A moment's inattention on the day's final major descent all but cost Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) the overall lead on stage five of the Tour of Catalonia. On a tough stage with barely a metre of flat, Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) abandoned after 80 kilometres racing.
HTC-Columbia confirmed that Cavendish was suffering with 'flu-like symptoms and had taken the decision to withdraw from the race. The Manxman won stage two on Tuesday - his first victory of the season after severe tooth problems had played havoc with his training.
Meanwhile in a dramatic last half hour's racing, Rodriguez explained "Luisle [Luis Leon Sanchez (Caisse d'Epargne), previously fourth overall at 48 seconds] attacked hard with about 20 kilometres to go."
"I wasn't feeling too great, in fact I almost cracked completely and it was extremely hard to catch him again."
Rodriguez formed a working alliance with fellow-Catalan Xavier Tondo, second overall, to bring back their most dangerous rival on GC. It was a tough struggle, but they finally succeeded at the foot of the steep last 400 metre climb into the tiny village of Cabaces.
Sanchez tried again on the last climb, but he was unable to gain more than three seconds on the rest of the main pack of some 30 chasers.
The stage itself was won by Davide Malacarne (Quick Step), the only survivor of a day-long break. A former junior Cyclo-Cross World Champion, it is the first win of the Italian's career.
Rodriguez was visibly relieved afterwards to have kept Sanchez's rebellion under control, and with two relatively easy stages left, he is in a good position to win.
"It's almost done," Rodriguez claimed later, "tomorrow has a third cat climb in Montjuich close to the finish but I should be able to handle that, and Sunday's stage is flat."
"Provided nothing crazy happens, I should be ok."
Tour of Catalonia 2010, stage five
1. Davide Malacarne (Ita) Quick Step in 4-50-03
2. Andreas Kloden (Ger) RadioShack at 36secs
3. Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne at 37secs
4. Michel Kreder (Ned) Garmin-Transitions
5. Rein Taaramae (Est) Cofidis
6. Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Astana at 40secs
7. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha
8. Frank Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank
9. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Transitions
10. Eros Capecchi (Ita) Footon-Servetto at same time
Overall classification after stage five
1. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha in 18-38-57
2. Xavier Tondo (Spa) Cervelo at 10secs
3. Rein Taaramae (Est) Cofidis at 43secs
4. Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne at 45secs
5. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Ag2r La Mondiale at 1-20
6. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Transitions
7. Michel Kreder (Ned) Garmin-Transitions at 1-21
8. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas-Doimo at 1-22
9. Janez Brajkovic (Slo) RadioShack at 1-25
10. Remy Di Gregorio (Fra) Francaise des Jeux at 1-26
Malacarne takes the stage win
Stage four: Voigt wins with powerful uphill sprint
Stage three: Tondo take stage, Rodriguez moves into lead
Stage three photo gallery
Tour of Catalonia 2010, stage two: Cavendish takes first win of season
Stage two photo gallery
Tour of Catalonia 2010, stage one: Voss takes surprise win
Illness forces Wiggins out of Tour of Catalonia
Tour of Catalonia 2010 preview
Cycling Weekly's all-time list of British pro winners
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