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One day after his defeat, Valverde rode solo for more than 30km to take a big solo win at the Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana; Wellens and König were a distant second and third respectively

Photo: Sirotti

ALEJANDRO VALVERDE

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CHALLENGE MALLORCA

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LEOPOLD KÖNIG

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MOVISTAR TEAM

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TIM WELLENS

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31.01.2015 @ 16:15 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) proved that yesterday’s second place in the Trofeo Andratx was just a case of misjudgment when he took a hugely dominant solo win in the Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana, the hardest race of the Challenge Mallorca. Having joined a big group in the early part of the race, he gradually dropped his companions before doing the final 30km on his own, with Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) and Leopold König (Sky) completing the podium.

 

Yesterday Alejandro Valverde was left frustrated when he left it a bit too late in making his final acceleration on the final climb of the Trofeo Andratx and had to settle for second behind winner Stephen Cummings (MTN-Qhubeka). The Spaniard publicly regretted his mistake and he started today’s third race in the Challenge Mallorca series, the hard Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana, in a determined mood.

 

The Spaniard left no one wondering who is the strongest rider at the moment as he put in a hugely impressive solo performance that saw him take a dominant victory. The Movistar captain did more than 30km on his own and finished far ahead of his nearest chaser Tim Wellens.

 

Valverde benefited from a very hard start to the hilly race where the combination of climbs and wind made sure that the peloton split to pieces. That created anarchy and Valverde was quick to join a big group of around 25 riders that got clear after around 40km of racing.

 

In the group, he was joined by teammates Jesus Herrada, Francisco Ventoso and Javier Moreno and those three contributed to the pace-setting while Valverde could save himself for the finale. At one point, however, it seemed as though it had all come to nothing as hard chase by Sky nearly brought the group back.

 

Valverde was fortunate that the group failed to make the junction in time for the first big climb to start and here he got clear with Maciej Paterski (CCC), Mike Terpstra (Roompot) and Merhawi Kudus (MTN-Qhubeka). Only the latter could match the Spaniard’s pace and at the top of the climb, those two riders had clearly distanced their chasers and the peloton.

 

Kudus did his best to hang onto Valverde but on the famous Puig Major climb, he had to surrender. From there, it was a solo show for Valverde while the peloton had been whittled down to an elite chase group that caught the original escapees except the Movistar leader.

 

Valverde maintained his speed to win the race by more than 2 minutes while Wellens and Leopold König escaped on the long descent from Puig Major. On the final small climb, the Belgian distanced the Czech who managed to hang onto third place.

 

While Valverde will travel to Dubai for the Dubai Tour, the sprinters will be back in the spotlight tomorrow in the final race of the Challenge Mallorca. The Trofeo Playa de Palma only includes one category 3 climb and ends with a few laps on a fast, flat circuit along the seafront in Palma, meaning that André Greipel, Nacer Bouhanni and Elia Viviani will try to get their revenge over Matteo Pelucchi who won the sprint at the Trofeo Santanyi on the first day.

 

The hardest race

After the dramatic second day, it was time for the hardest race in the four-day series when the riders tackled the Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana. The hilly course brought the riders over 165.7km from Valldemossa to the finish in Deia and took in no less than 7 categorized climbs along in the northwestern part of the island. In the first half, the riders tackled three smaller climbs but the finale started with the category 2 Coll d’Honor after around 90km of racing. Later the riders again went up the famous Puig Major – albeit from the other side than yesterday – which was officially split into two climbs. After a long descent, they tackled the final category 3 climb whose summit was located just 5km from the finish. After a slight descent, the road was slightly rising to the finish.

 

170 riders took the start under a sunny sky but like in the previous races, a strong wind was blowing. Three riders failed to get to the start line: Mark Christian and Owain Doull (Great Britain) and Anders Oddli (Froy).

 

A big crash

A big crash after just 2km of racing brought down Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Argon 18), Fabio Silvestre (Trek), Loic Chetout (Cofidis) and Rory Sutherland (Movistar) who was later confirmed to have broken his collarbone.

 

On the opening descent, Javier Moreno (Movistar) and Philip Deignan (Sky) got a small gap and they maintained their advantage to the top of the first climb where the Spaniard led the Irishman across the line, with Linus Gerdemann (Cult) being third. After 7km of racing, however, that small group was brought back.

 

The peloton splits

Lluis Mas (Caja Rural) launched the next attack and he was joined by Pirmin Lang (IAM) and Angelo Tulik (Europcar). Behind, the attacking continued and a 20-rider chase group formed.

 

The hard terrain, the wind and the fast pace saw the peloton split into several groups while Lang was dropped from the front group. Instead, Jesus Herrada (Movistar), Deignan, Stig Broeckx (Lotto Soudal), Marc De Maar (Roompot), Paul Voss (Bora-Argon 18) and Fabian Wegmann (Cult) joined Tulik and Mas after 21km of racing.

 

A big group gets clear

The peloton which was down to around 60 riders caught the escapees but that didn’t stop the attacking. The next to get a significant gap was Gerdeman who was 15 seconds ahead at the 38km mark but he didn’t succeed either. However, he won the first sprint ahead of Bart De Clercq (Lotto Soudal) and Voss.

 

A 20-rider group had now formed while the rest of the peloton was split in two, with the first bunch following at 25 seconds and the peloton trailing by 1.15. The two first groups merged to form a very strong breakaway which was made up of Alejandro Valverde, Francisco Ventoso, Herrada, Moreno (all Movistar), Danny Pate (Sky), Louis Vervaeke, De Clercq (both Lotto Soudal), Jerome Coppel, Clement Chevrier, Marcel Wyss (all IAM), Ramunas Navardauskas (Cannondale-Garmin), Yoann Bagot, Romain Hardy (both Cofidis), Jesper Asselman, Mike Terpstra, Etienne Van Empel (all Roompot), Mas, Eduard Prades, Heiner Parra (all Caja Rural), Andreas Schillinger, Bjorn Thurau (both Bora-Argon 18), Lukasz Owsian, Maciej Paterski (both CCC), Johan Van Zyl, Merhawi Kudus (both MTN-Qhubeka), Gerdemann Fabian Wegmann (both Cult), Jesus Del Pino (Burgos), Mikel Bizkarra (Murias Taldea) and Marcos Jurado (Spain).

 

Sky start to chase

At the 58km mark, those riders were 2.03 ahead of the peloton and it was Prades who led Gerdemann, Coppel and Herrada over the top of the second climb while Moreno was faster than De Clercq and Voss at the top of the third climb.

 

When Moreno led Valverde and Voss across the line in the first intermediate sprint, the gap had reached a maximum of 2.40. However, Sky were not content with the situation and as they started to chase, the gap came down.

 

Vervaeke and Paterski escape

At the 81km mark, the gap was only 55 seconds and this caused some aggression in the first group. Vervaeke and Paterski launched an attack and as they hit the category 2 Coll d’Honor, they were 22 seconds ahead of their chasers and 1.27 ahead of the peloton.

 

The chase group split on the climb and when Paterski led Vervaeke over the top, they were only 10 seconds ahead of the next group which was down to just Wegmann, Herrada, Valverde and Kudus. At this point, the peloton was at 1.10.

 

Gerdemann tries his hand

On the descent, the two front groups merged and as Pate, De Clercq, Coppel, Terpstra and Gerdemann rejoined from behind, an 11-rider group had formed. Gerdemann soon launched an attack and he managed to build an advantage of 20 seconds while the peloton was again getting closer.

 

Asselmann was the next rider to rejoin the chasers and he led Vervaeke and the rest of group across the line at the second intermediate sprint, 30 seconds behind Gerdemann. The German was caught a little later but now the peloton was just 36 seconds behind.

 

Valverde and Kudus get clear

Gerdemann led Asselman and Herrada across the line in the final special sprint but as they started to climb the Col de Sa Batalla – which was the first part of the famous Puig Major – the German was dropped. Coppel and Terpstra were the next to lose contact and soon after, the front group was down to just Valverde, Paterski, Terpstra and Kudus.

 

Valverde set a brutal pace that only Kudus could match and had quickly distanced his original companions by 35 seconds while the peloton was again at 1.25. Terpstra and Paterski will still their nearest chasers but they had a hard time bridging the gap.

 

Valverde makes his move

The other escapees had all been caught when Valverde led Kudus over the top while Terpstra and Paterski were at 40 seconds. Pate and Kristoffer Skjerping (Cannondale-Garmin) were first from the peloton which was now 2 minutes behind.

 

On the climb up Puig Major, Valverde made a big attack that distanced Kudus and he quickly distanced the Eritrean by 30 seconds. Meanwhile, the peloton splintered to pieces and it was down to 11 riders when they caught Terpstra and Paterski.

 

An elite chase group

The chase group was now composed of Jose Joaquin Rojas, Giovanni Visconti (both Movistar), Leopold König (Sky), Tiesj  Benoot, Tim Wellens (both Lotto Soudal), Davide Formolo, Kristijan Koren (both Cannondale-Garmin), Frank Schleck (Trek), Marc De Maar and Maurits Lammertink (both Roompot). They passed Kudus but when Wellens led Formolo, Koren, Visconti and König over the top, they were still 2.08 behind Valverde.

 

Valverde even extended his advantage on the descent where Wellens managed to escape on his own. At the bottom, König managed to join the Belgian to form a strong chase duo.

 

On the final category 3 climb, Wellens distanced König and he went over the top with a 2.09 deficit to Valverde. König was just 8 seconds behind while the next group was at 2.40. The Sky rider did his best to get back in contention but he had to settle for third place while De Maar was next across the line.

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