reeled back by a strong pace set by Visma-Lease a Bike at the front of the peloton, and it was a restart for all the favourites.

With 5km to go on one of the hardest climbs in Catalunya, the road tipping over 11%, UAE Emirates controlled the peloton, which began to leak riders off the back and stretch out in a long, serpentine line.

The first surprise on the climb saw both Sepp Kuss and Cian Uijtdebroeks (Visma-Lease a Bike) dropping from the front group, appearing to struggle on the narrow incline packed with spectators.

Pogačar, Marc Soler and João Almeida of UAE Team Emirates churned out smooth pedal strokes at the front of a group of only 20 riders remaining, which included Steven Kruijswijk (Visma-Lease a Bike), Mikel Landa (Soudal-QuickStep), Lenny Martinez (Groupama-FDJ) and Movistar teammates Enric Mas and Ivan Sosa.

Movistar tried to make life hard for the reduced front group on the ascent of the category 1 Collada de Sant Isidre and 32km to go, while Uijtdebroeks worked for Kuss in the chase, 45 seconds back. Just 2.5km later, Pogačar accelerated to the front and blew up the steady tempo of the leaders.

Pogačar continued to put on the heat with 2.5km remaining on the climb, but no one was able to match the acceleration. Landa gave chase on his own. In the chase group behind were Mas, Martinez, Almeida, Antonio Tiberi (Bahrain Victorious), Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe), Chris Harper (Jayco-AlUla), a minute down once the race leader pushed across the summit. Kuss trailed 1:10 back.

On the descent, Bernal attacked from his group in search of Landa, 25 seconds ahead, as Pogačar led solo. Enric Mas was among those on the move further back, eventually breaking clear to chase Bernal and Landa solo.

With under 15km to go, Landa dropped back to ride with Bernal as the pair held off the chase from behind and extended their lead to the rest of those following in the wake of Pogačar.

The Slovenian, however, would not be brought back, as the race leader snatched the points on the intermediate sprint at the base of the final climb and then stormed across the final 4km for the victory.


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