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Joaquim Rodriguez wins 2nd Volta a Catalunya, Westra claims final stage

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BARCELONA, Spain — Joaquim Rodriguez won his second Volta a Catalunya title in his hometown of Barcelona on Sunday as he prepares for the Giro d'Italia in search of an elusive grand tour victory.

Dutch cyclist Lieuwe Westra of Astana broke away to win the seventh and final stage, a rainy 120.7-kilometer (74.9-mile) ride around the Catalan capital finishing with eight laps of the Montjuic hill, in 2 hours, 36 minutes, 14 seconds.

Rodriguez stayed with nearest rival Alberto Contador to protect his four-second lead over his fellow Spaniard in the overall standings and repeat his Volta victory from 2010. The Katusha rider took the lead of this edition, the 94th, on Wednesday when he surged past Contador, Nairo Quintana and Tour de France winner Christopher Froome to a summit finish at La Molina in the Pyrenees mountains.

Contador launched one last attack on Sunday during a short climb with two kilometers to go, but Rodriguez had no trouble staying pegged to his wheel as he had during three previous stages, each one marked by snow, fog, wind, or rain.

"This victory is important to me," Rodriguez said. "This was a real race, especially when you saw Alberto Contador trying all the way to the end to gain the four seconds he needed. This race was especially hard with all the wind and the rain, but that's what makes bike racing exciting.

"Now I look forward to trying to win in Liege-Bastogne-Liege and then on to the Giro d'Italia."

Rodriguez completed the weeklong race in 29 hours, 41 minutes, 34 seconds. Contador, who won the Tirreno-Adriatico earlier this month, finished second and American Tejay Van Garderen was third, seven seconds behind. Quintana finished in fifth, 10 seconds back.

Froome fell near the end of the route, but after changing bikes he finished with the peloton and maintained his sixth-place finish, 17 second behind Rodriguez.

The 34-year-old Rodriguez earned his first professional win in Barcelona in 2004 when he won the now defunct Setmana Catalana.

Rodriguez, know as "Purito," was the UCI WorldTour's highest ranked cyclist in 2013 and in 2012, the year he finished runner-up in the Giro. This year he will ride in the Giro in May and the Spanish Vuelta in August, passing on the Tour.

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