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With a great solo ride, Brambilla held off a small chase group to claim Etixx-QuickStep’s first 2016 victory at the Trofeo Pollenca-Andratx; Kwiatkowski beat Stybar and the rest of the group in the sprint for second

Photo: Etixx-QuickStep / Tim De Waele

CHALLENGE MALLORCA

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GIANLUCA BRAMBILLA

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MICHAL KWIATKOWSKI

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QUICK-STEP - ALPHA VINYL

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ZDENEK STYBAR

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29.01.2016 @ 17:04 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Gianluca Brambilla took his second pro win and the first 2016 victory for Etixx-QuickStep when he successfully completed a great solo ride at the Trofeo Pollenca-Andratx, the second race of the Challenge Mallorca. The Italian held off a strong chase group that was led to the finish by Michal Kwiatkowski in his first race for Sky and his Etixx-QuickStep teammate Zdenek Stybar.

 

In 2010, Gianluca Brambilla took a first pro win at the GP Nobili Rubinetterie in his first year with Colnago-CSF Inox but since then he has failed to achieve a single win. Things didn’t get any easier when an impressive 13th place at the 2012 Giro d’Italia allowed him to join Etixx-QuickStep where he has mostly worked as a domestique in the mountains.

 

However, Brambilla has always had great personal ambitions and when he renewed his contract a few months ago, one of his big goals was to finally get that elusive second victory. Today he got his 2016 season off to the best possible start as he won his first race of the 2016 season, Trofeo Pollenca-Andratx.

 

The race is the second event in the four-day Challenge Mallorca series and had a significantly hillier profile than yesterday’s opening race. It was a pair of late category 3 climbs that Brambilla used as a launch pad when he first joined a small breakaway and then made a solo move. In the end he completed a solo ride of more than 20km and managed to hold off a strong chase group with most of the biggest names in the race.

 

It had been a very fast start to the race which was dominated by a big 36-rider group that had a 2-minute advantage at one point. Dimenion Data and Lotto Soudal had been chasing for most of the day and when the group hit the two late climbs, the gap was down to less than a minute.

 

The front group soon splintered and as Dimension Data continued to ride hard, André Greipel was distanced from the peloton. At the 109km mark in the 153km race, the peloton had reduced the gap to 55 seconds. The attacking started when Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) and Jose Herrada (Movistar) took off but that move had no success. Moments later, Marcel Sieberg (Lotto Soudal) led Imanol Estevez (Euskadi) and Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) over the top, with the peloton following at 33 seconds.

 

The peloton finally caught the break and it was a 50-rider front group that hit the final climb. That was the scene of some attacking and it was a 34-rider group that formed, with a 40-second advantage at the 125km mark. Over the next group. Gorka Izagirre (Movistar), Lars Petter Nordhaug (Sky), Ramunas Navardauskas (Cannondale), Matteo Trentin, Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-QuickStep), Jasper Stuyven (Trek), Tiesj Benoot and Sieberg (Lotto Soudal) escaped from that group and Benoot led Izagirre, Brambilla and Nordhaug over the top.

 

Brambilla made a solo move and he had put 20 seconds into his chasers at the 135km mark. At this point, the first peloton was at 38 seconds and the second peloton at 1.23.

 

The chasers were caught and Brambilla only had a 30-second advantage over a 25-rider chase group after 141km of racing. It was 38 seconds with five kilometres to go, 24 seconds with four kilometres to go and he entered the final 2km with a small 10-second advantage after Trek had done a lot of chase work.

 

Brambilla only had 7 seconds with 500m but it turned out to be enough as the peloton came up short. He had time to celebrate his win before Michal Kwiatkowski beat his teammate Zdenek Stybar, Benoot and Dylan van Baarle (Cannondale) in the sprint for second.

 

Estevez won the mountains, sprints, special sprints and combination classifications while Brambilla was the most combative rider.

 

The riders will face even hillier conditions for tomorrow’s third race of the series. Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana offers no less than four category 2 and two category2 climbs on a course that barely has a single metre of flat roads. The famous Coll de Puig Maor comes just 27km from the finish and from there it is a long descent, a small category 3 climb and a rolling final seven kilometres to the finish.

 

A hilly race

After yesterday’s flat opener, the riders entered hillier terrain in the Trofeo Pollenca-Andratx which brought the riders over 153km from Pollenca to Andratx. After a flat start, the riders tackled the category 2 Coll de Femenias after 50km of racing and then headed back onto flat roads. In the finale, the category 3 climbs Coll des Grau and Coll de Gallea followed in quick succession, with the final ascent summit 31.8km from the finish. The final part was flat.

 

It was a perfect day for bike racing when the 168 riders rolled out for their neutral ride in the northern part of Mallorca. With the hilly course lending itself to numerous possible outcomes, it was no surprise that it was an extremely fast start with lots of attack. Movistar, Lotto Soudal, IAM, Dimension Data and Etixx-QuickStep were among the most active teams but it was impossible for anyone to escape.

 

A big break

Cannondale, Caja Rural and IAM were all active but when a group finally went clear at the 21 mark, it was Anthony Perez (Cofidis), Ilart Zuazubiskar (Spain) and Daniel Bichlmann (Bikeaid) that had made the move. Three kilometres later they were joined by Ryan Mullen (Cannondale), Olivier Le Gac (FDJ), Martin Elmiger (IAM), Angel Madrazo (Caja Rural), Hugh Carthy (Caja Rural), Artur Ershov (Gazprom-Rusvelo), Juan Carlos Riutort (Burgos) and Imanol Estevez (Euskadi) but the difference was always minimal.

 

The attacking continued and a 22-rider group with Giovanni Visconti, Jorge Arcas (Movistar), Leopold König (Sky), Ramunas Navardauskas (Cannondale), Maxime Bouet (Etixx-QuickStep), Fabio Felline, Gregory Rast, Jasper Stuyven (Trek), Marcel Sieberg (Lotto Soudal), Jose Mendes, Gregor Mühlberger (Bora-Argon 18), Loic Chetout, Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Victor Martin (Burgos), Benat Txoperena, Adrian Gonzalez (Euskadi), Ivan Balykin (GM Europa), Sergei Shilov (Lokosphinx), Julio Amores, Marcos Jurado (Spain) and Jonathan Dibben (Great Britain) was formed just 7 seconds behind the leaders, with the peloton following at 25 seconds. The junction was made to create a big 33-rider break and when Dominik Nerz (Bora-Argon 18), Giacomo Tomio (Team Roth) and Jay Robert Thomson (Dimension Data) also made it across, 36 riders had gathered.

 

Dimension Data starts to chase

Estevez Julio Amores and Navardauskas (Cannondale) in the intermediate sprint at the 35.7km mark just before they hit the first climb of the day. Here the peloton had slowed down and the gap had gone out to 1.50 as they approached the top where Estevez beat Jurado, Sieberg, Madrazo, Mendes and Shilov in the KOM sprint.

 

As the riders tackled the descent, the gap was down to 1.20 as Dimension Data had started to chase and it was only 1.05 at the 55km mark. Just 2km later, it dropped to 58 seconds and after 63km of fast racing, it was just 30 seconds. The fast pace had reduced the peloton to just 50 riders.

 

The gap grows

The peloton was unable to keep its momentum after the descent and when Estevez beat Dibben and Jurado in the special sprint at the 72km mark, the gap had gone out to a minute. At the 80km mark, it was 1.30 and it even reached 2.20 at the 2.20km mark.

 

Dimension Data were still doing all the work as they got to the 100km with a deficit of 2 minutes but now Lotto Soudal came to the fore to lend them a hand. When Navardauskas beat Esteves and Amores in the final intermediate sprint at the 103.7km mark, it was down to just 1.20.

 

When the group hit the two late climbs, Riutort was the first to get dropped and the group soon splintered to pieces. Perez, Bichlmann and two riders from the Spanish team were all distanced before the got to the top. It didn’t take long for the peloton to make the junction and in the end it was Brambilla that came out on top.

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