Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana / Dubai Tour (st. 1)
Basque allrounder from Movistar Team with blows and bruises after tumble against barrier in Volta's opening ride towards Oropesa; Jesús, Ion both less than a minute behind Poels (SKY)
Good luck keeps giving the Movistar Team its back as crashed held off one of its members again today at the opening stage of the reborn Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, a 16.6km ITT from Benicássim to Oropesa del Mar. While managing his way through one of the most technical sections of the windy, lumpy course, Ion Izagirre, one of the GC hopes for the telephone squad, crashed on his right-hand side and against a barrier outside a turn.
"I was raring to go, willing to do well, felt strong after the first few k's… but I might have gone too fast through that corner, crashed and saw all my chances going away." Con "bruises all over my right-hand side, especially my hip and leg," as well as some lost time, the Ormaiztegi-born rider bounced back strong and finished only 37" behind Wout Poels (SKY), who seized the first leader's jersey.
"To be fair, I got back into racing pace quickly and felt well at the end, though I was a bit scared into the downhill sections and the turns, I wasn't riding confidently. Fortunately, these are all minor issues, and I hope to rest well tonight and feel recovered tomorrow. It's a beautiful race and it has just started: we've got a strong team and we hope to do well this week." Incidents aside, the Movistar Team was able to have five of its team into the day's top 20, with a fine Jesús Herrada in fifth spot -26" off Poels' pace-, Imanol Erviti in tenth, Javi Moreno in 11th and José Herrada and Ion himself taking places sixteen and eighteen, respectively.
The Volta will stay in the province of Castellón on Thursday as it tackles the first of two mountain finishes in Fredes (Cat-1): 15km at 4.5% average, with maximum points of 12%, taking to its end a 163km journey up from Castellón de la Plana.
Dubai Tour: Soler spends 130km into break; Lobato 12th in Fujairah
Along the edge of the Gulf, the Movistar Team started the 3rd Dubai Tour at the fore as Marc Soler spent most of the 172km stage one – starting at the emirate's urban centre and finishing with a short, flat circuit in Fujairah – into the breakaway, a six-man attempt which allowed the 22-year-old Catalan allrounder reaching until the penultimate loop around the finish, 10km from the end, on top.
"The plan was going after big breaks and stay at the front during that fast opening phase," explains Soler. "I was right on Vliegen's wheel, going right after him when he attacked, and the peloton gave us room as they had gone for too many moves before. It was more of a matter of following team tactics than looking for individual chances – I actually got into the intermediate sprints despite not being too fast. It was a quick day, really flat, but it's not too hard when you're willing to help the team. The strategy should be quite similar tomorrow: looking after any dangerous breaks, than waiting for Friday's hilly finish."
Despite the squad directed by Chente García Acosta trying to lead Juanjo Lobato out with the likes of Dowsett, Sütterlin, Gorka Izagirre or Castroviejo – the latter in his 2016 debut and early into the moves before Soler's sticked – the Andalusian was unable to find his place into the speed of the final kilometer. Juanjo ranked in 12th and will surely be looking forward to another chance on Thursday's Palm Jumeirah finish, prelude of Hatta's decisive kick uphill on stage three.
"The guys did well, looking to put Juanjo into a good position, but some other squads prepare leadouts better, more specializd than us, and we lacked that bit of energy and experience to keep our place," sums up Chente. "It wasn't a good sprint for Juanjo, either: too flat and fast. Better chances should arrive for him later this week."
Picture ©: Gómez / Ciclismo a Fondo