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"We were keeping in mind that there wouldn’t be any attacks until the final 800m, maybe 1km, and we had to keep the pace when it came. At the end, we gave everything we had to stay as close to the front as possible and I think to...

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MOVISTAR TEAM

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RUBEN FERNANDEZ

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TOUR DOWN UNDER

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24.01.2015 @ 13:06 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Six days in Movistar Team colours have been more than enough for Rubén Fernández to gain GC leader condition in a telephone squad that had the Murcia-based rider as top performer in the Queen stage of the Tour Down Under, first event of the 2015 UCI WorldTour. The squad directed on Australian soil by José Luis Arrieta focused on taking the Spaniard calm to the foot of the second and last of the Old Willunga Hill climbs, end of the 151km stage five from McLaren Vale. Till then, the pushes by BMC, Tinkoff and even some late crosswinds by Astana forced the Blues to keep caution while protecting Fernández with the likes of Lastras, Capecchi, Herrada and a notable Gorka Izagirre.

 

Both Izagirre and Fernandez remained as head of the race until the last 1.4km, where two consecutive accelerations by Richie Porte (SKY) first strung out the group and later gave him a solo victory, ahead of still-race-leader Rohan Dennis (BMC) - only 2" between them after today's effort. Fernandez who initially followed the wheel of Tom Dumoulin (TGA), stayed close to Evans (BMC) during the first attack and eventually overtook the two to cross the line in a sensational 3rd spot, just 16" behind the winner.

 

Fernández's effort puts him up into fifth place overall, 24" adrift of Dennis and just 4" off the race top-3, with Izagirre also entering the first sheet of results, 9th on the day and in the overall classification. Sunday will offer the final race bonuses in the 90km urban circuit race in Adelaide, a mass sprint likely to offer Juanjo Lobato one last chance. Movistar Team clearly leads the teams competition - with Capecchi (17th) also in top-20 places - and is almost certain to be on the final podium.

 

“We knew we’d be getting to Australia in good form, but there’s always some uncertainty on your mind when you’re going to take on such a strong field and even more with the first race of the season," Fernandez said. "Looking at the result I got, clearly I can’t complain!

 

“There was a lot of stress all day with crosswinds, and the Astana riders put on a huge pace during the first Willunga climb. We were left to 30 riders in the first group and the team reacted fantastically from there. Having such a group like this by your side, helping you out so you don’t miss anything, to stay protected against the wind… is a massive satisfaction. The adaptation to the team has been marvellous - I couldn’t be happier.

 

"We were keeping in mind that there wouldn’t be any attacks until the final 800m, maybe 1km, and we had to keep the pace when it came. At the end, we gave everything we had to stay as close to the front as possible and I think today’s result was good. After the Tour Down Under, I should be racing the Volta ao Algarve and Paris-Nice - then there’s the Giro, where I wish to take the start and I’ll fight to earn my place. For the moment, things couldn’t have got to a better start.”

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