Tour Down Under (st. 2)
Andalusian claims superb win in Stirling uphill finish, Gorka Izagirre takes 3rd for a double Blue podium on day two of Tour Down Under
The strength in every triumph of Juanjo Lobato was once again highlighted on Wednesday during stage two of the Tour Down Under, a 150km ride between Unley and a circuit with three climbs of the slope of Stirling, where Movistar Team has unlocked its 2015 victory account after a display of power in the final meters.
Lobato, protected at all times and until the decisive stretch by Sanz, Lastras, Capecchi and Herrada, came in good position with two of his team-mates, Gorka Izagirre and Ruben Fernandez, to a final kilometer’s climb with a fierce struggle for position. The Andalusian suffered to stand his place after an ill-timed puncture and had to start his rush from afar, as happened Sunday at the People's Choice Classic (2nd) or yesterday in the first stage (7th). However, his execution was brilliantly, with the suffering of the leadout riders putting in an appearance, and as in his last two victories -Valonia and Burgos '14, both into a final slope-, the Spaniard had margin enough to celebrate, ahead of Impey (OGE) and a remarkable Izagirre who achieved 3rd place while his teammate Fernández completed the ‘Blue festival’ in 11th spot.
The victory, 9th in Lobato’s career, serves to take him into 2nd overall, just 3” behind Jack Bobridge (UNA), while Gorka places in 5th (+9") as he gains more chances of a good overall result before the decisive weekend. A first good test for both will come on stage three on Thursday (143km), with the Paracombe climb just before the finish line.
Juanjo Lobato: "I'm super happy. I had a small incident in the finale with a flat tire during the last lap, and that's why I didn't came in the best position into the final slopes. Fortunately, the team has always been there supporting me, helping me out with that trouble, and I'm really excited to offer them a victory to pay back after their efforts. It's not really like the rivals have 'stopped' in the final meters; the ramp was steep and difficult for all of us, the pace was incredible and I was timing my effort to launch the sprint. I didn't care if my 'distance' would grant me a top-10 place or a victory: I just wanted to give everything from where I could push at full steam, and fortunately, I could take this win.
"I work every day to perform strongly into sprints of every condition: uphill, like today's, flat or high-speed ones in slight downhill like Sunday's criterium. It's true that these finishes are bringing me victories, but I don't want to focus exclusively on them. I think I did my best offseason training this winter, working really hard, several days behind the motor to come here with racing form. I just hope the streak has only started with this victory. Tomorrow's finish is pretty hard – I'm more confident about Friday, which suits me well. However, the most important thing now will be fighting for the GC, with both Gorka and Rubén, and we will work hard to help them out."
José Luis Arrieta (sports director): "Things are harder for Juanjo into conventional print finishes because he hasn't got a team like other riders, like Kittel, enjoy to stay calm and well positioned until the very last corner. This team is made of more climbing guys, who perform better on hard stages and uphill finishes – it's in days like today where he can really help him out, lead him into good position or assist him at our best with troubles like his puncture. He proved to be really strong and profited from a finish like today, where the GC guys were more focused than the top sprinters – he worked really hard this winter to come here in great form and he deserves it.
"For the time being, we had fulfilled one of our main goals for the week: fighting for this stage and not leaving Australia empty-handed. Now that we've got a stage victory, we must stay day-by-day. Our rivals are in excellent form and there's terrain enough to see chances. We must enjoy tonight what we have achieved, but keeping in mind that Thursday's finish will be steep, Friday's is a stage to keep caution at, and Saturday's is the Queen one. We will see."