Team Sky's Egnal Bernal cannily grabs bonus seconds in intermediate sprint to close gap on Alejandro Valverde in the Volta a Catalunya
Jarlinson Pantano (Trek-Segafredo) put his climbing and descending skills to good use on stage five of the Volta a Catalunya on Friday, netting the win after a high-speed piece of descending.
The Colombian had attacked alongside Vegard Stake Laengen (UAE Team Emirates) from the day’s escape group on the final climb of the day around 15km from the finish.
The two riders then sped down the descent into the finish and managed evade the chasing riders, with Pantano getting the better of Laengen in the finale.
Matej Mohoric (Bahrain-Merida) claimed third after attacking from the peloton on the descent.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) finished eighth to retain the overall race lead, albeit with a reduced margin of 16 seconds over second-placed Egan Bernal (Team Sky). Nairo Quintana (Movistar) is third at 26 seconds.
How it happened
Team Sky’s Egan Bernal must have taken a good look at the race’s roadbook before the stage, spotting the proximity of the first intermediate sprint point to the start in Llívia.
With no escape group formed, Bernal took the intermediate sprint to gain three valuable bonus seconds.
Shortly after that early action, 12 riders broke free from the bunch to form the day’s escape group: Danilo Wyss (BMC Racing), Pantano, Laurent Didier (Trek-Segafredo), François Bidard (Ag2r La Mondiale), Laengen, Maxime Monfort (Lotto-Soudal), Giovanni Visconti (Bahrain-Merida), Sergei Chernetski (Astana), Jordi Simón (Burgos-BH), Jetse Bol (Manzana Postobon), Antonio Molina (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) and Valerio Agnoli (Bahrain-Merida).
As the dozen escapees tackled the long classified climb of Port del Cantó, their gap over the bunch was three minutes.
As a result of the long climb, Molina and Agnoli were dropped to leave 10 riders in the lead heading towards the category one Port de la Creu de Perves climb.
The break continued to work together, and it was only when the race hit 20km to go that the gap had dipped below three minutes.
Sensing that the peloton was edging towards them, Pantano and Laengen attacked from the break with the remnants of the escape group splitting apart.
Behind, Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors) attacked from bunch, and was joined by Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo). However, this move was deemed too dangerous by their rivals and they were caught as they navigated the final unclassified climb to Tunnel de Vielha.
A further series of attacks from the peloton saw the pace of the race significantly increased. Even race leader Valverde launched himself off the front just as the peloton entered the tunnel with 12km to go – perhaps payback for Bernal’s earlier cheeky move to gain intermediate sprint seconds.
By the time the riders had emerged from the long tunnel through the mountains, Valverde had been caught. Pantano and Laengen continued to blast it down the long descent, touching speeds of over 80kmh.
Their former breakaway companions Visconti, Chernetski and Wyss were chasing. With 5km to go, Pantano and Laengen’s lead was down to just 35 seconds.
Mohoric attacked from the peloton on the descent, speeding away from them in a move that meant he caught up with team-mate Visconti, and Wyss and Chernetski.
Up front, Pantano had distanced Laengen into the final 500 metres, giving himself plenty of room to celebrate the stage victory – his first win of the season.
Shortly after, Mohoric also celebrated after sprinting hard to the line, evidently thinking that he’d won the stage and unaware that two others riders had already finished.
The 2018 Volta a Catalunya continues on Saturday with stage six from Vielha Val d’Aran to Torrefarrera covering 194.2km and including three second category climbs. However, the climbs may well have little bearing on the result as the last of the three – Port D’Ager – is over 65km from the finish.
Sunday hosts the last stage of the WorldTour race, a fast finish around Barcelona that could provide an unpredictable finale.
Volta a Catalunya 2018, stage five: Llívia to Vielha Val d’Aran, 212.9km
1. Jarlinson Pantano (Col) Trek-Segafredo, in 5-20-53
2. Vegard Stake Laengen (UAE Team Emirates), at same time
3. Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain-Merida, at 10 secs
4. Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
5. Danilo Wyss (Sui) BMC Racing, at same time
6. Sergei Chernetski (Rus) Astana, at 12 secs
7. Jose Joaquin Rojas (Esp) Movistar, at 14 secs
8. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar
9. Dorian Godon (Fra) Cofidis
10. Bjorg Lambrecht (Bel) Lotto-Soudal, at same time
General classification after stage five
1. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, in 22-22-05
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