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As the peloton failed to react in time, Paterski, Rolland and De Clercq stayed away on the opening stage of the Volta a Catalunya and it was the Pole who took a comfortable sprint win to claim the overall lead

Photo: Liquigas-Cannondale








23.03.2015 @ 17:26 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Maciej Paterski (CCC) took the biggest win of his career when he emerged as the strongest on a strange opening stage of the Volta a Catalunya. As the peloton failed to react in time, the Pole, Pierre Rolland (Europcar) and Bart De Clercq (Lotto Soudal) managed to keep the group at bay and he did everything perfectly in the finale to take a comfortable sprint win and the first leader’s jersey in the WorldTour race.


Yesterday Maciej Paterski played a prominent role in the finale of Milan-Sanremo where he made it into the lead group and worked tirelessly for teammate Grega Bole in the sprint. Hence, he would have been forgiven if he had decided to take it easy in the opening stage of the Volta a Catalunya but the strong Pole had different plans.


After a very fast start to the stage, he went on the attack with Pierre Rolland and Bart De Clercq and on a day when the sprint teams decided not to do any work, it turned out to be the winning move. Being the fastest rider in the break, Paterski took a comfortable sprint win for what is clearly the biggest win of his career.


Despite the hilly terrain, the opening stage in Catalonia has traditionally suited the sprinters and so the teams of the fast guys were expected to come to the fore when the trio got clear. Surprisingly, that never happened and as the GC teams refused to take control, the gap reached a massive 13.18 with less than 100km to go.


That’s when Sky lost the battle of nerves and moved to the front in a quest to bring down the deficit. They later got assistance from Tinkoff-Saxo, Movistar and Etixx-QuickStep but the reaction came way too late. Despite riding full gas for the second half of the stage, they only managed to reduce their deficit to slightly less than 3 minutes and so it became apparent that the winner would be one of the three escapees.


Paterski seemed to suffer from cramps as was constantly shaking his legs but when it came down to the business end of the race, he had everything under control. The trio worked well together until 1.5km remained when De Clercq launched the first attack. The Pole reacted promptly and after they had passed the flamme rouge, he went to the front.


The game of cat and mouse had started and no one wanted to come through to take another turn before De Clercq made his next attack with around 500m to go. This time Paterski hesitated a bit and the Belgian got a small gap in what seemed to be the winning move.


However, the CCC rider still had something left in the tank and he made an acceleration to bridge the gap. Being perfectly positioned in third, Rolland tried to launch the sprint but Paterski responded immediately, never allowing the Frenchman to pass him. He easily distanced his two rivals to take the biggest win of his career.


Sky and Etixx-QuickStep worked hard on the front right until the end before Etixx-QuickStep moved ahead to lead Julian Alaphilppe out in the sprint for fourth. The Frenchman launched his sprint from the first position but was passed by Tosh van der Sande (Lotto Soudal) who was left wondering what might have been if the break had been caught.


With the win, Paterski also takes the first leader’s jersey in the race and he goes into stage 2 with a 4-second buffer over Rolland. He faces a day in rolling terrain with two category 3 climbs and the riders face a long uncategorized ascent in the finale before they hit the slightly descending final 6km to the finish in Olot.


A hilly stage

The 95th Volta a Catalunya started with a 185.2km stage around the city of Calella. After a flat first half, the terrain got significantly hillier as the riders first went up a category 2 climb and then tackled a category 1 ascent. A long descent led to the bottom of the category 3 Alt de Collsacreu (7.4km, 3%, max. 6%) whose summit was located just 18.6km from the finish. The stage ended with a descent and a flat run back to the finish in Calella.


The riders took the start under a cloudy sky but that didn’t dampen the attacking spirit. The attacks were launched right from the beginning and in a very fast first part, no one managed to get clear.


The GC riders sprint for bonus seconds

At the 18km mark, the peloton was still together and this opened the door for the GC riders to sprint for the bonus seconds. Sky proved to be the strongest as Wout Poels and Nicolas Roche led Daniel Martin (Cannondale-Garmin) across the line.


After 26km of very fast racing, it finally seemed that the elastic had snapped when Ben Gastauer (Ag2r), Benoit Jarrier (Bretagne) and Jan Polanc (Lampre-Merida) got a gap of 15 seconds. However, they were brought back too and instead six riders got clear at the 33km mark.


A big group gets clear

Polanc was again part of the action and this time he was joined by Johannes Fröhlinger (Giant-Alpecin), Martijn Keizer (LottoNL-Jumbo), Christophe Laborie (Bretagne), Pierre Rolland (Europcar) and Cayetano Sarmiento (Colombia) and they managed to build an advantage of 20 seconds. Loic Chetout (Cofidis), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), Anton Vorobyev (Katusha) and Manuel Senni (BMC) took off in pursuit and they manage to join the leaders, forming a 10-rider group that was 40 seconds ahead after 39km of racing.


Orica-GreenEDGE was not content with the situation and they started to chase hard. At the 52km mark, they managed to bring it all back together after Keizer had won the second intermediate sprint ahead of Vorobyev and Senni.


The trio takes off

After 60km of racing, Rolland attacked again and this time he was joined by Maciej Paterski (CCC) and Bart De Clercq (Lotto Soudal). That small group was much more manageable for the peloton which finally slowed down and allowed the escapees to build a bigger advantage.


At the 63km mark, the gap was already 2.15 and after 8km later, it was 6 minutes. Movistar were riding on the front of the peloton but as they were not really chasing, the gap reached a massive 13 minutes after 78km of racing.


Sky start to chase

This was the signal for Sky to kick into action and after the gap had reached a maximum of 13.18, they started to chase. As they hit the first climb of the day, Cannondale-Garmin also started to work and at the 94km mark, they had reduced the gap to 12.45.


Paterski led De Clercq and Rolland over the top of the climb while Carlos Verona (Etixx-QuickStep), Jesus Hernandez (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Rory Sutherland (Movistar) were first from the peloton 11 minutes later. Etixx-QuickStep, Tinkoff-Saxo and Movistar were now also chasing and as a consequence, the gap came down to 8 minutes as they hit the bottom of the category 1 climb.


König and Kiriyenka lead the chase

On the ascent, the escapees managed to extend their advantage as most of the teams again disappeared from the front. Halfway down the descent, the gap was back up to 9.30 when just 33km remained and it was now Sky doing all the work with Leopold König and Vasil Kiryienka.


As they hit the flat section, Winner Anacona (Movistar) and Ivan Basso (Tinkoff-Saxo) also started to work and later Pieter Serry and Verona also came to the fore for Etixx-QuckStep. The gap was now coming down rapidly and it was 7.56 with 23km to go.


More points for Paterski

Nicolas Roche (Sky) was also chasing for Sky and the fast pace on the final climb meant that several riders were dropped. Meanwhile, Paterski responded to a long sprint from De Clercq to also win the final KOM sprint of the day.


At the top of the climb, the gap had come down to 5.40 but it was clear that the break would stay away. The trio worked smoothly together and with 5km to go, they were still 4.20 ahead. The cooperation lasted until De Clercq made his first attack with 1.5km to go but in the end, it was Paterski who took the win.



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