Nicolas Roche finished in the peloton in Thursday’s fourth stage of the Volta a Catalunya, which was won by German Jens Voigt.

SaxoBank rider Voight pipped Estonia's Rein Taaramae to earn victory in a dramatic uphill sprint duel at the end of the 209.7km stage from Oliana to Asco. It is Voigt's first stage win since a serious accident in last year's Tour de France.

Opening stage winner Paul Voss of Germany led a bunch of two dozen chasers - including Roche - across the line for third, 34 seconds later.

Roche has dropped one place in the overall standings to fifth position, 1'20" behind leader Rodriguez.

Spaniard Joaquim Rodriguez retained his overall lead for the second successive day, but compatriot Xavier Tondo continues to shadow Rodriguez closely and is just is 10 seconds behind.

After receiving congratulations from race hostesses wearing traditional 'gandella' head-dresses, Voigt told reporters that as a result of his terrible Tour de France crash in July, he had not ridden his bike for two months.

The German badly fractured his cheekbone and was severely concussed in the 80kmh accident on an Alpine descent, later saying he believed his helmet had saved his life.

‘I couldn't do anything to raise my blood pressure, not even go up two steps at a time on a staircase,’ the 38-year-old Saxo Bank rider said.

‘The first bike ride I could do was a 10-minute circuit around a carpark.’

The Tour of Catalunya finishes on March 28 in Montmelo.