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For the second year in a row, Malori won the Tour de San Luis, narrowly beating Kwiatkowski and Houle; Diaz gained time on his main rivals and comfortably defended his lead

Photo: Sirotti

ADRIANO MALORI

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DANIEL RICARDO DÍAZ

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MICHAL KWIATKOWSKI

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MOVISTAR TEAM

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TOUR DE SAN LUIS

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23.01.2015 @ 22:52 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Adriano Malori (Movistar) lived up to his status as overwhelming favourite in the Tour de San Luis time trial when he won today’s race against the clock with a narrow margin, beating Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-QuickStep) and Hugo Houle (Ag2r) by 4 and 5 seconds respectively. Race leader Daniel Diaz (San Luis) did well to gain time on key rival Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Rodolfo Torres (Colombia) and comfortably defended his lead.

 

One year ago Adriano Malori kicked off a marvelous 2014 season when he narrowly beat Taylor Phinney in an exciting battle in the Tour de San Luis time trial. Today he repeated that performance when he won the 2015 edition of the Argentine race against the clock.

 

Going into the stage, Malori was the overwhelming favourite to win the stage but he had to fight hard to take his first win of the season. Michal Kwiatkowski was a close second, just 4 seconds off the mark, while Hugo Houle was the big surprise as he was just one second further back in third.

 

Being far down on the general classification in the overall standings, Malori was an early starter and he easily beat the previous best time that had been set less than a minute earlier by Lukasz Wisniowski (Etixx-QuickStep). He faced a long wait in the hot seat and he got several scares along the way.

 

Houle delivered the first one when he rode very fast back from the turning point to slot into second. However, it was Kwiatkowski who was expected to be the biggest threat. At the intermediate check, the Pole was 17 seconds off the mark but the road race world champion did a fantastic comeback, nearly beating the pre-race favourite.

 

The next scares were delivered by Leandro Messineo (Argentina) and Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) who were both a few seconds faster at the halfway point. However, both struggled in the second half and at the finish, they were more than 30 seconds off the pace.

 

The only rider among the GC riders that was expected to pose a threat was Eduardo Sepulveda (Bretagne) but like most he had a hard time in the headwind back to the finish after he had posted an intermediate time that was just 2 seconds slower than Malori’s. In the end, the Argentine could only manage 10th.

 

The GC battle had lost an important figure as Alex Diniz (Funvic) who was third overall, was unable to take the start due to gastroenteritis. His teammate, race leader Daniel Diaz, was expected to lose time to both Nairo Quintana and Sepulveda but the local hero did a surprisingly good ride.

 

At the intermediate check, he was behind all of his rivals but he gauged his effort perfectly. In the end, he finished the stage in 11th in the same time as Sepulveda, beating Quintana by 2 seconds and Rodolfo Torres (Colombia) by 9 seconds.

 

Diaz now leads Torres by 1.09 and Quintana by 1.25 as he goes into the final big GC test. Stage 6 is the queen stage of the race and offers a new summit finish. The stage is just 117.5km long and mostly flat but in the end, the riders will go up a 17km climb, a challenge that is almost unheard of at this early point of the year.

 

A key stage

After yesterday’s big mountain stage, it was time for the time triallists to hit back in the 17.4km time trial that started and finished in San Luis. On a non-technical out-and-back course, the riders descended slightly in the first half before they climbed up to the finish on the outskirts of the main city.

 

The first rider down the ramp was Yans C. Arias (Cuba) but at the intermediate check, he had already been caught by his minute-man David Williams (Jamis). The American time trial specialist was flying and set a tune of 21.10 that would prove to be hard to beat.

 

No one challenges Williams

Julian Barrientos (Argentina) was the first to be within a minute of Williams’ time and he slotted into second place.  The first professional to get into the top 3 was Bryan Nauleau (Europcar) who was exactly one minute slower than Williams.

 

Guido Palma (Buenos Aires) had been fast at the intermediate check but the home rider faded on his way back and failed to make it into the provisional top 3. It remained unchanged for a long time as none of the many South American riders from smaller teams were unable to make an impact in a discipline that is usually dominated by the professionals.

 

Best time for Tvetcov

The first big specialist to take to the course was Sergei Tvetcov (Androni) and he didn’t disappoint. After more than 45 minutes in the hot seat, Williams was knocked into second by the Romanian who went 34 seconds faster than the American.

 

The attention quickly turned to Lukasz Wisniowski (Etixx-QuickStep) who had set the best time at the intermediate check. However, the young Pole faded a bit in the final part and when he crossed the line, he was 14 seconds adrift in second.

 

Malori lives up to expectations

Everybody was now focused on Adriano Malori (Movistar) who was the big favourite and the Italian didn’t disappoint. At the intermediate check, he was fastest and when he reached the finish, he had gone 29 seconds faster than Tvetcov.

 

Mark Cavendish (Etixx-QuickStep) proved his good condition by slotting into sixth but it was Hugo Houle (Ag2r) who raised eyebrows. The Canadian did an exceptional time trial and managed to challenge Malori significantly. At the finish, his time of 20.12 was just 5 seconds off Malori’s and he slotted into second ahead of Tvetcov.

 

Kwiatkowski gets close

Jose L Rodriguez (Chile) created a major surprise when he crossed the line in the sixth best time but it was another South American who again stole the headlines. Sprint sensation Fernando Gaviria (Colombian national team) proved that he is more than just a sprinter when he slotted into fifth.

 

One of the big pre-race favourites Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-QuickStep) was now on the course and already at the intermediate check, it was clear that he was finally showing some kind of form. However, his ride back home was even more impressive as he reduced a 17-second deficit to just 4 seconds, slotting into second behind Malori.

 

Zakarin and Messineo give Malori a scare

Carlos Oyarzun (Chile) and Juan Esteban Arango (Colombian National Team) proved that there is lots of time trialling talent in South America when they set the third and fourth best time at the intermediate check respectively. However, the Chilean faded in the second half, losing more than 40 seconds to Malori and slotting into fifth at the finish. Arango lost even more time, crossing the line in 8th.

 

The GC riders had now taken to the course and that put Malori under pressure. First Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) was four second faster than the Italian at the intermediate check and later Leandro Messineo (San Luis) slotted into second at that point, one second ahead of the Movistar rider.

 

Like many others, Zakarin was unable to maintain his speed in the fast second half and when he reached the finish, his performance was only good enough for fifth. Messineo did a bit better, pushing Zakarin one spot down when he reached the finish one minute later.

 

Diaz gains time on his rivals

Best young rider Rodrigo Contreras (Colombian National Team) was just 2 seconds behind Malori at the intermediate check and noted specialist Eduardo Sepulveda (Bretagne) was even one second faster. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) also got his race off to a solid start as he only lost 7 seconds to his teammate in the first part but one of his key rivals, Rodolfo Torres (Colombia), was one second faster. However, he had gained 7 seconds on race leader Daniel Diaz (Funvic).

 

Sepulveda was expected to be the final threat to Malori but the Argentine lost ground on the way back, slotting into 10th with a time loss of 42 seconds. Moments later, Quintana powered across the line and the Colombian had done a splendid ride to only be one second off Sepulveda’s pace.

 

Torres did much better than expected as he was only 7 seconds off Quintana’s case but it was again Diaz who emerged as the strongest. The race leader did a very good second half, beating the Movistar captain by 2 seconds to extend his lead.

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