Sergei Chernetski (Katusha) overhauled Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-Quick-Step) at the line on Saturday to win stage 6 at the Volta a Catalunya.
Chernetski and Alaphilippe had been part of a a big break that included Americans Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) and mountains leader Tom Danielson (Cannondale-Garmin). The escapees had more than three minutes over the peloton with 25km remaining in the 194.1km stage.
Van Garderen put in a couple digs going into the final 20km, clipping a few stragglers out of the break. Behind, Sky was on the front of the chase for race leader Richie Porte, when a crash took down a handful of riders at the back, among them Laurens Ten Dam (Lotto NL-Jumbo).
Georg Preidler (Giant-Alpecin) tried his luck with 14km to race, but got nowhere. And with 10km remaining it was still anybody’s stage to win with two minutes’ advantage still in hand.
The attacks came fast and furious from then on, from Dani Navarro (Cofidis), Maciej Paterski (CCC Sprandi Polkowice), Rudy Molard (Cofidis) and Steven Kruijswijk (Lotto NL), who made a big push with 2km to go.
Preidler brought him back only to see Ataphillippe jump away, and the race to the line was on.
Ataphilippe appeared to have made the right move at the right time, but a look over his shoulder told him otherwise. The remnants of the break were closing in, and Chernetski pipped him at the line for the victory.
Ataphilippe hung on for second with Paterski third.
“Today was my day. I’m very happy,” said Chernetski, who confessed that he didn’t have much of a sprint and was hoping to win through an attack.
“In the final I wanted to attack earlier but in the last kilometers it was full gas and there was no place to get away. Instead I could only concentrate on the upcoming sprint. … This is my first WorldTour victory and it is very big for me.”
Ataphilippe regretted a missed opportunity and said he had had his eye on Preidler “because to me he was the freshest.”
“When he attacked I decided to make my move and take the risk to follow him. I caught him and countered immediately,” he said. “I thought I could win in that moment, but they passed me at the line. To be honest, I’m really sad about it. It was a great chance and I lost it. In cycling these opportunities don’t happen often.”
Paterski was likewise disappointed to have finished third, saying he had felt tired the previous two days but was back to his old self on Saturday, playing it cagey and trying to save his energy for the finish.
“It was a little bit chaotic in the finale, when the attacks were being launched,” he said. “When Julian Alanphilippe took off in the last 1km I had to bridge the gap and it cost my a lot. In the sprint my legs were not as strong as I would like and I couldn’t deliver. …”
After the bunch pulled in Porte was still race leader by five seconds over Dominico Pozzovivo (AG2R La Mondiale) with Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) third at 16 seconds.
Danielson, who crossed ninth at three seconds down, said the goal for the day “was to keep the KOM jersey.”
“I was very happy to get maximum points on both climbs and happy the break made it to the finish,” he said.
Sunday’s final stage is a hilly 126.6km circuit around Barcelona that features eight laps of the Alt de Montjuic.