Maximilian Schachmann (Quick-Step Floors) claimed his first ever win as a professional on Volta a Catalunya stage six, as part of a two-man breakaway that managed to defy the odds and hold off the peloton.
The 24-year old German comfortably out-sprinted his breakaway companion Diego Rubio (Burgos BH), who seemed more concerned about the chasing bunch than outmanoeuvring Schachmann.
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Rubio led going into a turn 400 metres from the line, and never even looked behind to monitor the movements of Schachmann, who launched his move with 100 metres to go.
The pair’s lead had been controlled by the bunch – which had been reduced to around 60 riders earlier due to crosswinds – but the gap between them was stubbornly held in the final few kilometres, until it became clear that the break would survive.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) remains the overall leader with the rest of the top ten unchanged, as no significant riders were caught out in the crosswinds.
Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) won the sprint or third in the reduced peloton.
How it happened
Like stage three, today’s route was considerably reduced due to bad weather.
The plan had been for the riders to take on two category two climbs, the Tunel de Vielha and Porte de Viu de Llevata, but blizzard conditions meant that the first 77km were removed, leaving just 117km to race.
The stage start time was consequently delayed, with the riders taking off at 13.30 GMT from Pobla de Segur. Several riders immediately tried to form a breakaway group, including Andrey Grivko (Astana) and Jeremy Maison (Fortuneo-Samsic), until Schachmann and Rubio eventually emerged as the day’s break.
Schachmann claimed maximum points over the day’s only remaining climb, the category two Port d’Agner, while Rubio was first over the uncontested intermediate sprint.
The snow of the removed climbs might have been avoided, but it was still an uncomfortably cold day for the peloton. Virtually every rider was wrapped up extra layers, with many seen shaking their arms in attempt to get warm.
The cold was presumably a major factor in the abandonment of several riders, including Fabio Aru (UAE Emirates), Zak Dempster (Israel Cycling Academy) and Arthur Vichot (Groupama-FDJ).
The race burst into life when crosswinds swept the peloton at a long, exposed section starting around 30km from the finish. Mitchelton-Scott and Bora-Hansgrohe were among the teams to pile the pressure on at the front of the bunch, reducing it to around 60 riders.
A change of direction into a tailwind a few kilometres later made for a very quick run-in, and helped ensure the split groups did not come back together.
But the tailwind also played in favour of the leading duo of Rubio and Schachmann. They retained a gap of 30 seconds with only 5km to go, and the peloton were only able to knock a few seconds off from that point onwards, despite desperate work from Mitchelton-Scott and Bahrain-Merida.
As they flew under the 1km to banner, the gap was 22 seconds, and it became clear that the break would succeed.
Bora-Hansgrohe took it up late on, leading out Bennet for third place. But by then it was too late.
The Volta a Catalunya concludes tomorrow with a circuit stage in Barcelona, where Valverde is expected to seal overall victory.
Volta a Catalunya 2018, stage six: Pobla de Segur – Torrefarrera (117k)
1 Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Quick-Step Floors 2:34:25
2 Diego Rubio Hernandez (Esp) Burgos BH, st
3 Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 18s
4 Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain-Merida
5 Roberto Ferrari (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
6 Enrique Sanz Unzue (Esp) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias
7 Egan Bernal (Col) Team Sky
8 Danilo Wyss (Swi) BMC Racing Team
9 José Joaquin Rojas (Esp) Movistar Team
10 Benoit Jarrier (Fra) Fortuneo-Samsic, all same time
General classification after stage six
1. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, in 24-56-48
2. Egan Bernal (Col) Team Sky, at 16 secs
3. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, at 26 secs
4. Pierre Latour (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale, at 48 secs
5. Simon Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott, at 1-12
6. Marc Soler (Esp) Movistar, at 1-18
7. George Bennett (NZl) LottoNL-Jumbo, at 1-20
8. Hugh Carthy (GBr) EF Education First-Drapac, at 1-24
9. Daniel Martinez (Col) EF Education First-Drapac, at 1-26
10. Jesper Hansen (Den) Astana, at 1-28