March 24, 2017

TORTOSA, Spain (AP) Alejandro Valverde defeated Chris Froome and Alberto Contador to win the decisive fifth stage of the Tour of Catalonia on Friday and take the overall lead going into the weekend.

Valverde won after dominating the final climb of the 182-kilometer (113-mile) stage from Valls to Tortosa. The Spaniard finished 13 seconds ahead of both Froome and Contador.

Valverde opened a 21-second lead over Froome and a 47-second gap to Contador in the overall standings.

''It was a spectacular day for us and I was able to capitalize on it,'' Valverde said. ''Two tough days ahead to defend this lead.''

American Tejay van Garderen, the leader going into Friday's stage, dropped to sixth place overall, 1 minute, 18 seconds behind Valverde.

Froome, the three-time Tour de France winner, had an eventful day. He had a puncture about 20 kilometers (12 miles) into the stage, and was also forced to momentarily stop with about 45 kilometers (28 miles) to go because of a crash in front of him.

''Today, being the first big mountain top finish, was probably the first real big test so in that sense I'm really happy to be up there,'' Froome said. ''It's been an encouraging few days, especially given my track record here in Catalunya. It's a race that I've usually found tough, being my first European race of the year.''

Valverde and the rest of the Movistar team were penalized one minute on Wednesday after some of the riders pushed each other in the second stage.

Saturday's sixth stage will see riders travel 189 kilometers (117 miles) from Tortosa to Reus.

The week-long race in northeastern Spain ends Sunday in Barcelona.

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