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With a powerful acceleration at the flamme rouge, Martin put 2 seconds into a group of favourites in the summit finish on stage 2 of Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana to win his first race for Etixx-QuickStep; Poels defended the lead

Photo: Etixx-QuickStep / Tim De Waele

DANIEL MARTIN

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JESUS HERRADA

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QUICK-STEP - ALPHA VINYL

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TEAM SKY

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VOLTA A LA COMUNITAT VALENCIANA

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04.02.2016 @ 17:08 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Daniel Martin got his Etixx-QuickStep career off to the best possible start when he used his explosive punch to win the first mountaintop finish of the European season on stage 2 of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana. With a powerful surge at the flamme rouge, he put two seconds into a select group of favourites that was led to the finish by Jesus Herrada (Movistar) and race leader Wout Poels (Sky) who defended his position at the top of the GC.

 

Crashes and bad luck meant that the 2015 season was a bit of a disaster for Dan Martin. The Irishman decided that it was time to change his fortunes by moving to a new team and he signed a contract with Etixx-QuickStep after have spent his entire career at Jonathan Vaughters’ team.

 

Apparently, the move has done him good as he rode to victory in just his second race for the team. In the first mountain stage on the second day of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, he used his trademark kick to distance his rivals at the top of the relatively easy Alto de Fredes climb and managed to hold off the chasers by 2 seconds to open his account much earlier than he has usually done.

 

It had been a day of full Sky control as the British team had been chasing behind the five-rider break of Pablo Torres (Burgos), Anton Vorobyev (Katusha), Federico Burchio (GM Europa), Arits Bagues (Euskadi) and Fabio Chinello (D’Amico). As the fight for position for the final 15km climb intensified, the pace picked up and the escapees only had a 35-second advantage when they hit the climb.

 

Torres attacked right from the bottom and the group splintered to pieces. Bagues was his nearest chaser, followed by Vorobyev. Further back Johnny Hoogerland (Roompot) launched the first attack from the peloton and he passed Chinello before catching Burchio. However, Vasil Kiryienka was setting a relentless pace for Sky and quickly brought everybody but Torres back.

 

With 13km to go, Kiryienka caught Torres and an Euskadi rider that had made a short-lived move and continued to set the pace while Movistar were lined out next to him. Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani) was the next to give a go and he quickly got company from Imanol Estevez (Esuakdi).

 

The pair stayed around 10 second ahead of the peloton for a few kilometres but as they didn’t manage to extend their advantage, the Italian decided to sit up. In the peloton, it was still Kiryienka setting the pace.

 

The first big team to show their cards was Movistar that sent Jose Herrada on the attack with 7km to go. He quickly dropped a Gazprom-Rusvelo rider that tried to join him and sprinted past Estevez who was caught.

 

David Lopez took over the pace-setting in the peloton and for most of the climb, it was status quo, with the Sky rider keeping Herrada at around 10-15 second. Meanwhile, the peloton slowly got smaller and smaller but it still contained around 40 riders when they got to the final 3km.

 

With 2km to go, Pieter Weening (Roompot) took off and this ended the day for Lopez. Instead, Mikel Nieve took over and he quickly brought the Dutchman back.

 

Herrada passed the flamme rouge with an advantage of less than 10 seconds and now things were heating up. Daniel Navarro (Cofidis) launched an attack but was quickly passed by Martin who attacked just at the 1km to go mark.

 

Martin and Navarro passed Herrada who was picked up by the peloton before the Cofidis rider had to surrender. He was passed by the splintering peloton which was led by Ion Izagirre (Movistar), race leader Wout Poels and Jesus Herrada. The peloton failed to catch Martin who had time to sit up and celebrate the win before Herrada beat Poels, Benat Intxausti (Sky) and Tom Jelte-Slagter (Cannondale) in the sprint for second from a group of around 15 riders that arrived two seconds too late.

 

With no bonus seconds in the race, Poels comfortably defended his overall lead and still has a 15-second advantage over Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) who finished 8th, with Diego Rosa (Astana) 7 seconds further adrift in third. He will try to defend his position in tomorrow’s third stage which should be the first opportunity for the sprinters as the only climbing challenge is a small category 3 climb in the first part of the stage.

 

A summit finish

After the opening time trial, the riders headed straight into the mountains on stage 2 which brought the riders over 163.3km from Castellon to a summit finish on Alto de Fredes. After a flat start, the riders tackled a category 2 climb and the midpoint and then headed along flat roads to the bottom of the final 15km climb that averaged 4.6%.

 

It was a great day for a bike race when the riders gathered for the start. Everybody that finished the time trial, was present as they headed out for their neutral ride.

 

Five riders get clear

The breakaway was established right from the start when Pablo Torres (Burgos), Artits Bagues (Euskadi) and Fabio Chinello (Amico) attacked as soon as the flag was dropped. Anton Vorobyev (Katusha) who crashed in yesterday's time trial, and Federico Burchio (GM Europe) soon joined them and the quintet was already 1.18 ahead of the peloton after 2km of racing. The gap was two minutes at the 5km mark, 4.37 after 10 kilometers and a maximum of 5.25 minutes seven kilometers later.

 

Sky took control with Alex Peters and Nicolas Roche and slowly began to bring the lead down. It was 4.45 at the 32km mark but the field was still taking it easy. Thus, only 37.5km were done during the first hour. That gave Joaquim Rodriguez time to return to the field after a mechanical.

 

Burchio wins the KOM sprint

50 km after the start, the gap was still 4.40, and soon after they hit the first climb. Here the peloton accelerated and after Burchio had beaten Chinello, Bagues and Torres in the KOM sprint, the peloton reached the top just 3.50 behind the escapees.

 

The gap was 2.50 at the 90km mark and was briefly down to 2.20 at the midpoint of the stage. However, it was still too early to catch the break which was allowed to extend the advantage to 3.28 with 58km to go.

 

A fight for position

Peters and Roche slowly upped the pace and had reduced the gap to 2.25 when Chinello beat Vorobyev and Burchio in the intermediate sprint 41km from the finish. At this point, the fight for position slowly started and this automatically created a faster pace, with the gap dropping to 1.38 with 30km to go.

 

Inside the final 25km, Sky, Cannondale, Movistar and Asana lined up trains in the front row of the peloton and the faster pace made the gap decrease rapidly. It was 1.17 with 23km to and was down to 52 seconds four kilometres later.

 

Roche and Peters ended their day and Kiryienka took over the pace-setting as Sky and Movistar – led by Francisco Ventoso, Jorge Arcas and Imanol Erviti – were lined out on the front. Moments later those two teams led the peloton onto the climb where the final action played out.

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