Miguel Ángel López (Astana) just about managed to seal overall victory at the 2019 Volta a Catalunya, despite being put under serious pressure by several of his major GC rivals.
Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Egan Bernal (Sky) and Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) all attempted attacks at some point during the stage, forcing López to have to dig deep in order to defend his jersey.
Yates’ move was the most dangerous. He attacked with brother Simon around 25km from the line, and was virtual overall leader for most of the duration of his attack. It was only when Sky and Movistar assisted López – who by then had been forced to do the pace-setting himself – on the seventh and final lap of Barcelona that Yates was at last brought back.
Despite all the drama, all four riders ultimately crossed the finish line together, meaning the top of the general classification remained the same, with López, Yates and Bernal making the podium places.
Meanwhile, up ahead Davide Formolo sealed a spectacular stage victory. Having been part of the day’s original ten-man break, the Italian went solo almost 40km from the finish, and somehow – despite the ferocious pace being set behind by the GC contenders – managed to hold on, making it two breakaway wins in three days for Bora-Hansgrohe.
How it happened
Stage one winner Thomas de Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) was a part of the day’s break, with the clear intention of defending his lead in the mountains classification. He managed to collect enough points
The rest of the break consisted of: Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r La Mondiale), Davide Formolo (Bora-Hansgrohe), Patrick Bevan (CCC), Carlos Verona (Movistar), Danilo Wyss (Dimension Data), Alexandr Riabushenko (UAE Emirates), Jesus Herrada (Cofidis), Fernando Barcelo (Euskadi-Murias) and Nick van der Lijke (Roompot-Charles), as well as young Brit James Knox (Deceuninck-Quick-Step).
Upon entering the first of seven laps in Barcelona, the break’s advantage over the peloton stood at around two minutes. However, that began to drop when Mitchelton-Scott and Sky increased the pace, with Chris Froome doing a notable turn during the first lap.
Formolo attacked out of the group on the third lap, managing to drop all his breakaway companions, and committed to the ambitious challenge of attempting a 40km solo ride to the finish.
A big crash occurred in the peloton during the second lap, with some major casualties. Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) had to retire with what appeared to be a broken collarbone, Warren Barguil (Arkea-Samsic) was seen being carried away without the support of his legs, and Simon Geschke(CCC) was sent to hospital for x-rays.
The battle for the GC began in earnest 38km from the line, when Mitchelton-Scott fired off a couple of attacks through Daryl Impey and Simon Yates.
Yates’s attack was followed by Ivan Sosa (Sky), Andrey Zeits (Astana), Michael Woods (EF Education First) – and, most significantly of all, GC threat Nairo Quintana (Movistar).
Quintana pushed on the pace and, when joined by teammate Carlos Verona from the original break, had López and his Astana team under serious pressure. With 29km to go, the overall leader was left with just one teammate, Pello Bilbao.
Nevertheless, they did manage to catch the Quintana group prior to the start of the fifth lap.
Despite all this action, Formolo’s managed to maintain a gap over the peloton of around 1-30, leaving him with a fighting chance of winning the stage.
Quintana’s effort had served to soften up Astana’s resources, so that when the Yates brothers attacked in tandem with 25km to go, they were able to instantly get a gap.
At the end of the fifth lap the gap from the Yates brothers to the chasing Astana-led peloton stood at 12 seconds, with Adam becoming virtual leader.
A thrilling pursuit ensued, both between Yates and López for the overall classification, and between Yates and Formolo for the stage win.
With 19km to go Simon ran out of steam, leaving Adam to ride for himself. Still, he managed to maintain of around 20 seconds, while López was beginning to show signs of desperation, accelerating at the front of the peloton
However, fortunes dramatically shifted in the final lap, as Adam Yates began to tire, and Sky and Movistar increased the pace at the front of the peloton. First Sky’s Pavel Sivakov, then Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde upped the pace on the climb, by the summit of which Yates was back within sight.
López’s worries weren’t yet over, however, as Egan Bernal launched an attack on the descent. He did manage to open up a small gap, but not one big enough to stick.
With 3km to go, Yates was also brought back for good, meaning he, López, Bernal and Quintana were once again all in the same group, and would remain so until the finish.
Enric Mas (Deceuninck-QuickStep) took advantage of the cessation of hostilities to attack out of the bunch, but had to settle for second place as Formolo comfortably held on by a sizeable 51 seconds to claim the stage victory.
Volta a Catalunya 2019, stage seven: Barcelona to Barcelona (143.1)
1 Davide Formolo (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe, in 3-19-41
2 Enric Mas (Esp) Deceuninck-QuickStep, at 51 seconds
3 Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 53s
4 Dion Smith (NZl) Mitchelton-Scott, at 55s
5 Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar Team
6 Egan Bernal (Col) Team Sky
7 Adam Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott
8 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team
9 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma
10 Michael Woods (Can) EF Education First, all same time
Final General Classification
1 Miguel Ángel López (Col) Astana Pro Team, in 29:14:17
2 Adam Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott, at 14s
3 Egan Bernal (Col) Team Sky, at 17s
4 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team, at 25s
5 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma, at 56s
6 Michael Woods (Can) EF Education First, at 1-42
7 Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 2-27
8 Guillaume Martin (Fra) Wanty-Gobert, at 2-41
9 Enric Mas (Esp) Deceuninck-QuickStep, at 2-49
10 Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar Team, at 3-02