Ethan Vernon won a messy bunch sprint in Vilanova i La Geltrú to take stage five of the Volta a Catalunya.
The British Quick-Step Alpha-Vinyl rider held his nerve during a chaotic final kilometre, holding off Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain-Victorious) and Dorian Godon (AG2R Citröen) at the line for his first WorldTour victory.
The general classification changed hands after a contested intermediate sprint at 189.7km saw João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) take a bonus second to move him ahead of Nairo Quintana (Arkéa Samsic) in the overall lead.
The longest stage of this year's race saw a breakaway of three Spanish riders stay away for much of the day. Urko Berrade (Equipo Kern Pharma), Gotzon Martín (Euskaltel - Euskadi) and Joel Nicolau (Caja Rural - Seguros RGA) held a lead of over five minutes at points before being caught by the peloton with 20kms to go.
Almeida heads into stage six a single second ahead of Quintana in the GC, with Sergio Higuita (Bora-Hansgrohe) seven seconds back in third.
How it happened
Leaving the Pyrenees behind them, the riders headed for the coast on the longest stage of this year's race at 206.3kms.
The route was far from flat however and despite featuring only one categorized climb, the Coll de Comiols coming at 37km, the total elevation for the day reached 2,760 metres.
At the drop of the flag, attacks began, but an early lead group of four riders that included Joan Bou (Euskaltel - Euskadi), Jonathan Caicdo (EF Education-EasyPost) and Louis Vervaeke (Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl) was caught by the peloton after just 15km.
However, ahead of the Coll de Comiols a group comprising of Urko Berrade (Equipo Kern Pharma), Gotzon Martín (Euskaltel - Euskadi) and Joel Nicolau (Caja Rural - Seguros RGA) managed to get a 25 second lead on the main bunch. With 182.4km to go, and the peloton slowing, the breakaway was established, with the lead up to 3'10 after 25kms of racing. Of the three, Berrade was best placed at the start of the stage, sitting +7'09 on GC.
The 4.6km Cat. 3 climb represented the day's only KOM points, with the 24-year-old Nicolau leading the Spanish trio over the top, ahead of Berrade and Martín. At the summit their lead on the peloton was 4'45".
With 148.2km to go the lead group's gap had extended to 5'08", with Bahrain Victorious, Team BikeExchange-Jayco and Quick-Step-Alpha Vinyl sharing pulling duties at the front of the peloton.
Helped to some degree by a head/crosswind the breakaway maintained their advantage of around five minutes into the last 100kms of the stage.
With 92.4km remaining UAE Team Emirates attempted to split the peloton, which reduced the gap to the lead group to well inside two minutes. The peloton however realised that the leaders were coming back too quickly and started to back off. With 53.4km to go the lead of the three riders was back out to 2’00”.
Inside the last 50kms, after a few signs of nervousness, it was clear that the GC contenders were now happy to leave it to the sprinters teams wanting to contest the finish. In turn this ensured that the three Spanish riders out front would be allowed to compete for the first intermediate sprint at 176.5km, with Nicolau taking the bonus points ahead of Berrade and Martín.
Ahead of the second intermediate sprint, the breakaway was finally squeezed, as teams began to sharpen their focus and battle for position, with the catch happening with 20km to go.
UAE Team Emirates and UNO X took to the front of the race. Race leader Quintana was also near the front of the peloton with an eye on bonus points that would help him stay clear of Joao Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) in the GC standings.
The final intermediate sprint, won by Tobias Halland Johannessen (Uno X) ahead of Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates), was hotly contested by some of the GC men with Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) pipping Hugo Hofstetter (Arkéa Samsic) and Quintana for third place. The bonus second saw him take the overall race lead ahead of Quintana.
Inside the final 10km Costa kicked on, stretching out the peloton on a fast, rolling section of road but was pulled back by the peloton with 7.6km to go. The next few kilometres saw one dig after another, with Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers), Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) and Marc Soler ( UAE Team Emirates), who was born in today’s finish town, all trying to take advantage of a nervous, disorganized peloton but ultimately failing to stay clear.
Heading under the flamme rouge, the disorganisation continued, with Ethan Vernon (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) holding off the bunch to win by half a bike length from Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain-Victorious), with Dorian Godon (AG2R Citröen) rounding out the podium. It was the 21-year-old British rider’s first WorldTour victory.
VOLTA A CATALUNYA 2022, STAGE FIVE: La Pobla de Segur to Vilanova i la Geltrú (206.3km)
1. Ethan Vernon (Gbr) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, in 5-21-17
2. Phil Bauhaus (Ger) Bahrain-Victorious, in same time
3. Dorian Godon (Fra) AG2R Citröen
4. Guillaume Boivin (Can) Israel-Premier Tech
5. Kaden Groves (Aus) BikeExchange-Jayco
6. Martin Laas (Est) Bora-Hansgrohe
7. Manuel Penalver (Esp) Burgos-BH
8. Ivo Oliveira (Por) UAE Team Emirates
9. Hugo Hofstetter (Fra) Arkéa Samsic
10. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis
General classification after stage five
1. João Almeida (Por) UAE Team Emirates in 22-26-09
2. Nairo Quintana (Col) Arkéa Samsic, at 1s
3. Sergio Higuita (Col) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 7s
4. Juan Ayuso (Esp) UAE Team Emirates, at 18s
5. Wout Poels (Ned) Bahrain-Victorious
6. Ben O'Connor (Aus) AG2R Citröen, both at same time
7. Tobias Halland Johannessen (Nor) Uno-X, at 21s
8. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis, at 24s
9. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers, at 27s
10. Torstein Træen (Nor) Uno-X, at 35s
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Luke Friend has worked as a writer, editor and copywriter for over twenty years. Across books, magazines and websites, he's covered a broad range of topics for a range of clients including Major League Baseball, the National Trust and the NHS. He has an MA in Professional Writing from Falmouth University and is a qualified bicycle mechanic. He fell in love with cycling at an early age, partly due to watching the Tour de France on TV. He's a passionate follower of bike racing to this day as well an avid road and gravel rider.
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