For the third time in four days on the Volta a Catalunya, Bruno Armirail attacked. However, it lasted much longer on Thursday than it did the previous days. After a hard fight at the start of the fourth stage, the Frenchman managed to enter the day’s breakaway, from which he even was the last man standing. After 130 kilometres in the front, the Groupama-FDJ rider was caught four kilometres from the summit of Boí Taüll. His Swiss mates Sébastien Reichenbach and Matteo Badilatti then took over and finished just outside the top-20.

The second and last mountain stage of the Volta a Catalunya was on the menu this Thursday. After the summit finish at La Molina, the riders were set to face the Boí Taüll climb, more than 2000m above sea level, at the end of stage four. Two other climbs preceded this final ascent, which made for 3500 meters of elevation gain over barely 166 kilometres of racing. The Groupama-FDJ cycling team wanted to tackle this tough program one step ahead by sending at least one man up front. After about forty kilometres and almost an hour of racing, Bruno Armirail eventually managed to take the right move. “We wanted to be in the break”, he said. “I tried in the first climb, and we knew it was going to be done at that point because there was a headwind in the first thirty kilometres, in the valley. I tried several times and managed to get myself in front. Unfortunately, there weren’t many of us up there. It would have been better to have 3-4 more riders, or even ten (smiles)!”. In the lead, he got some nice company with Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates), Jesus Herrada (Cofidis), Hugh Carthy (EF Education-Easy Post), Juan Pedro Lopez (Trek-Segafredo), Mark Donovan (DSM) as well as Mikel Bizkarra (Euskaltel-Euskadi). “They were not enough in the front, but there were also riders just fifty seconds back in the GC”, explained Philippe Mauduit. “So, we knew straight away that it was going to be difficult to make it, and that the bunch was going to maintain a small gap all day. But you can’t know that before entering the break. We need to try this kind of moves. Bruno had good legs, so it was a good thing for him and for the team to be in front”.

“I tried, and I will try again in order to finally succeed”, Bruno Armirail

Throughout the stage, the gap never went over the three-minute mark, which further compromised the attack of the leading riders. “There was not a really good collaboration because the guys who were still placed overall were kind of looking at each other,” added Bruno. At the top of the second climb, the gap was only two minutes, and it was again reduced by half entering the last thirty kilometres. The Groupama-FDJ’s time trial specialist therefore went all-in before the final climb. “I wanted to attack to go as far as possible, and I felt pretty good,” he said. “I went with Mark Donovan, we rode a bit together then I wanted to take my own tempo in the last climb. I really like this kind of climbs because they are quite steady and are not too steep”. At the bottom of Boí Taüll (13 km at 6%), Bruno Armirail immediately went alone, but the bunch was only forty-five seconds behind. “I didn’t have enough of a lead,” he said. “I knew it was going to be hard as soon as the main guys were going to attack. It would have been possible with two minutes at the bottom, but one minute was not enough”. However, the 27-year-old man kept his adventure going for a while. He was first caught by George Bennett with nine kilometres to go, but the bunch only got back on him four kilometres from the summit. “I tried, and I will try again in order to finally succeed”, he claimed later. “My shape is good following my training camp at the Pic du Midi. I hope it will keep growing, but I can’t complain. I still have decent legs, I need to make the most of it, continue to attack, to believe in my chances, and try to get a stage win”. “He showed that he was in good shape”, said Philippe. “We are competitors above all, and we are here to win. That being said, it is nice to see him in this physical condition, and that’s only by trying like he did today that he will eventually make it”.

Once the Frenchman got caught, Sébastien Reichenbach and Matteo Badilatti tried to hang on as much as possible with the best. They crossed the line in 21st and 22nd positions. Reichenbach now finds itself 22nd overall before three open stages. “There may be room for breakaways, but everything will depend on the fight between Arkéa-Samsic and UAE Team Emirates for the bonus seconds”, concluded Philippe. “As far as we are concerned, we do not have many options. If we wait for the final, we will probably be beaten by riders faster than us. If we want to get a result, it will necessarily come from a breakaway”.

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