He got away from a breakaway group he’d spent much of the day in on the final climb of the 187.2km course from Rialp to Valls, and held off his fellow escapees to take the stage honours.
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The Dutchman was joined by Carlos Verona (Etixx-Quick-Step), Dario Cataldo (Astana), Jan Polanc (Lampre-Merida), Kanstantin Siutsou (Dimension Data), Tosh Van der Sande (Lotto Soudal), Gaëtan Bille (Veranda’s Willems) and Frederik Veuchelen (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) in the day’s main break, which took up to 4-30 advantage on the peloton on what looked to be a stage for the fast men.
But the peloton were unable to reel in the break ahead of the category two climb Alto de Lilla with Sky taking a lot of control despite Geraint Thomas abandoning ahead of the stage.
That control helped Poels, who went on the attack from around 15km on it’s slopes, quickly putting 11 seconds between those and the few remaining from the original break behind.
It looked briefly like the chasing Cataldo, Bille, Siusou and Verona might just get there, but Poels remained strong enough to take another victory in a Spanish race, after two stages and the overall in the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana in February.
Catalod took the sprint for third ahead of Bille, while Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) took the sprint from the main bunch 33 seconds behind.
Nairo Quintana (Movistar) held on to his lead at the top of the overall standings ahead of Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) and Richie Porte (BMC), after his attack on the summit finish of Thursday’s stage four.
Saturday will see the peloton navigate a course from Sant Joan Despit to Vilanova i la Geltru of 197.2km on stage six, on what looks to be another day for any fast men who’ve made it this deep into the mountainous stage race.
Volta a Catalunya 2016, stage five Rialp – Valls (187.2km)
1. Wout Poels (Ned) Team Sky, in 3-59-03
2. Dario Cataldo (Ita) Astana, at 11 secs
3. Gaeten Bille (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
4. Konstantsin Siutsou (Blr) Dimension Data
5. Carlos Verona (Esp) Etixx-Quick Step, at 13 secs
6. Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge, at 33 secs
7. Alexey Tsatevich (Rus) Katusha
8. Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Want-Groupe Gobert
9. Davide Cimolai (Ita) Lampre-Merida
10. Ben Swift (GBr) Team Sky, all same time
General classification after stage five
1. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar in 23-01-19
2. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff at 7 secs
3. Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing at 17 secs
4. Daniel Martin (Irl) Etixx-QuickStep at 21 secs
5. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing at 27 secs
6. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r at 32 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