Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) maintained his slender overall lead to win the 2014 Volta Ciclista a Catalunya as Lieuwe Westra (Astana) won the final stage in Barcelona from a breakaway.
Rodriguez, who has held a four-second advantage since moving into the overall lead on stage three, countered a late attack by second-placed Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) to secure his first overall stage race win since 2011.
Rain had caused the undulating circuit of Montjuic Park to be shortened by organisers and Rodriguez was able to finish safely alongside his rivals in Barcelona to seal the green hooped jersey.
Rodriguez said: “This victory is important to me. It was a big race in Spain and also a WorldTour race.
“Also this was a real race, especially when you saw Alberto Contador trying all the way to the end to gain the four seconds he needed. You saw the real Contador who always fights for victory.
“This race was especially hard with all the wind and the rain, but that’s what makes bike racing exciting.
“Now I look forward to trying to win in Liège-Bastogne-Liège and then on to the Giro d’Italia.”
Westra soloed to victory after the break produced a stage winner for the second consecutive day after Stef Clement (Belkin) won stage six.
Westra, Clement, Marcus Burghardt (BMC Racing) and Thomas Voeckler (Team Europcar) were all present in the 13-man break which attacked almost immediately from the flag, and Clement took advantage to affirm his place as King of the Mountains.
Behind the break, the Katusha-led peloton ensured the escapees’ advantage was already dropping as they crossed the finishing line for the first time.
Voeckler was first to attack his breakaway companions, repeatedly accelerating off the front on the Montjuic. However, it was Westra whose attack stuck – his solo move proving to be impeccably timed as the wet road conditions and difficult climb saw the original break fracture.
With no cohesive chase, Westra showed the time trial skills which have earned him two Dutch national titles to stretch his advantage lap-by-lap.
Further back Chris Froome crashed with 60 kilometres remaining, but the Team Sky leader remounted and stuck close to the overall contenders to maintain his sixth place position overall.
Westra held a comfortable advantage at the front as the final lap began, and he crossed for the finish line for the final time solo – punching the air in delight as he did so.
It was one minute and 22 seconds before Burghardt and Voeckler crossed in second and third respectively, by which point all eyes were on the group containing Contador, Rodriguez, Froome et al.
Contador made one final throw of the dice on the final ascent of the Montjuic but Rodriguez and third-placed Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) were alert to the danger and snuffed out the move.
And with the group staying together down the final descent, Rodriguez was able to celebrate his second career victory in this race, with Contador’s second-place moving him into an early lead in the UCI world rankings.
Volta a Catalunya 2014: stage seven – result
1) Lieuwe Westra (NED) – Astana – 2.36.14hrs
2) Marcus Burghardt (GER) – BMC Racing +1.22
3) Thomas Voeckler (FRA) – Team Europcar – ST
4) Maciej Paterski (POL) – CCC Polsat Polkowice +1.26
5) Yoann Bagot (FRA) – Cofidis +1.36
6) Jan Polanc (SLO) – Lampre-Merida +2.07
7) Alberto Contador (ESP) – Tinkoff-Saxo – ST
8) Romain Bardet (FRA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale
9) Arnold Jeannesson (FRA) – FDJ.fr
10) Joaquim Rodriguez (ESP) – Katusha
1) Joaquim Rodriguez (ESP) – Katusha – 29.41.34hrs
2) Alberto Contador (ESP) – Tinkoff-Saxo +4”
3) Tejay van Garderen (USA) – BMC Racing +7”
4) Romain Bardet (Fra) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +10”
5) Nairo Quintana (Col) – Movistar – ST
6) Chris Froome (GBR) – Team Sky +17”
7) Andrew Talansky (USA) – Garmin-Sharp +18”
8) Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +26”
9) Warren Barguil (FRA) – Giant-Shimano +42”
10) Robert Kiserlovski (CRO) – Trek Factory Racing +48”