Peter Sagan has taken his first victory of the 2021 season, outsprinting his rivals to win stage six of the Volta a Catalunya.
The Slovakian proved strongest on the drag up towards the line in Mataró, beating Daryl Impey (Israel Start-Up Nation) into second place as Juan Sebastián Molano (UAE Team Emirates) took third.
Juan José Lobato (Euskaltel-Euskadi) had hit out early inside the final 500m but faded in the finishing straight after Deceuninck - Quick-Step had attempted to send multiple riders up the road inside the last 20km on solo missions to deny a bunch sprint but the Belgian team couldn't make it stick.
Impey had opened up his sprint from fourth wheel after Remi Cavagna (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) had brought Lobato to heel, Sagan surfing two South African wheels as Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg also accelerated, but the three-time world champion saw a gap in the middle, squeezed through it, and eased across the line first with minimal celebration.
Ineos' Adam Yates retains the overall lead with one stage remaining, with team-mates Richie Porte and Geraint Thomas filling out the other two podium places 45 seconds in arrears.
How it happened
Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) and Luis Ángel Maté (Euskaltel-Euskadi) were among the first to test the waters off the front of the bunch, before a quintet went clear after the first 10km, made up of Harold Tejada (Astana), Matej Mohorič (Bahrain-Victorious), Mattias Skjelmose Jensen (Trek-Segafredo), Antoine Duchesne (Groupama-FDJ) and Dmitrii Strakhov (Gazprom-RusVelo),
As the break's advantage went up above the three-minute mark, Tejada found himself in the virtual lead, and the peloton kept them within reach, a brisk pace being set as the rest of the opening 100km passed without much action.
Strakhov took the intermediate sprint before Mohorič won maximum KOM points up the first climb of the day, UAE Team Emirates, DSM and Bora-Hansgrohe sharing the work on the front of the bunch behind.
Inside the final 50km and the gap was down to under two minutes, Duchesne picking up the intermediate sprint on the motor racing circuit, and 20km later it had halved, the race starting to come back together now.
As the peloton started to ease their chase, not wanting to catch the escapees too quickly, Strakhov decided to extend his day off the front, his companions soon swallowed up by the bunch as the Russian held a 15-second buffer inside the final 20km.
Strakhov was soon reeled in on the final climb of the day, at which point James Knox hit out, with 17km to go, Marc Soler taking up the chase.
The Brit's move was soon neutered, brought back into the fold alongside those he'd drawn clear, handing over to team-mate Remi Cavagna, who made his own move with 13km remaining, BikeExchange jumping on the wheel, but the Frenchman wasn't waiting and immediately started taking out a gap.
He was still ahead under 10km to go, the peloton encroaching behind, and he was reeled back in 2km, but just as Cavagna was brought back into the fold Deceuninck - Quick-Step unleashed yet another one of their riders, this time Josef Černy enjoying a brief period off the front.
Ineos led, approaching the 3km mark that would see their three podium spots secure for another day, the British team continuing to lead into the final 1.5km, Geraint Thomas in second wheel, before more teams came to the fore.
Under the flamme rouge and the road started to pick up again, nullifying the pace slightly, before Lobato hit out, hunted down by Deceuninck - Quick-Step.
Impey then opened up his dash for the line from fourth wheel, Sagan surfing wheels behind before squeezing through a gap in the middle to ease across the finish line with minimal fanfare.
Volta a Catalunya 2021, stage six: Tarragona to Mataró (193.8km)
1. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe, in 4-23-18
2. Daryl Impey (RSA) Israel Start-Up Nation, at same time
3. Juan Sebastián Molano (Col) UAE Team Emirates
4. Reinardt Janse van Rensburg (RSA) Qhubeka-ASSOS
5. Alexander Kamp (Den) Trek-Segafredo
6. Clément Venturini (Fra) Ag2r Citroën
7. Max Kanter (Ger) DSM
8. João Almeida (Por) Deceuninck - Quick-Step
9. Michael Valgren (Den) EF Education - Nippo
10. Maxim Van Gils (Bel) Lotto-Soudal, all at same time
General classification after stage six
1. Adam Yates (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, in 23-08-45
2. Richie Porte (Aus) Ineos Grenadiers, at 45 seconds
3. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 49s
4. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar Team, at 1-03
5. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe, at the same time
6. Esteban Chaves (Col) Team BikeExchange, at 1-04
7. João Almeida (Por) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, at 1-07
8. Hugh Carthy (GBr) EF Education-Nippo, at 1-20
9. Sepp Kuss (USA) Team Jumbo-Visma, at 1-29
10. Simon Yates (GBr) Team BikeExchange, at 1-32
Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
Iconic Puy de Dôme climb moves one step closer to a 2023 Tour de France appearance, reports suggest
Nearby stage start plus hotel bookings suggest we could see the volcano on the Tour route in 2023
By James Shrubsall • Published
These cyclists' pain face pictures perfectly capture how brutal hill climb races really are
You can't cycle up 20% gradients with a straight face
By Tom Davidson • Published
Peter Sagan to ride the UCI Gravel World Championships to ‘give back to the people’
‘I still have much more to give’ says Sagan on the decision to head to Italy for the competition
By Tom Thewlis • Published
Peter Sagan has day to forget at E-MTB Worlds, crashing twice
The Slovakian came off his bike and finished in 16th
By Tom Davidson • Published