Chris Froome attacks in final kilometre but no-one can stop Joaquim Rodriguez

Joaquim Rodriguez won the third stage of the Volta a Catalunya today with an acceleration that his arch-rivals Chris Froome and Alberto Contador simply could not match.

The Katusha rider celebrated a solo victory after an attack within the final 500m of the 162.9km run to La Molina ski station.

The real fireworks eventuated late in the piece with race general classification favourites including Rodriguez (Katusha), Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), Froome (Sky) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) choosing to wait really until the final kilometre.

Kevin Reza (Europcar) was the last of six escapees to be reeled in by the reduced front group some five kilometres from the finish. The Frenchman had attacked the remnants of the break, which included Rudy Molard (Cofidis), Jack Bobridge (Belkin), Andrey Zeits (Astana), Michel Koch (Cannondale) and Branislau Samoilau (CCC Polsat Polkowice), inside the last 10km.

Froome was the first of the elite aforementioned quartet to make a dash but no sooner sat back in the saddle. Rodriguez waited and then made his move, which Contador tried to mark but could not so finished second ahead of Quintana. Froome faded to fifth behind American Tejay van Garderen (BMC).

Tomorrow (Thursday), the riders face a tougher test with a mountain-top finish at Vallter 2000 – as long as the finish isn’t hampered by snowfall. It’s a finish that on paper suits Froome’s talents more than those of the explosive Rodriguez, but there is still a question mark over Froome’s form after he missed Tirreno-Adriatico with back problems.

Results
Volta a Catalunya 2014, stage three: Banyoles to La Molina, 162.9km
1. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha in 4-50-55

2. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo at 5 secs
3. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 9 secs
4. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing at 11 secs
5. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky at 13 secs
6. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Ag2r at 14 secs
7. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin
8. Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Sharp
9. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r at same time
10. Przemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Lampre-Merida at 20 secs

Overall classification after stage three
1. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha in 12-58-00

2. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo at 5 secs
3. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 9 secs
4. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing at 11 secs
5. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky at 13 secs
6. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin at 14 secs
7. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r
8. Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Sharp
9. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Ag2r at same time
10. Przemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Lampre-Merida at 20 secs

Chris Froome finishes on stage three of the 2014 Tour of Catalonia

Chris Froome finishes on stage three of the 2014 Tour of Catalonia