Vuelta a Andalucía / Volta ao Algarve (st. 1)
Bennati (TNK), Van Lerberghe (TSV) beat local hero into difficult sprint at Vuelta a Andalucía's opener in Sevilla. Dowsett 8th after crash-marred final lap in Algarve stage one
Juanjo Lobato came close to the second victory of his 2016 season into the 165km opening stage of the Vuelta a Andalucía between Almonaster la Real (Huelva) and Sevilla. The Spaniard, supported by an excellent Movistar Team, including Alejandro Valverde’s sensational leadout into the final kilometer, sneaked his way to the top through the turns of the Andalusian capital, yet lacked room to improve into an extremely short last straight, where he was beaten by Bennati (TNK, 1st) and Van Lerberghe (TSV, 2nd).
The Trebujena-born rider will have two more chances to repeat his double success in 2015, be that tomorrow in Córdoba or Friday in Padul as both include climbs near the finish. For the test -Erviti, Javi Moreno, Fernández, Dani Moreno and Sutherland-, keeping Valverde safe will be the duty before an interesting weekend, with a TT in Alhaurín (Saturday) followed by a decisive double climb towards Peñas Blancas (Sunday).
Juanjo Lobato: “I’m happy to have taken this podium finish, yet it would have made me happier to win, so close to home, in the race of my region. At other finishes you need a more seasoned train to lead you out before the sprint, but I prefer finishes like this, where chaos reigns and I can profit from it to get a better position. Still, the team was incredible today, not to ask about Alejandro: they couldn’t drop me into better place. However, the roadbook read like the last turn was with 400m to go, and when I got off it, there was only 100 meters left… We really lacked that bit. I hope to bounce back tomorrow, and I’ll give my best for it.
“Wind will be important tomorrow before Córdoba; should it blow, we will have to be extra cautious, but if it doesn’t, the stage should be easy until the climb. I hope that it gets harder into the ascent and I can make it within the best climbers, so I can stand a chance tomorrow or maybe on Friday. If there’s a smaller peloton and less stress, I should be better. Alejandro? Just like in every race, he’s extremely focused and as excited as a little kid. No matter if he’s not at 100% of his form: I feel he will be on the podium. All team-mates will help him, myself included, to make it happen.” — With help from Víctor Martín Molina
Algarve: Three top-15 placings in complicated circuit finish
Much close to their team-mates over at the Ruta del Sol, the Volta ao Algarve roster directed by José Luis Jaimerena started their five-day contest with a sprint finish in Albufeira -164km starting at Lagos-. Marcel Kittel (EQS) dominated the contest after crashes stroke the bunch three times into the final loop, with no Movistar Team riders involved in them.
The slopes near the final kilometer and general misfortune created chaos into the sprint, with three of the Blues at the front: Alex Dowsett was 8th, the Spanish squad’s main hope José Joaquín Rojas took 11th and Andrey Amador finished just behind for 12th. Ion Izagirre completed the race with no troubles and will tackle his first duel for GC glory tomorrow at the Alto da Fóia, after the longest stage of the week for the Blues over 199km.
Picture ©: Photo Gomez Sport / Luis Ángel Gómez