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With an unexpected move on the finishing circuit, Vandenbergh denied the sprinters the win on the final stage of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana; Poels took the overall win

Photo: Etixx-QuickStep / Tim De Waele














07.02.2016 @ 13:45 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Stijn Vandenbergh (Etixx-QuickStep) was finally rewarded for his loyal domestique services when he took a hugely surprising win in the flat final stage of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana. The Belgian made an unexpected move on the finishing circuit and managed to hold off the peloton by a few seconds before Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) beat Raymond Kreder (Roompot) in the sprint for second. Wout Poels (Sky) took the overall win ahead of Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) and his teammate Benat Intxausti.


Stijn Vandenbergh has become a bit of a fan favourite but his many impressive rides in the classics but as he has usually been asked to work for his teammates in the finales or denied the chance to take turns due to his poor sprint, he is still missing that elusive big one-day win. In fact his only wins date back to 2007 when he won a stage and the overall at the Tour of Ireland.


Today the Belgian finally got the chance to celebrate when he emerged as a hugely surprising winner of the final stage of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana which had been expected to be one for the sprinters. The Belgian made a move on the flat finishing circuit and as Cofidis got no help in the chase, he managed to hold the fast guys off and take a long overdue first win in Etixx-QuickStep colours.


The scene was set for a bunch sprint when Vandenbergh led his teammates and the rest of the peloton to the finish line at the start of the first of six laps of the flat 2.5km finishing circuit in Valencia. Bardiani took over from the Belgians before they sent Mirco Maestri off in an attack and this was where Vandenbergh made his move.


The Belgian latched onto the Italian’s wheel and after a bit of hesitation, they started to cooperate. In the peloton, Cofidis put Julien Simon on the front to set up a sprint for Nacer Bouhanni but he got no help at all. Hence, the gap went out to 12 seconds with 10km to go.


As Cofidis still got no assistance, the two leaders pushed their advantage out to 30 seconds and it was still 20 seconds with 6km to go. That’s when Vandenbergh realized that he was the strongest and with a small attack, he dropped Maestri. Further back, an Euskadi rider tried to attack but Bardiani shut it down before Simon went back to work.


With 4km to go, the gap was still 17 seconds and at the start of the final lap, he was 18 seconds ahead of Maestri and a Lokosphinx rider, with the peloton being led Simon four seconds further back. Vandenbergh put his head down and when he entered the finishing straight, it was evident that he was going to win. Christophe Laporte did the lead-out for Bouhanni in the sprint for second but he had to settle for fourth behind Dylan Groenewegen and Raymond Kreder.


Wout Poels finished safely in the bunch and so took the overall win with a 46-second advantage over Luis Leon Sanchez, with Benat Intxausti 10 seconds further adrift in third. In a dominant performance, the Dutchman also won the points, mountains and combination classifications while Sky was the best team.


With the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana done and dusted, attention in Spain turns to one-day racing, with Saturday’s Vuelta a Murcia and Sunday’s Clasica de Almeria preceding the Ruta del Sol which is the next stage race.


A flat finale

After yesterday’s queen stage, it w back into flat terrain for the final stage which saw the riders tackle 110.3km around the city of Valencia. After a flat start, the riders tackled a category 3 climb with 50 km before they returned to the city where they tackled six laps of a flat, non-technical 2.5km circuit.


It was a sunny but very windy day when the riders gathered for the start in Valencia. All riders that finished yesterday were present as they rolled out for their neutral ride where Fabio Aru (Astana) rejoined the peloton after a small mechanical.


A fast and windy start

The quiet atmosphere was immediately replaced by attacks as the real start was signalled and it was a frantic opening phase. Aritz Bagues (Euskadi), Sebestyen Szablocs (Tusnad), Kevin Van Melsen (Wanty) and Marco Tizza (D'Amico) were the first to establish a lead, and they were soon joined by Maciej Paterski (CCC), Ibai Salas (Burgos) and Nico Brüngger (Roth). The seven riders got a lead of 30 seconds but the peloton was very nervous because of the wind which split it into two groups.


Etixx-QuickStep liked the conditions and sent Tom Boonen and Niki Terpstra on the attack alongside Francisco Ventoso (Movistar). The trio joined the front group but Sky neutralized the move while the fast pace split the peloton even further.


Seven riders get clear

After 22km of racing, the two biggest groups with a gap of 10 seconds. At the same time, van Melsen, Ricardo Vilela (Caja Rura), Nikolay Mihaylov (CCC) and Etienne van Empel (Roompot) launched an attack. The latter was quickly dropped while the remaining three had a modest lead of 22 seconds after 36 km of racing where Sky and Euskadi controlled the peloton.


At the 38km mark, that group was also brought back and instead four riders escaped. They got company from another three to form a septet that was made up of Victor de la Parte (CCC), Mikel Iturria (Euskadi), Roman Maikin (Gazprom-Rusvelo), Huub Duyn (Roompot), Jesus del Pino (Burgos), Domingos Goncalves (Caja Rural) and van Melsen.


Katusha hit the front

The riders covered 41.5km during the first hour after which the peloton finally slowed down and allowed the gap to go out to a maximum of 1.20. However, Southeast quickly started to chase and they had reduced the gap to 1.12 when Katusha took over.


The Russians put Joaquim Rodriguez, Alberto Losada, Matvey Mamykin and Angel Vicoso on the front and they set a fast pace that reduced the gap to just 44 seconds at the 58km mark. At this point, they hit the climb where the Russians created a huge selection than reduced the bunch to around 50-60 riders.


Herrada takes off

As the gap was melting away, de la Parte set a brutal pace in the break and this was too much for Maikin and Goncalves who were both brought back by the peloton. A little later, Del Pino also had to surrender while van Melsen hung on for dear life.


Close to the top, Jesus Herrada (Movistar) attacked from the peloton and he bridged across to crest the summit in third position behind de la Parte and Duyn. The CCC rider rode aggressively on the descent but the gap was only 10 seconds as Katusha continued to set the pace with their four climbers.


The break is caught

A Sky rider and a rider from the Spanish national team crashed on the descent but that didn’t stop Katusha. The Russians brought the break back with 40km to go and that set the scene for a huge battle for position.


Sky took control with Alex Peters but Katusha quickly returned to the front with Rodriguez, Losada, Vicioso and Anton Vorobyev. However, they were unable to prevent a large group from regaining contact with 29km to go.


A fight for position

With 26km to go, Sky hit the front with Vasil Kiryienka before Peters again took over. For a brief moment, things calmed down but very soon Sky, Movistar and Bardiani were again battling for position.


Movistar hit the front with Jose Herrada and Francisco Ventoso before Dario Cataldo took a turn for Astana. Bardiani also came to the fore and IAM also moved up. Peters took one final turn before Vandenbergh led the peloton to the finish for the first time. Moments later he launched his move that turned out to be decisive. 



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