André Greipel (Lotto Soudal) made sure that he remains unbeaten in the bunch sprints in 2016 when he came out on top in the battle between the fast men at the Trofeo Playa de Palma, the final race of the Challenge Mallorca series. The German benefited from a perfect lead-out to beat season debutant Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) into second while Dylan Page (Roth) was a surprise third.
Lotto Soudal: Our train was better than Cofidis
After the first, André Greipel also won the last race of the Challenge Mallorca. The German beat Nacer Bouhanni and Dylan Page in the sprint.
Bart Leysen, sports director Lotto Soudal explained the race.
“Today the race was even more perfect than Thursday, because the victory was even more convincing. Soon, three riders got clear and we could control them easily. Just like Thursday, Frederik Frison did most of the chasing. He prepared himself well in the winter and he immediately performed well in his first race.
“Before entering the last thirty kilometres where there was a climb on the course, we let the lead drop to two minutes. Tiesj Benoot and Tim Wellens then took over from Frederik and reacted to the attacks of among others Michal Kwiatkowski and Zdenek Stybar. Cofidis set up a train as well today, but ours was faster.
“The team worked well together and that makes me happy. Our goal was to win a stage with André and we could immediately achieve that on the first day. Also today was a success.
”We also had riders in our team for the two tougher races. Also on those days we left our mark and got some nice results. Tiesj got fourth Friday and third yesterday; Tim was tenth yesterday. It’s could to see that our young riders keep developing and take the initiative themselves now.
”After today’s race the riders did an extra sixty kilometres. Tomorrow they can rest and then we will have three more days of training on the island.”
Swiss sprinter surprises with podium in star-studded Mallorca race
The season opener in Majorca turned into a great success for the Swiss team Roth. Dylan Page sprinted to a fantastic third place at the Trofeo Playa de Palma (UCI Category 1.1) and scored 70 valuable UCI points. Andrea Pasqualon completed the great result with eleventh place, which earned him 15 UCI points.
"The team has worked hard on the last climb to catch a breakaway group," described Dylan Page the race from his point of view. "In the last turn I could attach to the rear wheel of the big favorite André Greipel."
The tactic proved to be good because Greipel won the race ahead of Frenchman Nacer Bouhanni.
"We are happy as a team very happy to have taken the first podium finish in the fourth race of the season. We did not expect that,” manager Christoph Springer told radsport-news.com. "But Grischa Janorschke and David Belda have represented us well with their escape attempts in the last few days. The team continues to grow together. We already have the right team spirit.”
Bennett loses contact with lead-out train in hectic Mallorca sprint
After his second place in the first race, Sam Bennett (Bora-Argon 18) had to settle for fourth in the final race.
“Unfortunately, I lost Rudi’s [Selig] wheel inside the last kilometre. In the end, I could not get out to show my full sprint. Big thanks to the guys,” he said after the race.
“We had a lot to do today to control the race. After the break was caught, Schilli [Andreas Schillinger] and Lukas [Pöstlberger] did a great job to position us before the last climb. The lead-out started well but unfortunately we lost Sam in a critical moment. He did a great job to still cross the line in 4th place,” Zakkari Dempster said.
“To start the season with a podium is great for us,” manager Ralfph Denk added. “Especially today we made our mark in the race, being on the front of the bunch almost the whole day. I am proud of the team, I can feel the spirit and I think there is even more to come. Our lead-out train is ready now for Watar where Sam won a stage last year so we are really looking forward to that.”
Youcef Reguigui makes his mark in Mallorca sprint
Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka again put its cards on the table early on with Omar Fraile jumping into the break of the day that formed just after kilometer zero was passed. He was joined by Luis Mas Bonet (Caja-Rural) and Imanol Estevez (Euskadi) for the day and the trio enjoyed a 7 minute lead at one point.
With two of the fastest men in the bunch, and a flat circuit finish that suited the sprinters, Lotto-Soudal and Bora Argon 18 took up the chase from the peloton. The break was always doomed from the onset but Fraile's efforts weren't in vain as he won the King of the Mountains prize for the day.
The trio were caught with 30km left to race and on the circuit, no attackers were going to be allowed to get away. The African Team turned to Youcef Reguigui who would give the sprint finale a good go. Lotto-Soudal proved to have the strongest leadout today as they were able to deliver Greipel to a good spot from where he could take the win. Reguigui was up there in the thick of things thanks to a great team effort, and sprinted across the line to 7th place for the African Team.
”Omar got into the break with 2 other guys so that allowed us to ride easy in the peloton,” he said. “There was a bit of stress on the only climb of the race with a small split. I just followed the wheels of my teammates and they kept me in a great position.
”I got to the final lap still in the wheel of Jay [Thomson] and Bernie [Eisel]. There were a few close calls with some guys riding into Jay but he did great to keep me in a good position. In the final kilometer Bernie brought me to the wheel of Bennett and Greipel. There was some stress for me in the final 400m with riders coming across me but I finished 7th.
”My condition is such that I was able to do a better result than I did today. I hope I can race more with Bernie because his experience is incredible and I can definitely get better results by learning from him.”
FDJ sprinters come up short in Mallorca
Challenge Mallorca ended yesterday like it began: with a sprint win for Greipel (Lotto-Soudal). Lorenzo Manzin (9th) and Marc Sarreau (10th) achieved a place of honor and left the hope of good results for FDJ since their teammates worked well.
Between these two sprints, there were two mountainous races, with the first marked by the breakaway of Olivier Le Gac. The team struggled a bit these two days as they had no climber in the Balearic Islands. In the sprint, however, they were armed.
"We played the card of Marc Sarreau the first day and that of Lorenzo Manzin on Sunday," says sports director Thierry Bricaud," but in both cases our riders got lost and so could not really seek their luck. After that, it is obvious that our sprinters have good top speed. When everybody has found their marks and automatisms, I think we will play for the wins with them. For now, it's a matter of getting things tight, only that. We are at the beginning of the season and I think, after having watched this, that they are not late. This is true also for Olivier Le Gac who suffered from knee pain, and for Lorenzo Manzin who also suffered from knee pain in December and had a complicated preparation in January but he is already operational. We do not leave the Challenge Mallorca without confidence. There is simply still work to do."
Sky leave Mallorca with good feelings despite several near-misses
Team Sky missed out on a top-10 finish on the final day of Challenge Mallorca but Sport Director Servais Knaven praised the riders for their work across the four days of the European season opener.
Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal) won the flat stage into Palma but Knaven believes it's still been a successful week for the team, with Michal Kwiatkowski picking up second-place finishes on days two and three.
He said: "The guys are in good shape. We know now that they all had a good winter so all is good on that front, and two second places is a good start. We can be happy with the general performance of the team.
"All the riders are happy and keen to keep racing. A few days recovery and then all of these guys are either competing in Dubai or Valencia."
The final race of the week always looked destined to end in a bunch sprint and, despite an early three-man breakaway, that proved to be the case.
Lluis Mas Bonet (Caja Rural - Seguros RGA), Imanol Estevez (Euskadi Basque Country - Murias) and Omar Fraile (Dimension Data) formed the break and at one stage they had extended their gap to almost five minutes, but they were reeled in with 20 kilometres to race.
On the finishing circuit crosswinds threaten to tear the peloton apart but it all came back together for a bunch sprint and Greipel did the rest.
Knaven added: "We hoped for more in the sprint and Andy [Fenn] hoped for more. The team did a lot of work in the final kilometres and we were looking strong, but Greipel was the best again.
"But we have to remember that Andy hasn't sprinted for the last few years. He's been doing lead-outs, and it is very different. He can definitely take some confidence and experience from this week."
Etixx-QuickStep miss out in final race of successful month
Etixx-QuickStep tried to split the peloton on the final climb but left the race empty-handed. Best placed rider of Etixx – Quick-Step was Yves Lampaert, who arrived 18th in the fourth event of the Challenge Mallorca, same time as the winner.
January came to an end after proving to be a very good month for the team, who got its first win early, in the Tour de San Luis TTT, which was followed shortly by Fernando Gaviria's maiden pro victory. In the Challenge Mallorca, the team was among the protagonists, with Gianluca Brambilla taking his first success in six years and showing a promising form ahead of the spring. With three wins and two podiums, Etixx – Quick-Step is in the upper part of the wins standings and now awaits the February races with confidence and optimism.
Aggressive Caja Rural showing in Mallorca
On Mallorca in Trofeo Playa de Palma, the green jersey of Caja Rural - Seguros RGA was once again visible in the front. For the fourth day in a row, the team had a rider represented in the break of the day. This time, it was Lluis Mas who helped animate the race, winning all the intermediate sprints. Unfortunately, only two other riders had joined him and as they entered the last 20 km of the race, the peloton caught the break and new attacks began.
Alejandro Valverde tries to deny the sprinters in Mallorca
The 25th Challenge Ciclista Mallorca was officially over on Sunday as André Greipel (LTS) took his second sprint victory at the 161.5km Trofeo Playa de Palma - Palma. However, the finish along the coast of the Balearic capital was close to seeing a much smaller bunch contesting the win than in previous times.
The Movistar Team, which had Antonio Pedrero making his first outing in Blue colours today, made a front group of fifteen riders with Alejandro Valverde after the ascent of Sa Creu (Cat-3), later staying at the front when crosswinds split the bunch into two. With no sprinters in their ranks, the telephone squad remained content with finishing safely in a compact, bigger bunch at the end.
The Spanish squad will now divide into two on their journey back, some of their members going to the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana while others fly to the Dubai Tour, their first two competitions in February starting on Wednesday.
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