Wouter Poels' (Sky) bold move on the final category (cat. 2) Alt de Lilla climb snagged him the solo win. 

Topping the summit 20 seconds clear of six fellow escapees, Poels faced just a 10.6km run into the finish in Valls. The Dutchman crossed the line 11 seconds ahead of Dario Cataldo (Astana) and Gaetan Bille (Wanty - Groupe Gobert).

Poels commented that Sky were racing for Ben Swift today. 

"We wanted to do something for Swifty today but we also wanted to keep the options open a little bit so we didn't have to ride. It was a really, really hard stage but it worked out well in the end," he said. 

"I was a little bit nervous, especially in the last two kilometres they came really close. I think I always look behind me a little bit too much but it was okay in the end.

"On the downhill was not the best place to be alone, but I had to attack on the climb as I did not want to wait for the sprint. Sometimes I know I can do a good effort, and in this case it was a final 10 kilometre TT. Everything or nothing. And it worked out good!"

Despite the stage's flatter profile and only a few bumps thrown in, no attacks stuck until Poels' group escaped with around 110 kilometres to go, gaining a 90 second gap at the foot of the final category climb. 

Attacks here by Romain Bardet (Ag2r), Daniel Navarro (Cofidis) and Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale) back in the main group came to naught and it was left to the six other escapees to try and make the podium. Two fell back to the peloton while Cataldo (Astana), Carlos Verona (Etixx-QuickStep) Kanstantsin Siutsou (Dimension Data), and Bille gave chase reducing the gap to 11 seconds. 

Spotting a chance to gain bonus seconds at the intermediate sprint at 68.4km, Daniel Martin (Etixx-Quickstep) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) aggressively competed for the points.  Martin took the maximum three second bonus, Contador, one. Second on GC, Contador now trails Quintana by seven seconds, Martin by 21 seconds in fourth. 

Australian former rider, Brett Lancaster scored his first win in the team car as a Sky DS. 

"For me personally, when I got out of the car I was shaking. It was the first experience of my whole life like that. It was really something else."

The pace was frenetic on the stage, the 187.2kms raced in just under four hours. 

 

 

Saturday 26 Mar 2016

“Today's stage wasn't really suited to attacks. I saw there was an uphill intermediate sprint and since the breakaway wasn't formed yet I gave it a shot. I was only able to get one bonus second but the most important thing was to stay alert and get to the finish well.

“It was a very fast race and it was impressive to see the breakaway form only after 110-115km. After all these days of racing this effort takes its toll even more and it's fundamental to rest and recover now.

“We now have to see have the remaining days will play out. It's true the GC will be very difficult to get but we still have two days left. I'll have to stay focused because anything can happen. We'll see tomorrow.”