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Having escaped with Hirt on the final climb, de la Parte won the two-rider sprint in the first mountain stage of the Tour of Austria; Hirt took the lead with a 1-second advantage over Hermans

Photo: Pool Giro

BEN HERMANS

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TOUR OF AUSTRIA 

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08.07.2015 @ 16:45 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Victor de la Parte (Vorarlberg) continued his impressive 2015 season when he took a surprise win in the first mountain stage of the Tour of Austria. Having escaped with Jan Hirt (CCC) on the final climb, he beat his companion in the sprint while Ben Hermans (BMC) was 8 seconds behind in third. Hirt takes the overall lead with a 1-second advantage over Hermans.

 

At a time when the opportunities in Spain are limited, some of the riders have to chase success in foreign teams. One of the riders to follow a different path is 29-year-old Victor de la Parte who spent one year at Caja Rural before he spent years in Greece and Portugal.

 

Last year he won the prologuein the Volta a Portugal and that helped him secure a contract with the Austrian Vorarlberg team for the 2015 season. Here he has enjoyed a breakthrough season, most notably with an overall victory in the hard Fleche du Sud stage race.

 

Riding for an Austrian team, his biggest goal of the year is the Tour of Austria and after he finished third overall and won a stage in the Oberösterreich Rundfahrt, he was mentioned as a possible outsider for the race. However, few would have imagined him to beat all the pro riders in the first mountain stage of the race.

 

However, de la Parte proved to be stronger than anybody else when they finally reached the mountains after three days for the sprinters. After the peloton had been slowly whittled down on the 17km climb to the finish, the attacking started when Branislau Samoilau (CCC) took off.

 

However, he was unable to stay clear and instead de la Parte went on the offensive. The Spaniard reached the finish alongside climbing talent Jan Hirt and managed to beat his rival in the sprint. The peloton had split to pieces and it was Ben Hermans who was third at 8 seconds.

 

Hirt may have missed out on the stage win but he will be pleased with the fact that he takes the overall lead from Angel Vicioso (Katusha) who was unable to keep up with the best. He now leads Hermans by just one second while de la Parte is 3 seconds behind in third.

 

He should have a solid chance to defend his lead tomorrow when the peloton is back in flatter terrain. There’s a small category 4 climb in the early part before the riders get to a long gradual uphill drag in the second half. It gets steeper and steeper and ends with a small ramp to the finish where the puncheurs are likely to strike.

 

The first mountain stage

After three days for the sprinters, it was time for the first battle in the mountains on stage 4 which brought the riders over 210.2km from Stift Rein/Gratwein to Drobatsch. In the first half, the riders tackled a category 3 and a category 3 climb before flat roads led to the bottom of the 17km final category 1 climb.

 

Tratnik attacks

It was another very hot day in Austria when the riders gathered for the start of their first hard battle in the mountains but rain was falling. They were slightly delayed as the police had some troubles closing the roads.

 

When the riders finally got rolling, they got the race off to a fast start with lots of attacks. After 20km of racing, no one had managed to escape. That allowed sprint leader Jan Tratnik (Amplatz) and win the first intermediate sprint at the 28km mark where it has stopped raining.

 

The Sterbini brothers bridge the gap

Tratnik decided to continue his attack while Simone and Luca Sterbini (Bardiani) set off in pursuit. They worked hard to make the junction while the peloton slowed down and at the 40km mark, the gap was already 7.10.

 

As they went up the category 2 climb after 45km of racing, the peloton had reduced the gap to seven minutes while the two chasers were at three minutes. Tratnik reached the summit as the first rider and then decided to wait for his two chasers.

 

More points for Tratnik

At the 86km mark, the peloton had brought the gap down to 3.40 but when Tratnik won the second intermediate sprint after 95km of racing, it had gone out to 5 minutes. In the peloton, Katusha and WSA set the pace as they started to climb the second ascent where Simone Sterbini took maximum points followed by his brother and Tratnik. At this point, the peloton was 4.10 behind.

 

The gap hovered between the 3- and 4-minute marks for a while before Tratnik beat Luca and Simone Sterbini in the final intermediate sprint. Moments later Adrien Petit (Cofidis), Mirko Selvaggi (Wanty) and an unidentified rider attacked and they managed to build an advantage of one minute before they were brought back.

 

Simone Sterbini is dropped

In the peloton, Katusha, Roompot and CCC were working well together and had brought the gap down to 2.10 with 30km to go. That prompted the escapees to accelerate and Simone Sterbini was dropped.

 

Luca Sterbini tried to attack but was unable to distance Tratnik. However, the gap was down to 55 seconds at that point.

 

The break is caught

The escapees were still clear when they hit the final climb but after 1km of climbing they were brought back. Meanwhile, the selection started and with 15km to go, only 30 riders were left.

 

Branislau Samoilau (CCC) started the attacking and at one point a 7-rider group was formed. However, de la Parte turned out to be the strongest in the end.

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