Van Avermaet Sprints to Fifth in Thrilling Finale in Valencia1. February 2018, Albuixech (ESP) — Road Team
Greg Van Avermaet survived the tough final El Garbi climb on stage 2 of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana to sprint to fifth place out of a chase group, featuring Brent Bookwalter and Kilian Frankiny, behind stage winner Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team).
Early in the stage, five riders went clear and gained an advantage of almost three minutes after just 15km of racing while behind, all BMC Racing Team riders remained in the bunch.
The peloton was happy to sit up and allow the group go seven minutes clear until the halfway mark of the 154km stage when the peloton had brought their advantage down to four minutes.
On the Puerto de Eslida, Alessandro De Marchi jumped clear with five other riders and hovered ahead of the bunch but the group was eventually reeled in over the top of the climb with 66km to go.
From there, the peloton continued to bring the breakaway back and as Team Sky led the charge at the base of El Garbi, the five riders were just one minute ahead.
The fast pace on the steep climb saw riders immediately dropped from the back of the bunch and as the group made the catch with 35km remaining, the pace lifted again as more riders tried to go clear.
Valverde responded to an attack from Jakob Fulgsang (Astana Pro Team) in the final kilometers of the category 1 climb and the duo quickly gained an advantage, before later being joined by Fulgsang’s teammates Luis Leon Sanchez.
Team Sky led the chase on the descent and in the final 20km, were joined by Bookwalter and Frankiny who put everything they had into the chase to bring the trio back and set the stage for Van Avermaet in the finale.
Despite a strong and coordinated chase behind, Valverde’s group managed to hold their 30-second advantage and stay away until the line, where Valverde beat Sanchez and Fulgsang in the sprint.
19 seconds later, Van Avermaet’s group came charging down the finish straight and in the battle for minor places, Van Avermaet crossed the line second to take fifth place on the day.
The General Classification shake up now see Van Avermaet sit in 7th place overall and Bookwalter in 9th ahead of the 23km team time trial.
Quotes from the Finish Line
Greg Van Avermaet:
“My sensations were really good. It was really nice to be there with the best on the top of the final climb and I was really happy with it. It was a bit sad that we could not bring Valverde and the others back because it was a really nice opportunity to have a stage win. Team Sky tried and we directly put Kilian Frankiny and Brent Bookwalter up there after the descent. It was just crazy that we we couldn’t bring them back because I thought we could close the gap easily and I would have a chance for a stage win. But in the end, it is like this. I was feeling really good and I was really happy that I was up there with a lot of climbers.”
“It’s been a good five months since I’ve pushed myself hard like I did up that finishing climb. It’s a little bit of a relief to know that it’s still in there and it was also really nice and encouraging to be at the front of the race, feel the moment, and have the chance to work for Greg again. We see it all the time. Sometimes you’re on the good end of it and sometimes you’re on the bad end of it but it was one of those days where you logically look at the effort we were doing, with the guys we were doing it with, and you would have thought that time gap on those roads would have come back. But here we are. Hopefully we have a good ride tomorrow. As everyone knows, the team time trial is kind of our thing. I haven’t done a team time trial with the guys since Catalunya last year so I’ll try not to bring up too much PTSD from that.”
“Already yesterday in the final it was a bit harder and I was still up there and that was the main goal yesterday. Today, I felt good. I was still in the first group on the last climb and the three guys went and behind, we began to work for Greg. Brent and I gave it all, and most of the others I think, but we didn’t catch them. We were five or six guys pulling full gas behind behind we couldn’t bring them back. The first big objective is to win the TTT tomorrow and then we will see how it looks for the young rider jersey. It would be a nice way to start the season but I think if we can get a victory with Greg or with Brent, it’s even better.”
Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana
Stage 2 Betera > Albuixech (154km)
Top 3: 1. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team), 2. Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana Pro Team), 3. Jakob Fulgsang (Astana Pro Team).
BMC Racing Team top 3: 5. Greg Van Avermaet, 17. Brent Bookwalter, 24. Kilian Frankiny.