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Westra wins final stage of Volta a Catalunya, Rodriguez secures title

Lieuwe Westra (The Netherlands/Astana) soloed to victory today in Sunday’s final stage of the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, a wet 120-km route that featured eight finishing circuits around Barcelona that featured a Cat. 3 climb. Race leader Joaquim Rodriguez (Spain/Katusha), who had only a four-second gap over second-place Alberto Contador (Spain/Tinkoff-Saxo) parried a late attack from his rival compatriot to take his second Catalunya title. Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) finished 15th on GC, 1:26 back.

A 13-man breakaway charged away immediately, taking a minute’s lead within 10-km. In the escape was Westra, French buccaneer Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) and mountains leader Stef Clement (The Netherlands/Belkin), who took Saturday’s stage victory out of a breakaway.

The break had a gap of 3:40 as it tackled the first 6.15-km circuit of Barcelona, but after the climb of Cat. 3 Montjuic, the escape was whittled down to a half-dozen, including Westra, Voeckler and Marcus Burghardt (Germany/BMC). With just over two laps remaining, Westra, who attacked solo in Saturday’s stage, lit out for glory alone.

Various attacks came out of the peloton, the most notable from Contador with 2-km remaining, but Rodriguez was hip to the threat and closed him down. In the end Westra rolled soggily over the line 1:22 ahead of Voeckler and Burghardt. It’s the Dutchman’s first road stage win since the first day of last year’s Tour of California.

Ryder Hesjedal crossed the line +2:07 alongside champion Rodriguez, runner-up Contador and third place American Tejay van Garderen (BMC). Christian Meier rolled in eight seconds later to finish 40th overall.

Contador leads the UCI WorldTour rankings with his second place in Catalunya.