Vuelta a La Rioja / Ronde van Vlaanderen
Aussie rider from Movistar Team wins in La Rioja after jumping off selected lead group -including Rojas (3rd) and Barbero (8th)- into echelons prior to Logroño's finish
After spending two-and-a-half seasons committed to his full to working for the team’s leaders, an individual reward was more than deserved for Rory Sutherland (Movistar Team). The Aussie veteran prevailed on Sunday’s Vuelta a La Rioja, six years after his partner-in-crime all over the 2016 Vuelta a España, Imanol Erviti, claimed the Blues’ latest success to date in Logroño’s main boulevard.
Sutherland crowned a big performance from the whole Movistar Team, notably featuring in the two main breakaways of the race. Carlos Barbero, Marc Soler and Jonathan Castroviejo kept the front for about eighty kilometers with a slim margin -never more than 1’30”- over the bunch. That peloton started splitting again as the wind, intense throughout the morning, picked up in the second half ot the race and created the decisive echelons.
Barbero was present again at the decisive, 12-man split, alongside Sutherland and José Joaquín Rojas. The move was reduced to six riders with 15 kilometers from the finish -‘Rojillas’ and Rory again in- before Sutherland launched the winning move, one that allowed him getting over the line with 20” on Michael Albasini (ORS, 2nd) and his team-mate (3rd).
It was indeed a double podium finish -Barbero (8th) confirmed the Blues’ team victory, too- for the telephone squad, which has now 14 victories to its 2017 tally. In turn, the Canberra-born, Girona-based cyclist claimed his maiden Movistar Team success, five years after his last pro win in a stage of the 2012 USA Pro Challenge.
Rory Sutherland: “I’m really happy because it's difficult to be given an opportunity as an individual very often – my role into such a strong, talented team is a different one. It was one of those races today, and I couldn’t let this go past. It was thanks to the team’s support that I could succeed. It was a fast race, one with changing weather – some spells of rain, sun shining at the finish – and, above all, a very windy one, which really made the difference. I feel like we rode perfectly today: we covered all the moves and kept focus up to the decisive point, with those crosswinds splitting the peloton for good.
“That group got reduced in the finale, with Rojillas and myself still in, and it was down to the final attacks, where I was lucky to leave my rivals behind and reach the finish solo. It was my wife Cheynna’s birthday today, and I wanted to bring a present for her – this goes to my family and the whole Movistar Team, for keeping their confidence on me. Now it’s back to work from Monday in the Itzulia – our job is protecting the leaders and even more so when you’ve got such a grateful guy to support as Alejandro. It’s always a pleasure to ride for him.”
Ronde van Vlaanderen: Fine 18th for Nelson Oliveira; crash takes Erviti out of contention
Over at the 101st edition of the Ronde van Vlaanderen, Philippe Gilbert (QST) offered the Belgian fans a ride for the record books as he spent the last 55km into a solo lead, all the way from the second ascent of the Oude Kwaremont. The 'driekleur' crossed the finish in Oudenaarde with 28" over the first pursuit group, including Van Avermaet (BMC, 2nd) and Niki Terpstra (QST, 3rd), and 52" over the main field, which featured a strong Nelson Oliveira (18th).
The Portuguese rider stayed within the second group of favourites until the final Kwaremont ascent, leading the Blues' performance after a crash before the first Paterberg climb left Imanol Erviti (87º) out of contention. Helped out by Jorge Arcas and Nuno Bico, the man from Navarra could bridge back to the group, yet the pain from his tumble and the wear and tear of the second Monument of the season prevented the Spaniard from claiming another top-ten finish following his brilliant 2016 appearance.
Picture ©: Photo Gomez Sport