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Coming perfectly off the wheel of his teammate Rojas, Valverde powered clear to take a convincing sprint win on a very wet second stage of the Volta a Catalunya; Paterski defended the lead

Photo: Sirotti

ALEJANDRO VALVERDE

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CCC DEVELOPMENT TEAM

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JOSE JOAQUIN ROJAS GIL

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MACIEJ PATERSKI

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MARTIN ELMIGER

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MOVISTAR TEAM

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VOLTA A CATALUNYA

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24.03.2015 @ 17:43 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) proved that the time when he can win bunch sprints is not over yet when he took a hugely impressive win on stage 2 of the Volta a Catalunya. Having been perfectly positioned on the wheel of Jose Joaquin Rojas, he easily passed his teammate to take his second win of the season while Maciej Paterski (CCC) finished safely in the peloton to defend his overall lead.

 

Going into the Volta a Catalunya, Alejandro Valverde was widely tipped as the man in the Volta a Catalunya. The many punchy climbs suit the Spaniard perfectly and with a number of flat finishes at the end of hilly stages, he was expected to pick up a few bonus seconds along the way.

 

Today he started the process of taking back time from Pierre Rolland (Europcar), Bart De Clercq (Lotto Soudal) and Maciej Paterski who were given a surprise advantage in the hectic first stage where wrong information from the race radio meant that the chase got organized too late. Living up to his reputation as a fast finisher, he picked up 10 important bonus seconds when he emerged as the strongest in a bunch sprint at the end of a very wet day in Catalonia.

 

Today there was never any risk of a repeat of yesterday’s outcome as the four-man breakaway was kept firmly under control by Paterski’s CCC team and inside the final 20km, the escapees were caught. In the finale, there was a small category 3 climb and a longer uncategorized ascent which made for some tough racing and Movistar clearly knew that it was a good opportunity for their captain.

 

The Spanish team hit the front on the categorized ascent and their fast pace strung out the main group. At the same time, many fast finishers were left behind, most notably Bryan Coquard (Europcar) who lost contact with 6km to go.

 

The fast pace made it impossible for anyone to escape and it all came down to a bunch sprint on the wet roads in Olot. Here Etixx-QuickStep took control, trying to set Julian Alaphilippe up for a sprint win and the Frenchman was given the perfect lead-out by Petr Vakoc.

 

However, Movistar had positioned themselves well and behind the Frenchman, it was team sprinter Jose Joaquin Rojas and Valverde who were ready to strike. The former anticipated the sprint from Alaphilippe and as he easily distanced his rival, he seemed to be heading for a win. However, Valverde suddenly powered past his teammate and while Rojas sat up to celebrate, the leader easily distanced the rest of the field to take an impressive victory. Martin Elmiger (IAM) nearly passed Rojas but had to settle for second.

 

Maciej Paterski finished safely with the bunch and so he defended his four-second lead over Rolland. He faces a much harder test tomorrow when stage 3 brings the riders over 156 very hilly kilometres around Girona. They will face two category 3, one category 2 and two category 1 climbs along the way and the category 1 Alt dels Angels summits just 13km from the finish  before the riders descend to a few flat kilometres in the end.

 

A tricky course

After the surprise outcome of the opening stage, the riders faced a similarly tricky stage on day two of the Volta a Catalunya. The 191.8km route brought the riders from Mataro to Olot and included a category 3 climb in the early part before a long rolling section at the midpoint. In the finale, the riders went up a small category 3 climb before the tackled a 5km uncategorized ascent. The final 6km were either descending or flat, meaning that the stage was expected to be a tough affair.

 

There was one non-starter when the riders gathered in Mataro as Rodolfo Torres (Colombia) had fallen ill and was forced out of the race. The remaining riders headed out for their ride under a rainy, cloudy sky on a cold day in Catalunya.

 

The break is formed

Yesterday it took a long time for the early break to get formed but today the race got off to a much calmer start. Already after 5km of racing, Tom Stamsnijder (Giant-Alpecin), Sam Bewley (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Heiner Parra (Caja Rural) attacked and their move laid the foundations for the early break.

 

Parra was tailed off and instead Tsgabu Grmay (Lampre-Merida) and Lluis Mas (Caja Rural) managed to join the leaders to from a strong front quartet that was already 2 minutes ahead after 11km of racing. 5km later, it had reached 3.46 but that was as much as they would get.

 

CCC take control

After yesterday’s surprise, CCC were in no mood to have a similar outcome so the Polish team hit the front to stabilize the situation. When Grmay led Bewley, Mas and Stamsnijder over the top of the first climb at the 27km mark, the advantage was still only 3.50.

 

For most of the day, CCC kept the gap stable between 3.30 and 4.30, with the advantage reaching a maximum of 4.30 at the 50km mark. After 90km of racing, it was 3.45 and at this point, Nick van der Lijke (LottoNL-Jumbo) was forced to leave the race.

 

Stamsnijder wins the sprint

The peloton made a small acceleration to reduce their deficit to 2.30 with 80km to go before they again allowed the gap to grow back up to more than 3 minutes. It was still the CCC team doing all the work and the major teams were content to save some energy for tomorrow.

 

With 55km to go, the gap was again down to 2.30 at a point when Stamsnijder won the first intermediate sprint ahead of Mas and Grmay. It stayed around that mark for a little while but as the fight for position intensified, they lost ground quickly inside the final 35km.

 

The break splits up

When Mas led Bewley and Stamsnijder across the line in the second intermediate sprint with 27km to go, the gap was only 1.25 and 6km later, they had less than a minute. This prompted Mas to attack and while Bewley and Stamsnijder were distanced immediately, Grmay managed to claw his way back to the leader.

 

Inside the final 20km, Grmay came through to take a turn but just as that happened, Mas attacked again. This time the Ethiopian had no response but Mas was only 18 seconds ahead of the peloton and before they passed the 15km to go mark, he was back in the fold.

 

Movistar hit the front

Movistar hit the front on the final climb and it was Jose Herrada who led Valverde and Maxime Bouet (Etixx-QuickStep) over the top. Many riders were now getting dropped in the tough terrain.

 

Sky, Astana, Movistar and Tinkoff-Saxo set a hard pace in the final part of the stage and this was too much for Coquard who finally had to surrender with 6km to go. In the end, it came down to a sprint and here Valverde emerged as the fastest.

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