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After Lotto Soudal had worked hard all day, Greipel comfortably held off Bennett and Boasson Hagen in the bunch sprint at the Trofeo Felanitx-Ses Salines-Campos-Porreres, the first race of the Challenge Mallorca series

Photo: Sirotti










28.01.2016 @ 16:53 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

André Greipel (Lotto Soudal) continued his tradition of getting his seasons off to a winning start as he won his first race of the year, Trofeo Felanitx-Ses Salines-Campos-Porreres which is the first race in the four-day Challenge Mallorca series. At the end of the first race on European soil, he held off Sam Bennett (Bora-Argon 18) and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) in the expected bunch sprint to get his year off to a perfect start.


André Greipel is known as Mr. Tour Down Under as the German sprinter holds the record of wins in the Australian race. Greipel has made it a tradition to start his years extremely well and get several early victories to boost his confidence.


Last year he decided to change things as he skipped the Australian race and kicked off his year at the Challenge Mallorca, the European season opener. The change paid off as he enjoyed his most successful year even though he failed to take a single win in the four-day race series on the Balearic island.


This year Greipel follows a similar season schedule and today he again started his year in Spain when the Challenge kicked off with the relatively flat Trofeo Felanitx-Ses Salines-Campos-Porreres. Unlike last year, Greipel immediately found back to his winning ways as he turned out to be the fastest in the bunch sprint that decided the race.


The event was dominated by a three-rider break of Grischa Janorschke (Roth), Domingos Goncalves (Caja Rural) and Eneko Lizarralde (Euskadi) but Lotto Soudal always had a Greipel win in mind. The Belgian team controlled the entire race and after IAM also came to the fore to work for Jonas Van Genechten, the break was quickly brought back after 140km of the 176.8km race. Lotto Soudal and IAM disappeared from the front and instead it was a big fight for position as the teams got organized and prepared themselves for the two late climbs that featured close to the finish


There was a bit of attacking on the first of those ascents where Garikoitz Bravo led his Euskadi teammate Imanol Estevez and Janorschke over the top. Five kilometres later Xavi Cañellas (Spain) made a brave solo move and impressively he held a 30-second advantage just fifteen kilometres from the finish.


At the special sprint after 167km of racing, he still had an advantage of 28 seconds but just 2km later he was back in the fold. That set the scene for an attack from several riders, including Angel Madrazo (Caja Rural), on the final climb but it was a move by Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-QuickStep) and Tom-Jelte Slagter (Cannondale) four kilometres from the finish that looked most promising.


Slagter led Stybar over the top, followed by Gregory Rast (Trek) but it was all in vain as the break was caught with three kilometres to go. Instead, it came down to the expected bunch sprint and here Greipel lived up to expectations as he easily held off Sam Bennett and Edvald Boasson Hagen to open his 2016 account. Goncalves won the combination and classifications while Janorschke was the most combative and Lizarralde won the mountains competition


The race series will continue tomorrow when the riders head into hillier terrain for the Trofeo Pollenca-Andratx. However, the final comes 30km from the finish which gives room for riders to get things organized for a reduced bunch sprint.


A lumpy course

The 2015 edition of the Trofeo Felanitx-Ses Salines-Campos-Porreres – the first race of the Challenge Mallorca race series – was held on a 176.8km course that brought the riders from Felanitx to Porreres. It consisted of almost two full laps of a mostly flat circuit that included two small category 4 climbs in the second half. The final challenge, Coll Es Monjos, was located just 4.2km from the finish but as it was an easy 2.4km climb with an average gradient of around 3%, it was not expected to challenge the sprinters.


It was a great sunny day when the riders gathered for the start of the first European race of the year and there was barely any when the 166-rider peloton rolled through the neutral zone. One rider was absent as Jonathan Dibben (Great Britain) didn’t take the start.


Lots of attacks

The race was expected to be one for the sprinters but that didn’t prevent the peloton from getting it off to an aggressive start. Gianni Moscon (Sky), Ramunas Navardauskas (Cannondale), lljo Keisse (Etixx-QuickStep), Natnael Berhane (Diemnsion Data), Marco Coledan (Trek) Marcel Sieberg (Lotto Soudal), Grischa Janorschke (Roth) and Scott Thwaites (Bora-Argon 18) formed the first serious move after 8.5km of racing but they were brought back after less than a kilometre of freedom.


Instead, Toms Skujins (Cannondale), Berhane and Marco D’Urbano (Roth) attacked at the 12km mark and they had a 12-second advantage after 16km of racing. Adrian Gonzalez (Euskadi) joined the move but it was back together rat the 17km mark.


Three riders get clear

The attacking continued and it was Domingos Goncalves (Caja Rural) who led the foundations for the early move when he built a 20-second advantage at the 27km mark. Two kilometres later he was 30 seconds ahead of two chasers, Janorschke and Eneko Lizarralde (Euskadi), and 56 seconds ahead of the peloton.


Goncalves won the first intermediate sprint before Lizarralde led Janorschke across the line 14 seconds later and the trio soon joined forces. At the peloton slowed down, they quickly had an advantage of 2.20 at the 30km mark and it had gone out to 3.30 just three kilometres later and 4.30 after 35km of racing.


Lotto Soudal take control

When the gap had gone out to 4.50 at the 40km mark, Lotto Soudal came to the fore and started to chase. At the end of the first hour, the riders had covered a solid 46.2km and the escapees had an advantage of 4.38.


The peloton slowly started to narrow the gap and when Lizarralde beat Janorschke and Goncalves in the first KOM sprint, it was only 3.30. At the 65km mark, Lotto Soudal had brought it down to 3 minutes and when Janorschke beat Goncalves and Lizarralde in the first special sprint after 71km of racing, the gap was 2.47.


IAM come to the fore

Lizarralde was also faster than Janorscke and Goncalves in the second KOM sprint when the gap was 2.08 but Lotto Soudal slowed down and allowed it to go out to 2.38 at the first passage of the finish line after 81km of racing. It was even 3 minutes when the riders had ended the second hour at an average speed of 44.3km/h.


The growing trend continued and the gap reached a new maximum of 3.36 at the 102km mark when IAM came to the fore to lend Lotto Soudal a hand. The Swiss team was working for Jonas Van Genechten and they had reduced the gap to just 2.39 after ten kilometres of chasing.


The break is caught

The gap was coming down rapidly and was only 1.50 when Goncalves beat Janorschke and Lizarralde in the second intermediate sprint after 126.4km and three hours of racing at an average speed of 43.4km/h. The escapees were tiring dramatically and just 8km later, they only had an advantage of 20 seconds.


The catch was inevitable and was made at the 140km mark. Despite the attacking in the finale, no one managed to deny the sprinters and it was Greipel who came out on top in the bunch sprint.



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