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In a close sprint on the final stage of the Tour de San Luis, Cavendish finally managed to beat Gaviria; Diaz finished safely in the bunch to win the race overall

Photo: © Etixx - Quick-Step / Tim de Waele

DANIEL RICARDO DÍAZ

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FERNANDO GAVIRIA

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MARK CAVENDISH

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NAIRO QUINTANA

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QUICK-STEP - ALPHA VINYL

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TOUR DE SAN LUIS

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25.01.2015 @ 22:35 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

After two painful defeats, Mark Cavendish (Etixx-QuickStep) finally managed to beat Fernando Gaviria (Colombian national team) in a bunch sprint when the Brit took his first season victory on the final stage of the Tour de San Luis. After a formidable break had been caught, the Brit launched a long sprint and narrowly held off the Colombian and another sprint talent, Jakub Mareczko (Italy), while Daniel Diaz (Funvic) finished safely in the bunch to win the race overall for the second time in his career.

 

In the first two sprints of 2015, Mark Cavendish was left frustrated by sprint sensation Fernando Gaviria who beat the Brit in stages 1 and 3 of the Tour de San Luis. Today he had his final chance for revenge on the final stage of the Argentinean race and finally things came together for the Etixx-QuickStep star.

 

However, it all seemed as if there would be no sprint in San Luis as a formidable break with the likes of Adriano Malori (Movistar), Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre-Merida), Michal Golas (Etixx-QuickStep), Ben Gastauer (Ag2r) and Ben King (Cannondale-Garmin) nearly prevented the sprinters from getting their chance. For a long time, it seemed as the 9 riders would stay away and it took a concerted effort from Colombia, the Colombian national team, Bretagne and UnitedHealthCare to catch the final escapees inside the final 5km.

 

With Golas in the break, Etixx-QuickStep had been allowed to save their legs for the sprint finish while Gaviria’s teammates had been working hard. Hence, he was in the perfect position when Etixx-QuickStep took control inside the final 2km.

 

However, Lampre-Merida had big plans with Sacha Modolo and Filippo Pozzato and Maximiliano Richeze managed to pass the Belgians with their fast Italian on their wheel. Michal Kwiatkowski managed to move Cavendish back into position when he passed the Lampre-Merida riders and Modolo had to move into fifth behind the world champion, Fabio Sabatini, Cavendish and Gaviria.

 

Sabatini gave Cavendish a perfect lead-out and this time he didn’t give Gaviria the chance to anticipate. He launched a long sprint and even though both Gaviria and Jakub Mareczko almost passed him, he managed to take a narrow victory.

 

For Daniel Diaz, it was a calm day in the saddle and the Argentinean could step onto the podium to celebrate his second overall victory. He beat Rodolfo Torres (Colombia) by 1.05 while defending champion Nairo Quintana (Movistar) was third at 1.34.

 

With a sneaky move on the final stage, Torres managed to take the win in the mountains competition while Juan Esteban Arango (Colombia national team) won the sprints classification. Rodrigo Contreras (Colombia national team) was the best young rider while Colombia won the teams competition.

 

With the Tour de San Luis done and dusted, attention turns back to Europe for the first races in cycling’s heartland. The Challenge Mallorca starts on Thursday and on Sunday, the GP Marseillaise starts the French season.

 

A circuit race

After the queen stage, the sprinters were expected to be back in the spotlight for the final stage of the Tour de San Luis. The short 122.7km stage saw the riders tackle a circuit around the city of San Luis and the riders would go around it three times. The first half was mainly uphill before the riders descended back to the finish and there were KOM points on offer, the first time up one of the smaller climbs in the first part.

 

The riders took the start in the usual hot conditions that the Argentine race has offered and they got the race off to an unusual beginning. Rodolfo Torres (Colombia) had started the stage equal on points with race leader Daniel Diaz (Funvic) in the mountains classification but was only second in the competition and he wanted to make use of the final KOM sprint of the race to take the lead.

 

Torres wins the mountains jersey

The sprint was located after 17.5km of racing and so the Colombia team hit the front right from the beginning to keep things under control. An Ag2r rider and a rider from the Colombian national team launched an early attack but they were quickly brought back and the subsequent attempt from Andrey Sartassov (San Luis), Julian Barrientos (Argentina) and Machiol Rodriguez (Chile) did not have much fortune either.

 

The riders quickly realized that it served no purpose to try to escape before the sprint and so Colombia was allowed to maintain their fast pace until the 17.5km mark. Here Torres did what he had to as he led his teammate Leonardo Duque and Luis Felipe Laverde (Colombian national team) across the line.

 

A formidable break

With the mountains competition decided, it was time for the early break to be established and lots of riders were keen to make it into the move. However, things were still together at the first intermediate sprint where Sebastian Tolosa (Buenos Aires) beat sprints leader Juan Esteban Arango (Colombian national team) and Jose Rodriguez (Chile).

 

Several attacks were launched and when the elastic had snapped, a formidable 9-rider group had gone clear. Adriano Malori (Movistar), Enzo Moyano (San Luis), Ben Gastauer (Ag2r), Michal Golas (Etixx-QuickStep), Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre-Merida), Ben King (Cannondale-Garmin), Marco Bandiera (Androni) and Mauro Finetto (Italy) started to build an advantage while the peloton took a small breather.

 

Several teams start to chase

When the gap had reached 2.50, the peloton realized that something had to be done. Until then, Diaz’ Funvic team just been riding tempo but now the Colombian national team started to chase, with the South Americans being keen to set up Fernando Gaviria for a hattrick.

 

More teams joined the work and a cohesive effort from the Colombian national team, Colombia, UnitedHealthCare, Bretagne and San Juan started to pay off. The gap came down to 1.40 but as they received no help from the WorldTour teams that almost all had a rider in the front group, they lost momentum. Etixx-QuickStep decided not to contribute to the work and had Golas following wheels in the front group.

 

The gap grows

More and more teams ran out of power and the gap again started to come up. For some time, it stayed at 2.20 but it reached 3.00 before things started to change.

 

All the work was now left to UnitedHealthCare, Bretagne and Colombia but those three teams were fully committed. As a result, the escapees saw their gap come down to 1.45 with 43km to go.

 

The gap comes down

The Colombian national team also found more horsepower and again joined forces with the chasers. The work paid off and with 27km to go, the gap was only 25 seconds.

 

Finetto beat Gastauer and King in the final intermediate sprint of the race and the escapees were now again gaining some ground. At this point, however, some teams decided to change strategy, with riders attacking from the peloton.

 

Riders bridge across

A UnitedHealthCare rider and one from Jamis managed to bridge the gap to the break and this caused the pace to go down. Suddenly, it was the Katusha team riding on the front and as they had no sprinter, it was clear that the pace was not fast enough.

 

However, Bretagne still hadn’t given up and inside the final 10km, they lined out 5 riders on the front. Meanwhile, the attacking had now started in the front group which was no longer cooperating and it was the UnitedHealthCare rider who got clear. Golas and Bandiera managed to bridge the gap while the rest of the group disintegrated.

 

The break is caught

Gastauer was one of the first riders to get caught and later it was also over for Niemiec, King and the Jamis rider. Finally, the peloton also swept up the front trio with less than 5km to go after San Luis and Colombia had done a big work.

 

All was now set for a sprint finish and it was Etixx-QuickStep that hit the front with less than 2km to go. They were briefly passed by Lampre-Merida but Cavendish still managed to come away with the win.

 

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