Volta a Catalunya: Joaquim Rodriguez wins stage three as Chris Froome loses ground

By Matt Westby.   Last Updated: 26/03/14 6:33pm

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Joaquin Rodriguez won by five seconds and now leads overall

Joaquin Rodriguez won by five seconds and now leads overall

Sky Bet

Chris Froome lost ground to his rivals at the Volta a Catalunya as Spain’s Joaquim Rodriguez took the race lead by climbing to victory on stage three.

Rodriguez launched a searing attack 400m from the summit finish at La Molina and crossed the line five seconds ahead of runner-up Alberto Contador and nine seconds in front of third-placed Nairo Quintana.

Froome, who is racing for the first time since a back injury, appeared to have exhausted his energy reserves with an earlier attack 800m out and was unable to respond to Rodriguez’s move, eventually finishing 13 seconds down in fifth.

With bonus seconds not applying on stages three or four, the result of the day is also the new general classification, meaning the race remains finely poised heading into Thursday's second consecutive summit finish, at the ski resort of Vallter 2000.

'Really happy'

Froome said afterwards: “I have come back now after a long period without racing. I was really happy with today. OK, I didn’t win the stage and I lost a bit of time in the final, but all things considered I’m really happy with my condition.

“It wasn’t a very steep finish, but it was more explosive. I thought that if I am going to try anything, then it might as well be here. I gave it a little push but the main contenders – Rodriguez, Contador, Quintana and Tejay – all followed my wheel and accelerated past me. I’m happy I tried but I know I’ve got a lot of work to do on my condition."

The seven-day tour of Catalonia has pitted Froome (Team Sky), Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), Rodriguez (Katusha) and Quintana (Movistar) against each other for the first time in a stage race since they occupied the top four places at last year’s Tour de France, and stage three promised to be a battle between that quartet.

The climb to La Molina came at the end of a 162.9km day and although both Pierre Rolland (Europcar) and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) both mounted attacks in the last 2km, it wasn't until all of the big favourites had passed under the 1km-to-go banner that the battle for victory sparked into life.

Late attacks

Froome was the first to make a move but was quickly followed by Rodriguez, Contador and Quintana, who then sat in his slipstream as the Briton led them into the last half-kilometre. When he then looked over his shoulder with 400m left, Rodriguez caught him napping by attacking and could not be caught.

Froome added: “They rode the race very well tactically. I was the first to move out of all of them, which was probably not the right thing to do but I tried. I did my race and they did their race.

“I think tomorrow will be more my style of racing. Again, I’m here after a big break so I’m just hoping to do the best race possible and just to get that race feeling back into the legs again.”

Britain's Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEdge) produced a fine performance to finish 17th, 27 seconds down on the winner.

Stage three result

1 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha, 4:50:55
2 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo, +5sec
3 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, +9
4 Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC, +11
5 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, +13
6 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Ag2r-La Mondiale, +14
7 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin, st
8 Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Sharp, st
9 Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale, st
10 Przemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Lampre-Merida, +20

General classification

1 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha, 12:58:00
2 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo, +5sec
3 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, +9
4 Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC, +11
5 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, +13
6 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Ag2r-La Mondiale, +14
7 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin, st
8 Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Sharp, st
9 Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale, st
10 Przemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Lampre-Merida, +20

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