Tour de Wallonie (st. 3)
Andalusian sprinter -supported by offensive Movistar Team- takes convincing win in Tour de Wallonie stage three, after six second places in 2014; ups Blues’ victory tally of the season to 25
So many times ‘crashing’ against the barrier that separates a sprinter from the needed victory to open his account, Juanjo Lobato broke the wall with a convincing success to claim his first win in Movistar Team colours on stage three of the Tour de Wallonie. The 174km parcours from Somme-Leuze to Neufchâteau was hardened by seven rated climbs, but above all, by cold and rain which only the most resistant riders could combat.
The telephone squad was one of the most active in their will to break control by the strongest sprinters’ squads. Attacks by Amador (twice), Ventoso, Sanz and Lastras, as well as consistent vigilance by Sütterlin and Gutiérrez, covered Lobato in the second half of the route, where the flurry of attacks was relentless. With Czech Zdenek Stybar (OPQ) caught into the final kilometer, a swerve seemed to take the Andalusian out of position, yet Juanjo bounced back with skill and his strong rush to the line in a slightly uphill finish left all rivals -including race leader Gianni Meersman (OPQ, 2nd)- several bike lengths behind.
Lobato’s success, his 7th as professional rider and Movistar Team’s 25th so far in 2014, makes him the tenth rider from the telephone squad -after the Quintana brothers, the Izagirres, Valverde, Dowsett, Rojas, Malori and Jesús Herrada- to have raised his arms victorious this year. The Spaniard is now 2nd overall, 11″ behind Meersman, before two demanding stages set to decide the overall outcome, starting with Tuesday’s 175km -with no less than eleven ascents- between Herve and Waremme.
REACTION | Juanjo Lobato: “It was an incredible finish. It might seem looking at the gap against my rivals that it was easy, but not at all – I was dead tired, and should any wheel come past into that sprint, I would have barely made it to the finish. It was really beautiful: we came into the last descent at more than 70 kph, with lots of attacks, but thanks to my team-mates, I could keep myself calm, come into good position and make my sprint. It had already been a pretty good season, with six second places, but already since the Tour of Austria I had felt really well, and I was coming into Wallonie with strength and will to do well. The two stages remaiming are really more difficult for me – we will see day by day how many chances I have out on course, I don’t really know how I’ll cope with those climbs”.