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In his first race for LottoNL-Jumbo, Groenewegen took his first win for his new team in a photo finish against Bouhanni on stage 3 of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana; Poels defended the lead

Photo: Sirotti










05.02.2016 @ 16:41 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Dylan Groenewegen got his WorldTour career off to the best possible start as he won the first sprint he has contested as a LottoNL-Jumbo rider. The Dutchman came out on top in the bunch kick on the third stage of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana as he beat Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) in a photo finish, with Alexander Porsev (Katusha) completing the podium. Wout Poels (Sky) defended the lead.


The 2015 season was a frustrating one for LottoNL-Jumbo as the team ended up as the least successful of the WorldTour formations. For 2016, they have made it a goal to get more victories and to achieve that goal they have invested a lot in their sprinters and lead-outs.


One of the strategies has been to sign Dylan Groenewegen who emerged as one of the most talented Dutch sprinters in 2015 where he won two races, including the semi-classic Brussels Cycling Classic. The team have focused on gathering a strong lead-out around him and this week they face their first test at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana.


Things could not have got off to a better start as Groenewegen came out on top in the first sprint he has contested for his new team. On the third stage of the race, he finished off solid teamwork by beating pre-race favourite Nacer Bouhanni in a photo finish.


The early break was brought back inside the final 10km after a very hectic phase where the GC teams had been fighting for position in the windy conditions. Until this point, LottoNL-Jumbo had been hiding but they showed themselves for the first time just as the break was caught.


It was still Vasil Kiryienka setting the pace for Sky and he stayed on the front until Cofidis took over with Nicolas Edet. They looked well-organized and got some welcome help from Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani) until IAM took over.


Reto Hollenstein took a massive turn but his teammates got swamped in a chaotic finale where no team looked organized. That opened the door for Johnny Hoogerland (Roompot) to attack inside the final 5km but Bob Jungels (Etixx-QuickStep) brought him back.


Jungels’ teammates opened a gap behind the strong time triallist who suddenly had a big gap as he entered the final 2km. Eduard Vorganov was leading the chase for Katusha but it looked like Jungels could be hard to catch.


Just before the flamme rouge, disaster struck for Jungels as he missed a turn and so the sprint teams could take control. Cofidis hit the front and again they got some assistance from a Bardiani rider until Geoffrey Soupe, Christophe Laporte and Nacer Bouhanni took control at the flamme rouge.


Soupe and Laporte delivered Bouhanni in the perfect position while Dennis van Winden did an impressive job to drop Groenewegen off on Bouhanni’s wheel in the U-turn 660m from the line. Bouhanni and Groenewegen started their sprint at the same time and were extremely equally matched as they stayed side by side all the way to the line.


A few moments of nervous waiting followed but Groenewegen was finally declared the winner in a photo finish. Alexander Porsev (Katusha) and Tom Boonen (Etixx-QuickStep) were close to the win too but had to settle for third and fourth respectively after the Belgian had been boxed towards the barriers.


Wout Poels (Sky) finished safely in the bunch and so defended his 15-second advantage over Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana). He will try to defend his position in the queen stage which is an undulating affair. Three smaller climbs will be used as a warm-up for the big final challenge of the brutally steep Xorret del Cati which averages more than 9% and includes sections of more than 22% before summiting just 2.1km from the line.


One for the sprinters

After yesterday’s mountain stage, the sprinters were expected to shine on stage 3 which brought the riders over 173.5km from Sagunto to Alzira. The riders tackled a category 3 climb almost right from the start but otherwise it was a completely flat stage where only the wind could potentially prevent a bunch sprint.


It was a perfect day for a bike race when the riders gathered for the start as there was bright sunshine and barely any wind. All riders that finished yesterday’s stage were present as they headed out for their neutral ride.


Lots of attacks

The riders got the race off to a very fast start as they headed to the only climb. There were lots of attacks, but it was difficult for anyone to get a gap. Enrico Barbin (Bardiani) escaped after 8km of racing but was quickly brought back. Nikolay Mihaylov (CCC), Jon Insausti (Euskadi), Domingos Goncalves (Caja Rural), Pablo Torres (Burgos), Hoogerland and Giorgio Bocchiola (D’Amico) were next to get clear but they were caught at the 13km mark. Meanwhile, Nicola Boem (Bardiani) and Daniel Navarro (Cofidis) both crashed.


The peloton was all together when they hit the climb and here Jorge Cubero (Burgos), Garikoitz Bravo (Euskadi) and Nikolay Mihalov (CCC) escaped. Keisuke Aso (Keinan) joined them and later Antonio Molina (Caja Rural) also made the junction. Molina led Mihaylov and Cubero over the top before a hard chasing Enrico Barbin (Bardiani) also made contact on the descent. The peloton crested the summit just 17 seconds later.


Gazprom-Rusvelo accelerate

Aso was dropped from the break while the peloton slowed down. With Sky patrolling the front, the gap grew quickly. It had gone out to 3.45 at the 35km mark.


The riders covered 42km during the first hour and the field was now starting to accelerate under the impetus of Gazprom-Rusvlo. In fact, they had reduced the lead to just 58 seconds after 50 kilometers of racing and when it was down to 20 seconds, they sent Roman Maikin and Artem Ovechkin across.


The gap grows

The peloton slowed down again as Cofidis rolled on the front and the gap grew quickly. At the 70km mark, it was 3 minutes and it was still Cofidis and Sky patrolling the front. The riders covered the first two hours at an average of 41.150km/h


Cofidis left it to Sky to set the pace and they allowed the gap to go out to four minutes where they kept it for a long time. Meanwhile, Molina beat Barbin and Maikin in the intermediate sprint.


A nervous peloton

At the 122km mark, the gap was still 3.57 but as they entered the final 50km, LottoNL-Jumbo and later also Katusha started to chase, they brought the gap down to 2.17.


The wind made the peloton extremely nervous and it was now a big fight for position. Sky and Movistar battled hard for control, with Kiryienka, David Lopez and Alex Peters leading the Brits and Imanol Erviti, Jorge Arcas and Francisco Ventoso doing the job for the Spaniards.


The break is caught

The gap was melting away due to the fast pace and it was down to 1.30 with 22km to go. Roompot also came to the fore but with 20km to go, the peloton calmed down a bit and allowed Kiryienka to set the pace for Sky. Meanwhile, Cubero was dropped from the break.


With 18km to go, the gap was only 28 seconds and this prompted Ovechkin to sit up. The escapees were dangling a few metres in front for a while as Kiryienka set the pace and with 10km to go, the junction was made. It all came down to the expected sprint where Groenewegen claimed victory.



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