No-one could stop Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) claiming his third stage win in the 2017 Volta a Catalunya, and taking the overall victory in the Spanish WorldTour race on Sunday.
The 36-year-old Spaniard won the final stage after a late escape with Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors) and holding off the chasing bunch by handful of centimetres. Colombian Jarlinson Pantano (Trek-Segafredo) came across the line in second, banging his handlebars in frustration at the missed opportunity. Frenchman Arthur Vichot (FDJ) placed third.
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Valverde won the general classification with an impressive one minute and three second advantage over second-placed Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) with Marc Soler (Movistar) taking third place and topping the young rider classification. British rider Adam Yates (Orica-Scott) finished in fourth.
The punishing final stage around Barcelona included eight laps of a finishing circuit, each with an ascent and descent of the Alt de Montjuïc.
As the 138.7km stage progressed the peloton became seriously whittled down as they chased the day’s escape group.
With 20km to go just Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) and Jay McCarthy (Bora-Hansgrohe) were left out front, and with over a minute in hand.
De Gendt was evidently the stronger of the two, with McCarthy dropping off the pace and been caught. With 13km to go, Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) clipped off the front of the chasers, followed by Laurens de Plus (Quick-Step Floors). The move was short-lived, and the bunch was all back together with 11km to go.
Chris Froome (Team Sky) was the next rider to attack, possibly in an attempt to make amends for losing 26 minutes on the previous day’s stage and losing his second place overall. The Tour de France champion stretched out a gap as he navigated the final ascent of Montjuïc.
A lone stage win was not to be for Froome, however, as he was caught with 5km to go.
Martin then made his move with 3km to go, and was followed by Valverde. The two riders sped towards the finish with the chase group in hot pursuit.
As the better sprinter, Valverde out-paced Martin and somehow maintained enough pace to just hold off Pantano to take the stage victory and secure the overall win.
Valverde – and Movistar’s – domination of the race was particularly marked after the entire team was penalised by one minute after José Joaquin Rojas pushed a team-mate during the opening team time trial. The penalty caused much frustration among the Spanish squad, and they appeared to vow to make the race their own. Both Valverde and 23-year-old Soler put in strong performances to overhaul their disadvantage, to leave their rivals wanting.
Volta a Catalunya 2017, stage seven: Barcelona to Barcelona, 138.7km
1. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar
2. Jarlinson Pantano (Col) Trek-Segafredo
3. Arthur Vichot (Fra) FDJ
4. Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe
5. Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors
6. Aldemar Eyes (Col) Manzana Postobon
7. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale
8. Davide Formolo (Ita) Cannondale-Drapac
9. George Bennett (Nzl) LottoNL-Jumbo
10. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo, all same time
14. Adam Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott at same time
General classification after stage seven
1. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, in 25-27-15
2. Alberto Contador (Esp) Trek-Segafredo, at 1-03
3. Marc Soler (Esp) Movistar, at 1-16
4. Adam Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott, at 1-31
5. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team, at 1-34
6. Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors, at 2-29
7. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo, at 2-56
8. Carlos Verona (Esp) Orica-Scott, at 3-00
9. George Bennett (Nzl) LottoNL-Jumbo, at 3-01
10. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale