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By Andrew Hood
French rider Anthony Charteau (Bouygues Telecom) won the battle in Saturday’s 198km sixth stage but Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery Channel) edged closer to winning the war of the Volta a Cataluyna.
Charteau was part of a 10-man breakaway that dominated the late going of the 198km hilly run from Llivia to Pallejá. The fifth-year veteran shot clear with just over a kilometer to go to surprise the leaders, including such names as Santiago Botero (Phonak), Christophe Moreau (Crédit Agricole) and Paco Lara (T-Mobile).
No one reacted immediately and Charteau threw everything into the attack to win his first race of his professional career.
Despite the attack, Popovych’s lead was never under serious threat and the Ukrainian finished safely in the main bunch to maintain the leader’s jersey. There were no major changes in the overall standings.
The Volta is Popovych’s first race since March after visa problems grounded him in his native Ukraine and kept him from returning to Europe. He trained at home, but where he lives there’s barely an uphill section of road.
Fred Rodriguez (Davitamon-Lotto) led the bunch across the line at 25 seconds, a good omen going into Sunday’s finale.
The race concludes Sunday with the 113km flat stage Pallejá to Barcelona.
Volta a Cataluyna, Stage 6, Llivia to Pallejá, 198km
1. Anthony Charteau (F), Bouygues Telecom, 4:16:54
2. Beat Zberg (Swi), Gerolsteiner, at 0:04
3. Jose Luis Arrieta (Sp), Illes Balears, same time
4. Pieter Weening (Ned), Rabobank, s.t.
5. Lorenzo Bernucci (I), Fassa Bortolo, s.t.
Overall standings after six stages
1. Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr), Discovery Channel, 20:03:39
2. Leonardo Piepoli (I), Saunier Duval, at 0:20
3. David Moncoutie (F), Cofidis, at 0:59
4. Michael Rogers (Aus), Quick Step, at 1:18
5. Aitor Osa (Sp), Illes Balears, at 1:23
Ullrich feeling strong
Germany’s Jan Ullrich says he has never been in better shape at this time of year as he cranks up his preparation for the Tour de France, Reuters reported.
After five second places overall in the Tour as well as a win in 1997, the 31-year-old T-Mobile leader is widely tipped as the man to end American Lance Armstrong’s long reign in July.
“I’ve never felt so strong at this time of year,” Ullrich told Reuters at the Tour of Catalonia where he is standing 17th overall after two tough days in the Pyrenees.
“I didn’t want to go into the red in the Pyrenees, I was only using 90 percent of my strength,” added Ullrich, who is three minutes, 38 seconds behind leader Yaroslav Popovych.
“And I’m still only at 70 percent of my maximum Tour condition, so I know I am on the right track,” he said. “It’s been hard training here for me, but I am not surprised at my performance here because I’ve been working hard on my condition in Italy.”
Ullrich will race the GP Schwarzwald in Germany on June 4 followed by the GP Gippingen in Switzerland on June 5 before defending his victory in last year’s Tour of Switzerland from June 11-19. –Reuters