Tour of Catalonia: Chris Froome happy in fifth as Joaquim Rodriguez takes stage


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The Independent Online

Joaquim Rodriguez broke away from the other race favourites on a final uphill climb to take the first mountain stage of the Tour of Catalonia and, with it, the overall lead of the race.

Although Chris Froome was one of those left behind by the Spaniard, the Briton pulled himself into overall contention by finishing fifth in the 101-mile stage from Banyoles to La Molina in the Pyrenees to go fifth in the general classification.

Rodriguez also surged past Alberto Contador and Nairo Quintana in the last 200 metres to claim the third of the seven stages in the race. Contador finished second, followed by Quintana in third place.

Froome had produced two attacks in the final miles, which thinned out the peleton before Rodriguez hugged Froome's wheel and launched a final kick to take the stage win.

Froome declared himself happy with the way the stage had panned out and added that his form was returning following a recent back problem. He said: "I've come back after a long period of racing and I was really happy with today.

"OK, I didn't win the stage and I lost a bit of time in the final, but all things considered I'm really happy with my condition. Especially after taking a little bit of a break with my back problem, it's a really positive sign for me to be at the front of the race again.

"We came into the last 500 metres and it had been quite fast until then. It wasn't a very steep finish but it was more explosive. I thought, 'If I'm going to try anything, it might as well be here'. I gave it a little push but the main contenders – Rodriguez, Contador, Quintana and Tejay – all followed my wheel and accelerated past me. I'm happy I tried but I know I've got a lot of work to do on my condition."

"It was quite a difficult stage today with the cold. All day they were going backwards and forwards getting hot tea and good clothing."

Thursday's 103-mile stage continues through the mountains to the village of Setcases, with more cold weather forecast. But Froome believes that, despite the chilly conditions, the stage will particularly suit his strengths.

"I think tomorrow will be more my style of racing," he said. "Again, I'm here after a big break so I'm just hoping to do the best race possible and just to get that race feeling back into the legs again.

Rodriguez, who won the Tour of Catalonia in 2010, added: "Tomorrow we will surely see the same riders at the end. I just hope we have the same outcome as today."