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"I tried hard yesterday, and it didn’t work, and today I did not go to the [team's] plan, and it did. These things, the way they happen, are like for a storybook. I am happy, very satisfied, and now I can relax and then go to...

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ALEJANDRO VALVERDE

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CHALLENGE MALLORCA

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DAYER QUINTANA

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FABIAN CANCELLARA

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GIANLUCA BRAMBILLA

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ION IZAGIRRE

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KANSTANTIN SIUTSOU

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MAXIME BOUET

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MICHAL KWIATKOWSKI

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MOVISTAR TEAM

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NTT PRO CYCLING TEAM

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SERGE PAUWELS

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SOUDAL - QUICK STEP

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TEAM SKY

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TREK - SEGAFREDO

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30.01.2016 @ 20:23 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafredo) got his final year as a professional off to the best possible start when he came out on top in the hardest race of the Challenge Mallorca, Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana. The Swiss made his move on the hardest climb of the race and after making it to the front on the penultimate descent, he took off in a solo move before holding off an elite chase group that was led to the finish by Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky) and Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal).

 

We have gathered several reactions.

 

Fabian Cancellara: It was not even the plan to attack

Fabian Cancellara confirmed his incredible early-season form by riding to a superb solo win in the third and hardest race of the Mallorca Challenge series, the Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana, Saturday.

 

It wasn't in the team's plan for Cancellara to join the 23-man breakaway and then seal the win by out-riding his escapees in the long descent off the final big climb, the Puig Major. But cycling is like that, and Spartacus is showing impressive form for January.

 

"I had no expectation to be in the breakaway," explained Cancellara. "It was unclear if the break would make it. At the end, I was just trying to save as much energy as I could and followed the attacks from the group. In the last climb somehow I managed to survive, and then I felt some good feelings return.

 

"Alain (Gallopin, director) told me to go full gas in the downhill, to just try, and by the bottom, I had 45 seconds. Then I was just fighting and fighting to the end."

 

Cancellara crested the highest climb in Mallorca leading the bulk of the breakaway group and behind four leaders that had gained a small advantage. He quickly caught back the four, then made little work in dropping all – at the bottom he had a nifty 50-second lead. 

 

"Honestly it was not on the plan to focus on the win for Fabian," confirmed director Alain Gallopin. "But between the plan and the race - and I said this also in the meeting - you can have a plan and sometimes the race turns out completely different. We also talked about the key being the last big downhill, and in this way Fabian won the race.

 

"In the last 25 kilometers, 16 were downhill so the descent of Puig Major was the critical moment in the race and I think that motivated Fabian. I told him that a guy like you can save energy and then directly drop everyone in the downhill. And at the end of the downhill he had 50 seconds on everyone and then he kept 30 seconds in the finale. He is strong. We knew that already from our training camp that Fabian is ready."

 

When you give one of the best against the clock that much headstart – even with one final four-kilometer hill to navigate in the final kilometers – there is little hope of catching him back.

 

Cancellara had enough time at the finish to celebrate his win and enjoy his first victory in his final season. Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) finished second in consecutive days, 17 seconds later, and Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal) rounded out the podium.

 

"I wasn't sure about the time gap in the last kilometers, " continued Cancellara. "I knew that Sky was moving behind, and so I knew that I had to just give everything. I was fully exhausted at the finish. But so was everyone – it has been a harder race this year with the nice weather. It was full gas all day, not one minute of relaxing."

 

"I tried hard yesterday, and it didn’t work, and today I did not go to the [team's] plan, and it did. These things, the way they happen, are like for a storybook. I am happy, very satisfied, and now I can relax and then go to Dubai.

 

 "I'm tired, it was a very hard race and it was very fast on all climbs, I feel good and happy. I did not think I could be ahead and I was on the limit on Puig Major but since the car said ‘if you have the opportunity to attack on the descent, only the last five of the last 15 kilometers are demanding’.

 

"It is always important and nice to win, for me personally, for my family, the team, the sponsor, for everyone who is working with me to enjoy this last year of my career. I enjoy every day and I have joy which is important for me. I enjoy my work, my passion and I have nothing to lose."

 

"Fabian managed very well because at 10kms to go there was still a climb of four kilometers, not steep but still a climb, and at the top with 5kms to go a group was 27 seconds behind," Gallopin added. "But again in the downhill he took more time and then went full gas to the end.”

 

Another second place for Michal Kwiatkowski in Mallorca

Michal Kwiatkowski was denied a race win for the second day in a row at Challenge Mallorca.

 

The Pole fought hard in the final 10 kilometres to chase breakaway leader Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafredo) but the Swiss rider was too strong, and Kwiatkowski had to settle for second place again after Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx Quick-Step) beat him in similar fashion on day two in Mallorca.

 

Lars Petter Nordhaug finished 13th, while Leopold Konig, who finished ninth on day two, came in 15th.

It was yet another exciting day of racing on the Spanish island and Team Sky were represented in the early break, with Benat Intxausti going clear.

 

The group of more than 20 riders stretched their lead to nearly three minutes at times and were comfortable over the first big climb of the day, but once the race reached Puig Major - Mallorca's largest mountain - the break became fractured.

 

The peloton started to claw their way back to the leaders before Cancellara, who had been in the break with Intxausti, turned on the after burners.

 

He went solo with 15km to go and quickly built up a lead of almost a minute, which always looked like being too much for anyone to bridge.

 

Kwiatkowski, aided by Konig and Nordhaug, tried hard to get across and, with 4km to go, the gap was down to 30 seconds - but Cancellara held on.

 

Speaking after the stage, Sport Director Servais Knaven praised Cancellara, adding that the team did all they could to try and pull him back.

 

He said: "You have to say Cancellara was really strong and he did a great descent off the Puig Major. Our guys tried everything but couldn't catch him at the end.

 

"At the bottom of the descent he had a 50 second advantage and there was only 9km to go. Our guys did everything they could to catch him, they pulled back 30 seconds, but couldn't make it."

 

Knaven added that the team nearly executed their plan for the day to perfection, but for Cancellara's bold attack.

 

"Benat [Intxausti] and David Lopez were in the early break and our plan was to control the race, catch that breakaway with a smaller group at the top of the second last climb, and they were only 30 seconds behind at that point - but then Cancellara attacked from the breakaway."

 

Despite the disappointment of just missing out on the win again, the team still had five riders finish in the top 25, and morale remains high ahead of the final stage.

 

Knaven added: "As a team we were really strong again today. Every single rider did a great job. Sadly it didn't work out - it would have been really nice to take the flowers, but sometimes that's just how it happens.

 

"It's a lot flatter tomorrow and usually it's a big chance for a bunch sprint. We'll try again with Andy Fenn, give him a chance, and we'll see where he can finish."


In-form Brambilla after fourth place: I had hoped for a harder race

One day later after scoring his first win in the Etixx – Quick-Step jersey, Gianluca Brambilla had another impressive ride and came home 4th, ahead of former Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana winner Alejandro Valverde. Victorious in the Trofeo Pollença-Port de Andratx on Friday, Brambilla wasn't the sole rider of the team in the top 10, with Maxime Bouet getting 7th from the group that finished 17 seconds adrift.

 

"Today's race was another hard one, but this didn't came as a surprise, considering the parcours. Maxime and I stayed all the time in the first part of the peloton, ready to react if someone would have attacked. We had hoped for the fireworks to start earlier, in order to create a proper selection, but as this wasn't the case, we decided to play our cards in the finale. Eventually, we both came in the top 10, and I think we can be happy with these results, which bring us even more confidence for the next races of the season", Gianluca Brambilla explained in Deia.

 

“After a difficult season due to a virus, I'm glad to find the adrenaline and play for the win! 7t,” Bouet tweeted after the stage.

 

Alejandro Valverde unable to defend title in Mallorca

Despite a victory like his extraordinary success in 2015 not arrivig, Alejandro Valverde and the rest of the Movistar Team showed great attitude again on day three of the Challenge Mallorca, the demanding Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana, with no less than seven climbs in just 144km.

 

The Spanish road race champion - still more than three months away from the Giro d’Italia, which will have an impact on most of his preparations tackling the start of this season - was 5th in a small group’s sprint, 17” behind a superior Fabian Cancellara (TFR). The Swiss superstar escaped on the downhill of the Puig Major (Cat-2), after chasing down a four-rider group belonging to an original, 23-man breakaway, which included two from the Movistar Team: Dayer Quintana and Ion Izagirre.

 

While the Colombian was neutralized by the field - always under control from Sky and Bora - on the Col de Sa Batalla (Cat-2), the Basque, winner of the Intermediate Sprints classification today, moved ahead and reached the front of the race, following an attack from Louis Vervaeke (LTS). Behind, the Movistar Team riders brought Valverde to the front, the Spaniard 40” down at the summit of the Puig Major and bridging with the chase group at the Coll d’En Bleda (Cat-3), as Cancellara was already riding solo towards success. José Herrada also finished into Valverde’s group for 16th place; Gorka Izagirre was 20th.

 

The 2016 Mallorca Challenge will come to a close on Sunday morning, with the 162km Trofeo Playa de Palma - Palma, where a sprint finish is arguably the only feasible finish.

 

Strong Dimension Data climbers win teams classification in Mallorca

Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka had a really positive day, being part of the action from start to finish. First up Johann van Zyl was part of the early action, winning the sprint prime which earned him the Meta Volante prize on the day. Then it was Daniel Teklehaimanot who made it into the 23-rider break of the day.

 

The African Team were able to have 3 riders go over the top of the final climb of the day in the select chase group that sprinted for 2nd place. Merhawi Kudus was first across the line in 6th, Serge Pauwels was 8th and Kanstantsin Siutsou was 11th. These results saw Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka win the team prize for today's race. 

 

”This was the hardest race of the Mallorca Challenge, not only on paper but also really hard racing,” Pauwels said. “It was full gas the whole day with a lot of climbing. In the long breakaway we had Daniel which was good but the whole time the race was never over as Sky was taking control. The race was made by the high tempo just eliminating riders one by one.

 

”Finally, in the last part of the race when everyone was caught except Cancellara, we had Kosta, Merhawi and me still in the front. We sprinted for 2nd place but you could see everyone was on their limit.

 

”Personally I am happy with the shape that I am in because I had a really nice winter and it's good to get that confirmation in the race.”

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