Quite an unusual scenario occurred on the Volta a Catalunya on Saturday. In stage 6, the GC contenders indeed started to battle with more than 130 kilometres to go, and two strong riders eventually went away and made it until the end. Richard Carapaz won ahead of the new leader Sergio Higuita, while Quentin Pacher took fifth place on the day in a small bunch where Groupama-FDJ always had the numbers. Last opportunity on Sunday in the suburbs of Barcelona. 

tough day for the riders“, Philippe Mauduit

After a quiet day and a bunch sprint on Friday, the bunchentered the weekend under the rain in Salou, at the start of a hilly stage that could definitely suit the breakaway. It goes without saying that there were almost as many riders on the start line as there were riders eager to go up front on Saturday. “We expected a big fight”, said Quentin Pacher. “But probably not that much! It was full gas all day, from start to finish. There was no breakaway when we hit the main climb of the stage, after thirty kilometres. Knowing that the GC was still very tight, Ineos Grenadiers seized the opportunity and made the race incredibly hard. The first climb was almost ridden as if it were a summit finish”. The peloton exploded into several pieces and a first group of about fifteen riders first managed to take a small gap. Michael Storer was up there. “He is getting better and better, said Philippe Mauduit. “Knowing what happened to him in Paris-Nice, it’s nice to see him more and more capable of making high-level efforts day after day. It’s promising “. A few kilometres from the top of this first climb, the Australian could not however follow whenLuke Plapp, Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) and Sergio Higuita (Bora-hansgrohe) got away. The trio then quickly made a real gap on the rest. “Our riders did everything they could to enter the breakaway, but there were two riders stronger than everyone today,” Philippe saidWhen there were only twenty riders left at the top of the first climb, we still had many guyslike Michael, Quentin, Seb, Rudy, Bruno…”

The favourites opened the race up more than 130 kilometresfrom the finish, which made for a restless stage that soon became an ordeal for the whole bunch. “It was a tough day for the riders, confirmed Philippe. The course and the weather made this kind of scenario all the more possible”. “We started under the rain, it was cold on the descents, it was a very trying day for the body, testified Quentin Pacher. In these cases, you need to be careful on clothing so as not to getcold, but you also have to eat well and stay focused. It was going up and down on smallwinding roads all day, so we needed to be super attentive. Especially with the rain.” That’s actually what caused Bruno Armirail’s abandon, although he was very active at the start. “He was caught by the cold, stopped to change his clothes but that was not enough”, explained Philippe. “Let’s not forget that it was 4°C in the rain for almost the first hundred kilometres”. At the front of the race, Higuita and Carapaz increased their lead to 3’30 against a – small – powerless peloton led by Joao Almeida’s team. “When it’s like that, you let the leaders deal with it and you wait to see how things will unfold”, continued Philippe. “We realized that there was not much to do against the two leading men.

“I wanted to take my chance”, Quentin Pacher

Although the peloton became a little bit bigger with seventy-five kilometres to go, which made it possible for Attila Valter to return, it never managed to reduce the gap significantly. The leading duo still had a lead of almost two minutes at the top of the last climb and therefore easily stayed away until the finish line in Cambrils. Forty-eight seconds after them, Quentin Pacher took third place of the bunch sprint, meaning fifth on the stage. “I fought all day to remain in the pack, and I told myself that I had not done all that for nothing, said the Frenchman. There were many of us in the first peloton, we have a super homogeneous group. In the final, Michael took the lead in the last kilometre and Attila positioned me a bit. It was nice to do a little something together. I was very tired, it was a sprint of tired riders, but I wanted to take my chance and it ended up with a top-5. It’s good. After the podium on day one, it is a good result for the whole team”. “Quentin keeps surprising us with everything he does,” said Philippe. He went through difficult times on this Volta a Catalunya,but he never gives up, and he is rewarded today with this fifth place”. In addition, Sébastien Reichenbach climbed toseventeenth overall after this sixth stage. Sunday, the race will end on the usual, punchy circuit of Montjuic. “We are expecting yet another big fight”, concluded Philippe.

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