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Valverde nears Catalunya win on disastrous day for Froome

REUS, Spain (AFP) — South African Daryl Impey (Orica-Scott) claimed stage 6 of the Volta a Catalunya on Saturday as Alejandro Valverde extended his overall lead to 53 seconds over Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo).

However, three-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome (Sky) plunged from second place to well outside the top 10 after losing over 20 minutes on the 189.7km stage from Tortosa to Reus.

Impey edged out Movistar’s Valverde in a sprint finish to the line to deny the Spaniard his third stage win of the tour with Frenchman Arthur Vichot (FDJ) in third.

“I was just happy to have the legs for the sprint because I rode quite hard early on,” said Impey. “We moved [Adam] Yates up overall so to get the win on top of that is fantastic.”

Yates moved up to fourth in the general classification behind Valverde’s Movistar teammate Marc Soler, thanks to Froome’s implosion. The damage for Froome in the general classification was done early in the day as he missed out as a lead group of around 50 riders including Valverde and Contador formed on the first descent on an undulating stage after just 25 kilometers.

Froome, accompanied by his entire team, was unable to bridge a gap which grew throughout the stage leaving him out of contention.

“We managed to catch out the Sky riders at the back,” Valverde told Spanish TV station Teledeporte. “There was a lot of collaboration between the teams.”

“We made a big mistake. I’m not going to try and make an excuse, there is no excuse,” said Team Sky sport director Nico Portal. “It’s a good reminder for us that it can happen to anyone. It’s always bad when it happens, but maybe it’s better to happen here, and we learn from it, than in some of the bigger races we will have this season.”

In the lead group, Valverde was well-protected by his Movistar teammates from any attacks by Contador as he edged toward a second overall win in Catalunya.

And he gained an extra six second on Contador thanks to the bonus time on offer from finishing second in the stage.

All Movistar riders were handed a minute’s penalty for infringements by JJ Rojas in Tuesday’s team time trial.

However, despite that setback Valverde’s victories on stage three and five mean he just has to negotiate the 138.7km stage around Barcelona on Sunday to add to his 2009 win in Catalunya.

“In theory there shouldn’t be any problems, but there will be attacks for sure” added Valverde.

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