Katusha's Alexey Tsatevich took the stage victory from a breakaway on the circuit stage in Barcelona
Tsatevich defeated Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo) in a two-man sprint to the line, as the final two survivors of the day’s break.
Having finished fifth, fourth and seventh in the bunch sprints on stages one, two and six respectively, the Russian rider adopted a new strategy in his quest to win a stage by getting into the day’s break. Once attacks and the difficulty of the hilly final circuit in Barcelona had played its part, only Tsatevich and Mohoric remained to contest the sprint for victory.
Fourteen seconds behind was a peloton featuring Quintana and and all the other GC favourites. Several attacks had been put in earlier in the day in what was quite a hectic stage, but all the favourites ultimately cancelled each other out.
Among the most eye-catching attacks were second overall Alberto Contador’s (Tinkoff) speculative dig on the penultimate lap, that Quintana was quick to close down; Tejay van Garderen (BMC), fifth overall overnight, on the final lap, but again could not get a gap; and Chris Froome (Sky) with around 17km, although he was considered too much of a threat for the peloton to let go.
While these riders all had GC on their mind, there was another host of riders who rode aggressively with the intent of winning the stage. A dangerous group formed with around 15km to go, featuring Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), Merhawi Kudus (Dimension Data), Mikel Nieve (Sky) Daniel Navarro (Cofidis), Jarlinson Pantano (IAM Cycling) and Tobias Ludvigsson (Giant-Alpecin).
They managed to get a sizeable gap ahead of the peloton and mopped up many riders dropped from the original break, but were ultimately caught on the final lap when van Garderen’s attack prompted the peloton to accelerate and reel him – and this group – in.
Tsatevich and Roglic may have been the only survivors, but plenty of riders had joined them in the initial break. Namely; Lluis Mas (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Steven Lammertink and Koen Bouwman (both Lotto-NLJumbo), Matej Mohoric (Lampre-Merida), Ben King (Cannondale), Nikias Arndt (Giant-Alpecin), Arnaud Courteille (FDJ), Alexey Tsatevich (Katusha), Sander Armee (Lotto-Soudal), Kanstantsin Siutsou (Dimension Data) and Boris Dron (Wanty-Groupe Gobert).
In the end though, it was Quintana who stood atop the podium to take his first GC win of the 2016 season.
Volta a Catalunya 2016, Barcelona – Barcelona (136.4km)
1. Alexey Tsatevich (Rus) Katusha, in 3-13-33
2. Primoz Roglic (Slo) LottoNL-Jumbo, st
3. Jarlinson Pantano (Col) IAM Cycling, at 14 secs
4. Wout Poels (Ned) Team Sky
5. Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica-GreenEdge
6. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Cannondale
7. Rudy Molard (Fra) Cofidis
8. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale
9. Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
10. Carlos Barbero (Esp) Caja Rural, all same time
Final overall classification
1. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar in 30-50-19
2. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff at 7 secs
3. Daniel Martin (Irl) Etixx-QuickStep at 17 secs
4. Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing, st
5. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing at 27 secs
6. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r at 31 secs
7. Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha at 42 secs
8. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky at 46 secs
9. Hugh Carthy (GBr) Caja Rural at 1-01
10. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Cannondale Pro Cycling at 1-16