Discovery Channel Team Report
Popovych takes lead at Tour of Catalunya.
Following a strong effort on the final climb in today's marathon 237.7 kilometer fourth stage, the Discovery Channel pro cycling team's Yaroslav Popovych gained the overall lead at the Tour of Catalunya. Popovych, eighth overall and 10 seconds out of the race lead at the start of the stage, was the clear aggressor on the stage's final finishing climb to the Pal ski station in Arsinal ( Andorra). After nearly six and a half hours in the saddle, Popovych was beaten at the line by Saunier Duval's Leonardo Piepoli, finishing second. However, the damage had already been done as the Ukrainian now leads the ProTour event by 11 seconds over Aitor Osa, third on the stage today.
"To me, he was the strongest rider on the final climb, that's for sure," said team assistant sports manager Dirk Demol. "He attacked with Piepoli and Osa and was pulling all the time to take as much time as possible and gain the race lead. After the stage, he was a bit disappointed he didn't get the stage win but immediately after he realized he had the jersey."
The stage featured a pair of first category climbs and a breakaway of three riders that gained 20 minutes on the field at one point. The lead trio stayed clear until the finishing climb to Arsinal.
"We knew today was a good opportunity to try something," said Demol. "Popo really wanted to find out where his level was at this moment and on the final climb, he attacked several times."
Tomorrow's fifth stage, an individual time trial, will keep the riders in Andorra and features the 17 km climb to the Ordino ski station in Arcalis. "The first seven kms are rolling and the last 10 are really uphill," Demol added. "The Arcalis climb is tough and finishes at over 2,000 meters."
On Popovych, Demol said - "He really wants to go for it. For a time trial, you have no options; you have to go all out. He's confident and knows he has a great chance, especially after what he learned today. He has a good feeling about it."
Discovery Channel sports manager Johan Bruyneel, watching the race from his home, agreed with Demol's opinion on Popovych. "Although he was second in the stage, to me, he was by far the strongest rider."
Bruyneel was especially pleased that Popovych came through the same day as Paolo Savoldelli in the Tour of Italy.
"The performance of Popo and Paolo on the same day was good to see," he said. "They both are two big riders we brought to the team and are performing at the right moment. I think it?s really good for them, as it?s never easy to jump into a new environment. It's good for the team, good for them and also good for our sponsors to see that we are on target on our overall program.
"I'm really happy for Popo, as he had a difficult start with us, racing at Paris-Nice and then having visa problems. All of this