Spanish race comes to its end
Eider Merino finishes in 4th overall against top field in Spanish event as Roxane Fournier -4th again in Sagunto- shows quality for sprinters with solid Movistar Team support.
Four after four after four. Despite not being able to repeat Alicia González’s brilliant GC podium from 2018, the seven Movistar Team members at the 2019 Setmana Valenciana showed consistency and potential even bigger than last year at the four-day Spanish stagerace (UCI 2.2), which ended in Sagunto on Sunday with a sprint win for Lotta Lepistö (TFS) and the overall triumph for Clara Koppenburg (WNT).
Well supported by Teruel, Oyarbide, Llamas and a strong Sheyla Gutiérrez, as well as Mavi García -really focused on following the moves after the Alto del Oronet (Cat-2) -, the Blues’ two references for the day completed a fine performance. While Eider Merino –a remarkable 4th at the Xorret de Catí climb on Saturday– sealed with no incidents her 4th spot overall, behind Koppenburg, Ashleigh Moolman (CCC) and Soraya Paladin (ALE), Roxane Fournier battled into a very difficult sprint, overshadowed by a crash into the tight final corner quite close to the finish. The Frenchwoman took 4th place, after Lepistö, Elena Cecchini (CSR) and Coryn Rivera (SUN).
The squad directed on Spanish soil this week by Jorge Sanz and Pablo Lastras will be leaving stageraces aside until May as it heads into a long classics calendar across Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands in the next few weeks -to be combined with the Spanish National Series-, starting with next week’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (March 2nd), Omloop van het Hageland (3rd) and Le Samyn (5th).
Eider Merino: “We came here with a strong aim to do well, because it was the first race of the season for many of us. The key stage was yesterday with the Xorret de Catí climb, and even if I didn’t find myself doing as well as I expected, things turned out pretty well. We were a bit down yesterday, but it might come down to our desire to do well, our expectations way higher than most people want from us – we always want more. It’s a good fourth place, and as we say here in Spain when you get fourth, it’s been ‘chocolate medals’ everywhere (laughs). We wouldn’t have been able to match such an amount of fourths if we tried. I think we must stay happy with what we got; being the first test of the season, our goal was to gauge how we were doing, and now it’s all about training, learning lessons from here and hopefully improve this result in the near future.”
Sheyla Gutiérrez: “Today it’s been one of those stages I really like: a bit crazy, with plenty of attacks at both the main climb and the descent afterwards. I felt really well, and the team was also really attentive, following the moves at the front at all times, even in the final circuit around Sagunto. It was a very exciting day. The sprint required to be a little bit ‘crazy’, you needed to take risks; I think we’re satisfied with Roxane’s fourth place, we worked as much as we could and, on a personal side, I feel more and more comfortably, fully into the adrenaline of racing again, raring to go with the classics. For now, I’m going back home really satisfied.”
Cover picture (c): Photo Gomez Sport / Movistar Team