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Despite not being known as a TT specialist, Poels was clearly the fastest in the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana time trial, beating Sanchez by 15 seconds and Kiryienka by 21 seconds; the Dutchman is the first leader of the race

Photo: ANSA / DAL ZENNARO - PERI

LUIS LEÓN SÁNCHEZ

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VASIL KIRYENKA

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VOLTA A LA COMUNITAT VALENCIANA

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03.02.2016 @ 17:33 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Wout Poels (Sky) became a surprise winner of the first major time trial of the year when he emerged as the fastest on the hilly course of the first stage of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana. The Dutchman covered the 16.25km distance in 22.36 which was a massive 15 seconds faster than Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) while world champion Vasil Kiryienka (Sky) had to settle for third in his rainbow debut, 21 seconds off the pace.

 

Last year Wout Poels took a massive step up and emerged as one of the best climbers in the world, most notably with an excellent ride at the Tour de France in support of Chris Froome. He had hoped to get the chance to lead Sky in the Giro d’Italia but has been asked again to sacrifice himself for Froome in the Tour.

 

However, Poels has sent a strong signal right from the beginning of the year to prove to his team management that it may be a good idea to give him more personal opportunities in the future. Despite being everything but a TT specialist, he rode to victory in the opening time trial of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana when he delivered a dominant ride on the hilly 16.25km course that was used for the opening test of the race that is back on the calendar for the first time since 2008.

 

Being teammate of TT specialists like world champion Vasil Kiryienka and Benat Intxatusti, Poels was asked to have an early start but showed his motivation by crushing the early opposition. After tackling the course that included both a bit of flat roads and a late category 3 climb, he stopped the clock in 26.34 which was a massive 26 seconds faster than Jesus Herrada (Movistar) who was the leader at that point.

 

Poels now faced a long wait in the hot seat and with specialists like Bob Jungels (Etixx-QuickStep), Vasil Kiryienka (Sky), Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana), Niki Terpstra (Etixx-QuickStep) and Jon Izagirre (Movistar) still to come, his time was expected to be get beaten. However, specialist after specialist failed to get even close to his mark and when world champion Kiryienka was the final potential winner to reach the finish, Poels still topped the leader board.

 

Sanchez turned out to be his nearest rival but he was a massive 15 seconds off the pace. Kiryienka had hoped for a dream debut in the rainbow jersey but had to find consolation in his teammate’s performance as he had to settle for third, 21 seconds off the pace. Jungels was seventh while Izagirre was unfortunate to crash but still delivered an impressive ride to lose 37 seconds.

 

In addition to Poels and Izagirre, there were encouraging GC performances from Leopold König (Sky), Herrada and most notably Diego Rosa (Astana) who all finished in the top 10. Rosa’s fourth place was a huge surprise as the Italian has never been a TT specialist and sets him up for another strong result and a possible leadership role at Astana as Fabio Aru finished outside the top 30. Daniel Martin did better than expected to finish in the same time as Aru while Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) lost 1.31 to get his season off to the usual slow start.

 

Poels is now the first leader of the race and will wear the yellow jersey in tomorrow’s first mountain stage of the race. The riders will get the chance to test their legs on an early category 2 climb before they hit the final 15km climb of Alto de Fredes. However, the average gradient is only around 5% so it is not an overly selective summit finish.

 

A tricky time trial

The 67th Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana kicked off with a 16.25km time trial from Benicassim to Oropesa del Mar. The course offered a bit of everything as it first consisted of long, flat roads and then included a 2.1km category 3 climb averaging 5.1% before the riders descended to a flat finish.

 

It was a beautiful sunny day when Victor Manakov (Gazprom-Rusvelo) rolled down the ramp as the first rider. He stopped the clock in 25.11 which was two second faster than Jorge Cubero (Burgos) who slotted into second.

 

Vandenbergh takes the lead

Francisco Ventoso (Movistar) was the WorldTour rider to hit the course and he took the lead with a time of 24.45. However, he was quickly beaten by Stijn Vandenbergh (Etixx-QuickStep) who posted a time of 23.23, with Raymond Kreder (Roompot) slotting into second after getting caught by the Belgian.

 

David Lopez (Sky) was just 7 seconds off the mark and Jack Bauer (Cannondale) was also close with 23.37. Domingos Goncalves (Caja Rural) became the fourth rider to go below 24 minutes with 23.59.

 

Poels crushes the opposition

Victor Campenaerts (LottoNL-Jumbo) was the first specialist to hit the course and despite hitting the deck along the way, he posted the best time of 23.01. Cyril Lemoine (Cofidis) was not far off though and his 23.17 was good enough for second.

 

Jesus Herrada was expected to do well and he confirmed his good form by beating Campenaerts by a single second. Unfortunately, he had barely reached the hot seat before Poels had beaten him by 26 seconds.

 

Good ride by Hollenstein

Reto Hollenstein (IAM) slotted into fourth with a fine 23.04 while climber Joe Dombrowski (Cannondale) could only manage 24.07. Daniel Navarro (Cofidis) did much better with 23.43 and Sergey Shilov (Lokosphinx) made it into the top 10 with 23.33.

 

Jose Herrada (Movistar) did one of the best time trials of his life with a time of 23.10 which was good enough for fifth while Steven Lammertink (LottoNL-Jumbo) had a disappointing ride with 23.58. Dmitrii Sokolov briefly made it two Lokosphinx riders in the top 10 when he stopped the clock in 23.33.

 

Good Movistar performance

Imanol Erviti (Movistar) continued the Movistar excellence by slotting into fifth with 23.04 before König got his GC campaign off to a great start by stopping the clock in 23.03 to move into fourth. Dario Cataldo (Astana) moved into 9th with 23.29 but was quickly pushed down one spot by Nicolas Edet (Cofidis).

 

TT specialist Artem Oveckin (Gazprom-Rusvelo) posted the 7th best time of 23.06 before another Movistar rider cracked the top 10 when Javier Moreno pushed the Russian one spot down. Yves Lampaert (Etixx-QuickStep) did well to slot into ninth with 23.10 before Stef Clement (IAM) went one second better.

 

Fantastic ride by Rosa

23.36 marked a surprisingly good performance by Martin but he was quickly overshadowed by Benat Intxausti (Sky) whose time of 23.07 was good enough for ninth. However, it was Rosa who got all the attention when he became the second rider to crack the 23-minute barrier, stopping the clock in 22.56.

 

Jungels had hoped to be in contention for the win but his time of 23.01 was only good enough for fifth and instead it was Sanchez who looked strong when he slotted into second with 22.49. Anton Vorobyev (Katusha) was on track for a good ride but crashed and so had to settle for 34th.

 

Kiryienka misses out

Izagirre had the same kind of bad luck but still battled bravely to stop the clock in 23.11, good enough for 16th. In fact, that was just as good as Niki Terpstra who was just fractions of a second faster.

 

Kiryienka did his best to win in the rainbow jersey but had to settle for third and Matthias Brändle (IAM) was far off the pace. Pierre Rolland (Cannondale) had a poor ride for 62nd and Aru could only manage 29th and Rodriguez didn’t do any better with 63rd. None of the final four riders made it into the top 10 and so Poels could step onto the podium as a deserved winner.

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