Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) provided yet another breakaway masterclass on stage seven of the Volta a Catalunya, getting himself into a large move before going clear alongside Matej Mohorič, then outfoxing the Bahrain-Victorious rider on the final ascent of the finishing circuit to solo across the line.
Mohorič had to settle for second, around 2o seconds back, as behind in the GC group Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) picked it up on the final climb to stave off any attacking ideas from fourth-placed Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), who had looked menacing in the final 10km around Barcelona.
With any whiff of a final GC offensive snuffed out, Adam Yates sealed the general classification, topping an Ineos podium that contained Richie Porte in second, 45 seconds down, and Thomas just behind in third.
How it happened
Peter Sagan won the first intermediate sprint of the day, the Slovakian clearly having regained his taste for winning after his stage victory yesterday, before the likes of Remi Cavagna (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) and Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation) tried to initiate moves off the front.
The peloton was all still together however as they made their way up the first of two climbs on the stage, although the second would be ascended six times, a group of 30 riders then breaking free near the summit.
With Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe) sneaking himself into the group off the front, and only a minute down on GC, Ineos took up the chase, and the British squad brought them all back into the fold as it ticked under 100km to go.
Not long after another big group broke away, Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) and Matej Mohorič (Bahrain-Victorious) involved, soon taking out a gap of two and a half minutes.
Ineos were one of only a handful of teams to not have a rider in this move, as the gap went up to three minutes with half of the day done, with De Gendt and Mohorič leading over the top of the Montjuïc, which they would ascend six times on the finishing circuit in Barcelona.
The pair pushed on, other riders trying desperately to get on the back, the Ineos-led peloton now nearly five minutes in arrears.
De Gendt and Mohorič soon had a 45-second gap over their chasers, that large group splintering as it was now or never for their chances, but they were only going backwards as the duo up front held firm, nearly a minute ahead with 20km remaining.
Movistar were helping on the front of the peloton now, and with two laps remaining there were under 20 riders left in the GC group as the Spanish squad upped the pace.
Mohorič was hammering it on the descent, De Gendt getting back on after the road had flattened out, while Koen Bouwman (Jumbo-Visma) found himself alone in the second group on the road, trying to chase them down.
On the final lap for the leaders they still had more than a minute, enough to contest the victory between themselves, the peloton a further minute back, and the large break scattered in between. Movistar were still heading up the GC group, looking to set things up for Alejandro Valverde on the final climb of the day.
Mohorič and De Gendt were side-by-side on the final ascent, crowds cheering them on at the roadside, a welcome sight given their absence over the past 12 months. Meanwhile, Bouwman had been joined by three other riders, including Sébastien Reichenbach (Groupama-FDJ).
With little more than 5km to go, De Gendt attacked Mohorič, knowing how dangerous the Slovenian would be on the descent down to the line. Over the top and De Gendt’s move had been definitive, Mohorič now just a speck in the distance, the Belgian solo-ing across the line to take the win.
Geraint Thomas then took the pace up on the front as the GC group climbed for the final time, the group staying together to confirm Adam Yates as the overall winner.
Volta a Catalunya 2021, stage seven: Barcelona to Barcelona (133km)
1. Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto-Soudal, in 3-06-10
2. Matej Mohorič (Slo) Bahrain-Victorious, at 22 seconds
3. Attila Valter (Hun), Groupama-FDJ, at 1-42
4. Sébastien Reichenbach (Sui) Groupama-FDJ, at 1-46
5. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, at same time
6. Michael Woods (Can) Israel Start-Up Nation
7. Marc Hirschi (Sui) UAE Team Emirates
8. João Almeida (Por) Deceuninck – Quick-Step
10. Clément Champoussin (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale, all at same time
Final general classification
1. Adam Yates (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers
2. Richie Porte (Aus) Ineos Grenadiers, at 45 seconds
3. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 49s
4. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, at 1-03
5. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe, at same time
6. Esteban Chaves (Col) BikeExchange, at 1-04
7. João Almeida (Por) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, at 1-05
8. Hugh Carthy (GBr) EF Education-Nippo, at 1-20
9. Simon Yates (GBr) BikeExchange, at 1-32
10. Lucas Hamilton (Aus) BikeExchange, at 1-35