Rigoberto Urán maintained fifth place overall at the Volta a Catalunya while Davide Appollonio claimed ninth on stage six.
Urán was able to comfortably follow on the final climb as a number of leading contenders tried to attack ahead of the finish on the streets of Badalona, with the race looking set to finish in a bunch kick.
That was until Samuel Sanchez escaped the clutches of the peloton to claim victory, the Euskaltel-Euskadi rider attacking on a steep incline on the finishing circuit and holding on to take a valuable two seconds on the line.
In a finish which saw sprinters mixing it up with GC contenders desperate for a high stage placing, it was Allan Davis (GreenEDGE) who claimed second with Friday’s victor Julien Simon (Saur-Sojasun) third. Appollonio was the top-placed Team Sky rider in ninth.
A bunch kick allowed leader Michael Albasini (GreenEDGE) to maintain his comfortable advantage of one minute and 32 seconds, yet the big mover on the day was Sanchez, jumping up two places on the overall to second with a classy victory.
Despite Urán finishing outside the top 10, the Colombian held on to his overnight fifth overall by way of cumulative stage placings with one test remaining on Sunday.
In a stage that looked like it could possibly favour a breakaway, a three man group of Cedric Pineau (FDJ-BigMat), Mikael Cherel (AG2R-La Mondiale) and David Moncoutie (Cofidis) built up an advantage of 3:40 in the early going.
However the race was neutralised after 70km due to an incident as a police motor cycle collided with a car running ahead of the race. After a 38-minute delay the action resumed, yet the fire had been taken out of the break and they were reeled in ahead of the final climb.
Unsurprisingly another group fancied their chances with the quartet of stage three winner Janez Brajkovic (Astana), Yann Huguet (Project 1t41), Romain Zingle (Cofidis) and Jussi Veikkanen (FDJ-BigMat) pushing on.
But with a number of teams fearful of leaving the race empty-handed there were plenty of riders willing to ride on the front in pursuit of the escapees.
Despite it only weighing in at 355 metres a number of leading contenders, desperate to make up time, tried to attack on the third category Alt de la Conreria.
The surge in pace saw the escapees quickly captured as the favourites marked one another, none able to build up a buffer for the third consecutive day.
That was until Sanchez caught the leaders napping with a late bid and a welcome first victory of the season for his Basque squad.
End in sight
After the stage Sports Director Sean Yates was happy to see Urán remain in the GC fight, yet forced to admit: “Hat’s off to Sanchez. That was a pretty ballsy move. He’s been trying for the past few days so fair play to him.
“Appo was ninth but he was a bit too far back to make an impression on the front runners. It was a sketchy final run-in.
“It’s a funny old race with the decisive stage being early on, but then being cancelled. It was tough luck for the organisers again today with the accident. Luckily it didn’t seem too serious but we had to stop for half an hour. But the weather has been beautiful the last few days and the one day it was awful was during the queen stage!”
With a number of contenders still separated by no more that stage placings Yates is expecting fireworks on the final stage and another downhill finish into Sarria.
He added: “Tomorrow is going to be a downhill sprint. I’m sure Sanchez is going to go for the victory again. It’s going to be pretty hairy but Rigo is good downhill. Obviously there is a climb just before that but I’d like to think he can hold on to fifth place and we’ll see what the points score is.”