Circuit de la Sarthe (final stage)
Spanish sprinter puts end into bad luck in the early spring, claims second victory of his 2016 season at Circuit de la Sarthe; Andalusian also 3rd overall
A sore knee prevented him from reaching the end of Paris-Nice and reach his main early season goals in good form -Milano-SanRemo and the first cobbled classics included-, yet Juanjo Lobato (Movistar Team) happily bounced back from misfortune and bested many strong sprinters in Arnage, near the famous Le Mans circuit, to claim the win on the final stage of the 64th Circuit de la Sarthe on Friday.
The French race, where the Movistar Team have claimed victories in three of their four most recent appearances, smiled again to the squad directed by Chente García Acosta, so far fourth and fifth into respective sprint finishes by Lobato and sixth overall with a notable Javi Moreno heading into the final stage. At the closing seven laps, and helped out by an excellent Arcas, Quintana, Betancur and Pedrero, Lobato crossed the finish a bike length ahead of Benfatto (AND) and Pelucchi (IAM). It's the second victory of the 2016 season for Juanjo, already successful in the Dubai Tour's Hatta Dam stage three in February, and the seventh for the Blues so far this year.
Today's success also means that Lobato climbs into third overall, behind youngster Marc Fournier (FDJ) -who profited from a long break on stage one- and Patrick Gretsch (ALM). Another win to celebrate in the name of a man who brought some good memories in this very race back in 2015: Adriano Malori.
Juanjo Lobato: "I'm finally getting to the place I wanted to be at. This victory is a huge boost of confidence for me, something that allows me to take some fury out and tackle my goals with less pressure. Having six riders per team made it extremely difficult to control the race – that's why breaks succeeded both on stage one and yesterday, both days where I did well. We relied on my chances today from the very beginning, putting Dayer at the front to push and keep the break on a leash. The rest of the team supported me really well until the final circuit.
"I kept my mind cold into the sprint, I knew I wouldn't win if I was too anxious. I didn't really get into the fight for a position till the Roompot guys moved to the front as a whole with 1.5km to go. At the final turn with 600m remaining I always already in third place – I could really measure my forces today and launch the sprint comfortably.
"Those problems with my knee from two, three weeks ago – which made me not to finish Paris-Nice – did hurt me as I couldn't focus on my goals, but I'm feeling strong again and willing to go for the next competitions. After Roubaix I'm expected to ride two of the Ardennes classics: Amstel Gold Race and Flèche Wallonne. I haven't put any goals on myself for them, I just want to know the courses. After that, I should be doing the Vuelta a Madrid or rather taking some rest before the summer."
Picture ©: Marie Greneche