Spain’s Alejandro Valverde claimed his second stage win in four days as Australian Richie Porte moved into the overall lead at the Tour of Catalonia on Friday.
The Movistar rider came home in a time of 4hr 25min 52sec to edge out Colombian Rigoberto Uran and Italy’s Paolo Tiralongo by five seconds on the 195.4 kilometre fifth stage from Alp to Valls.
Porte finished fourth on the day and that was enough to move him into the overall lead, five seconds ahead of Domenico Pozzovivo with two-time Tour de France winner Alberto Contador a further two seconds adrift.
It was another poor day for Roche’s Sky teammate Chris Froome, though, as the Briton finished back in 83rd and is now nearly 37 minutes down on the leaders.
By contrast, Valverde revealed his fine form has convinced him to ride in the Tour of Flanders for the first time on April 5, as well as the Ardennes classics early next month.
“I would like to ride like this until the Ardennes and this year will be the first time I go to the Tour of Flanders,” he said.
“I want to get to know it and I would like to do well, but obviously it is just to try it out.”
Porte and Valverde were among the beneficiaries when strong winds split the peloton into three groups with just under 50km to go and overnight leader Bart de Clercq was unable to stay with the leaders.
Valverde was always well-positioned at the front of the leading group and made his succesful break for the line three kilometres from the finish to move himself up to fourth in the general classification, 16 seconds off Porte, thanks to the 10 bonus seconds for winning a stage.
Indeed with Uran just two seconds further back, the top five are separated by just 18 seconds with two stages to go.
“The race is a long way from over,” said Porte.
“Not only for me, but for those behind me as there are plenty of riders bunched together in the general classification looking for the bonus seconds.
“The next two days could be dangerous, but especially in Barcelona it will be hard.”
Saturday’s 194.1km ride from Cervera to Port Aventura should suit a sprint finish, so the overall victory is likely to be decided on Sunday’s hilly 126.6km circuit around Barcelona.
Results from the 195.4km fifth stage of the Tour of Catalonia from Alp to Valls on Friday:
1. Alejandro Valverde (ESP/MOV) 4hr 25min 52sec, 2. Rigoberto Uran (COL/EQS) at 5sec, 3. Paolo Tiralongo (ITA/AST) s.t., 4. Richie Porte (AUS/SKY) s.t., 5. Fabio Aru (ITA/AST) s.t., 6. Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA/ALM) s.t., 7. Alberto Contador (ESP/TCS) s.t., 8. David Lopez Garcia (ESP/SKY) 12sec, 9. Darwin Atapuma Hurtado (COL/BMC) 15sec, 10. Tejay van Garderen (USA/BMC) 22sec
1. Richie Porte (AUS/SKY) 22hr 58min 20sec, 2. Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA/ALM) at 0:05sec, 3. Alberto Contador (ESP/TCS) 0:07, 4. Alejandro Valverde (ESP/MOV) 0:16, 5. Rigoberto Uran (COL/EQS) 0:18, 6. Fabio Aru (ITA/AST) 0:27, 7. Darwin Atapuma Hurtado (COL/BMC) 0:43, 8. Wilco Kelderman (NED/TLJ) 1:09, 9. Rafael Valls Ferri (ESP/LAM) 1:13, 10. Daniel Martin (IRL/TCG) 1:35
– Agence France-Presse