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"It had already been a pretty good season, with six second places, but since the Tour of Austria I have felt really well, and I was coming into Wallonie with strength and will to do well."

Photo: Sirotti






28.07.2014 @ 19:39 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Having already finished second no less than six times in 2014, Juan Jose Lobato finally broke the curse when he won today's second stage of the Tour de Wallonie by launching a powerful sprint on the uphill finishing straight. With the final two stages being even tougher, however, the Spaniard doesn't expect to have more ahcens in the five-day race.


So many times 'crashing' against the barrier that separates a sprinter from the needed victory to open his account, Juanjo Lobato broke the wall with a convincing success to claim his first win in Movistar Team colours on stage three of the Tour de Wallonie. The 174km parcours from Somme-Leuze to Neufchâteau was hardened by seven categorized climbs, but above all by cold and rain which only the most resistant riders could combat.


The telephone squad was one of the most active in their will to break control of the strongest sprinters' squads. Attacks by Amador (twice), Ventoso, Sanz and Lastras, as well as consistent vigilance by Sütterlin and Gutiérrez, covered Lobato in the second half of the race, where the flurry of attacks was relentless. With Czech Zdenek Stybar (OPQ) caught in the final kilometer, a swerve seemed to take the Andalusian out of position, yet Lobato bounced back with skill and his strong rush to the line in a slightly uphill finish left all rivals - including race leader Gianni Meersman (OPQ, 2nd) - several bike lengths behind.


Lobato's success, his 7th as professional rider and Movistar Team's 25th so far in 2014, makes him the tenth rider from the telephone squad - after the Quintana brothers, the Izagirres, Valverde, Dowsett, Rojas, Malori and Jesús Herrada - to have raised his arms victorious this year. The Spaniard is now 2nd overall, 11" behind Meersman, before two demanding stages set to decide the overall outcome, starting with Tuesday's 175km - with no less than eleven ascents - between Herve and Waremme. 


"It was an incredible finish," he said. "Looking at the gap over my rivals, it may have looked easy that it was easy, but it certainly wasn't - I was dead tired, and had any wheel come past in that sprint, I would barely have made it to the finish.


"It was really beautiful: we came into the last descent at more than 70 kph, with lots of attacks, but thanks to my team-mates, I could keep myself calm, come into good position and make my sprint.


"It had already been a pretty good season, with six second places, but since the Tour of Austria I have felt really well, and I was coming into Wallonie with strength and will to do well. The two stages remaiming are really more difficult for me - we will see day by day how many chances I have out on course, I don't really know how I'll cope with those climbs.


"I have felt very well since the start of the Tour de Wallonie. I tried to achieve a good result in each stage. Today, it finally paid off. I felt particularly strong and I'm obviously happy to bring a stage victory to the team. After this race, I want to go to the Vuelta which is the most important race for all Spaniards."



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