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“Today was just a great day. I won but it was really a win for the whole team. We really raced perfectly together. I’ve done a lot of races but I’ve never really seen anything like this in my life."

Photo: Tim De Waele/TDW Sport

ALEJANDRO VALVERDE

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ASTANA QAZAQSTAN TEAM

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BORA-HANSGROHE

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CCC DEVELOPMENT TEAM

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ILNUR ZAKARIN

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KATUSHA ALPECIN

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LUIS LEÓN SÁNCHEZ

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MOVISTAR TEAM

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PHILIPPE GILBERT

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VUELTA A MURCIA

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13.02.2016 @ 23:58 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Philippe Gilbert (BMC) got an important confidence boost by opening his account earlier than usual as he came out on top in a star-studded edition of the Vuelta a Murcia. The Belgian beat Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) into the minor podium positions when seven riders decided the Spanish one-day race in a sprint.

 

We have gathered several reactions.

 

Gilbert: I’ve done a lot of races but I’ve never really seen anything like this in my life

Philippe Gilbert has sprinted to his first victory of the 2016 season at the Vuelta Ciclista a la Region de Murcia today, beating Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) to the line.

 

BMC Racing Team dominated the top ten with Ben Hermans crossing the line in fifth place, and Tejay van Garderen in seventh.

 

It couldn't have gone any better at the 199.3 kilometer one-day race from San Javier to Murcia, Gilbert said.

 

“Today was just a great day. I won but it was really a win for the whole team. We really raced perfectly together. I’ve done a lot of races but I’ve never really seen anything like this in my life. There were 20 guys left at the top of the climb with 20 kilometers to go and I was suffering, but I was still there with the guys. To have all seven of us out of 20 guys was really amazing to see.”

 

“We rode full gas to the last climb and kept a high tempo, almost at max speed. Tejay attacked two kilometers from the top at which point we were only six or seven guys left. We caught him with two kilometers to go and then I took my chance in the sprint. So there was no way we were going to lose the race, either with Tejay winning solo or me in the sprint. I want to thank all of my teammates because we really raced together and it was so nice.”

 

A six-rider breakaway gained a lead of eight minutes over the peloton until the category 1 Alto Collado Bermejo climb put the pressure on the majority of riders at 80 kilometers to go, leaving 20 riders at the front of the race.

 

With 13 kilometers remaining, Van Garderen attacked on the Cresta del Gallo, the final climb of the day, gaining a 10 second advantage. He was pulled back into the group, putting BMC Racing Team is a strong position going into the final kilometers with three riders.

 

Hermans delivered a brilliant lead out for Gilbert, who has secured his first win in only his fifth race day this year.

 

“At the Dubai Tour I was already feeling good. I recovered well and trained a lot in between the two races so yeah, I think I’m ready for the season,” Gilbert explained.

 

BMC Racing Team Sports Director Jackson Stewart said it was a fantastic effort by the team to deliver the win.

 

“Today everything we thought would happen, happened. In the end we won with Phil like we thought we could but it was a really strong ride by everyone. The team at one point had to chase and they did a good job of controlling it after the first big climb. They controlled it all the way to the finish.”

 

“Tejay had a go and he really looked incredible for a moment, before he was caught back in the group. Ben and Tejay then protected Phil and delivered him to the line. So it was a really good execution and a good demonstration of our ability.”

 

BMC Racing Team is lining up at Classica de Almeria tomorrow with the same team of seven riders.

 

Alejandro Valverde: We took a long shot at the win

Movistar Team rode offensively during the 36th Vuelta a Murcia and came up just short fofor victory after a courageous race. The squad directed by José Luis Arrieta took a strong gamble for success over the 199km route from San Javier to Murcia, putting many of its riders on the attack in a switch from last years’ strategy.

 

After initially leading the bunch with Sutherland, Pedrero and Jesús Herrada, the telephone squad launched Ion Izagirre into the break on the Collado Bermejo (Cat-1) and later tried a three-up move on the descent with Izagirre, Rubén Fernández and Alejandro Valverde. Despite the three Movistars reaching almost a minute’s gap over a 17-man chase group, with BMC at the front, strong headwinds forced the Blues to stop and wait before the Cresta del Gallo (Cat-3).

 

Van Garderen (BMC) jumped on  the last ascent and crested with a 10” gap over a six-rider group including Alejandro Valverde, helped out by all his team-mates before that final kick. A sprint would end up taking the race home, with Philippe Gilbert (BMC) besting the 2015 UCI World No. 1 and leaving the Unzué group with ‘only’ three visits to the podium yet with no win. Izagirre (11th) won the KOM classification  and Rubén Rubén Fernández (13th) finished as King of the Sprints, just ahead of countryman Rojas, who suffered cramps after big work late in the race.

 

“I’m quite happy,” Valverde said. “We’re starting the season well, a really long one this year – the legs are good as it is just February. We took a long shot at the win, racing agressively; I think it was a nice try from us with Rubén, Ion and myself on the Collado Bermejo descent, but working hard at the front also takes a lot of energy, and with Gilbert’s strong team-mates, things get more complicated in such a finale.

 

“In the sprint, Luisle [Sanchez] and I were much more looking at each other rather than matching Gilbert’s moves; we jumped from a long way to go and the headwind made it impossible to stick until the end. Still, Gilbert is quite a name - this was a decent 2nd place, and the race shows we’re ready to win. I want to thank the Murcian fans; there were lots of them all over the course and I want to dedicate this effort to them; their support was excellent.”

 

Ilnur Zakarin surprised to be on the podium at first race in 2016

The 36th Vuelta Ciclista a la Región de Murcia took place on Saturday with Team KATUSHA’s Ilnur Zakarin sprinting for the line to earn third place in the 199.3 km one-day race. 

 

“Honestly, I felt pretty well before the start, but I did not aim to be on the podium today. I wanted to do good work in this race since it is my first race in the season and I wanted to get some racing rhythm. But everything was really good during the race. The team helped me a lot. It was a strong crosswind and the guys protected me well. The main things in this race happened on the descents, because on the climbs there was a headwind and it was impossible to get any big advantage. Our sports director Xavier Florencio suggested that I shouldattack in the finale, so I found a possibility to go away with 3km to go. But the wind was still strong, so the others brought me back. In the finale I was able to sprint and to take a podium place. I am pretty happy with it, it was a nice race. I feel like I am in a good shape now and I want to save it,” said Ilnur Zakarin. 

 

The race was only one day for 2016 but race organizers will try to return it to a three-day format next year.  Earning the victory on the day was former world champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC), with four-time winner Alejandro Valverde of Movistar taking second just ahead of Zakarin in a time of 5:02.19.

 

”We’re very proud of this result and race of Ilnur, especially when you see the quality of the results – he was there with names like Gilbert, Valverde, Luis León, etc. Our whole team did a great job. On the first category climb, the Collada Bermejo, we had Ilnur but also a good Egor Silin and Alexey Tsatevich. Our plan was originally to focus on Tsatevich. Then Movistar pulled again harder to catch a break of six riders. In the end, on the Cresta del Gallo at 13km from the finish, we still had Ilnur in the front. He reacted to an attack of Tejay Van Garderen. And then he went alone at some 3 km from the end. He never got more than five seconds. They caught him back at 1.5km from the finish in Murcia. Amazing that he was still able to sprint to a third place. We can be proud of our performance,” said team director Xavier Florencio.  

 

A touch of wheels costs Luis Leon Sanchez podium place in Murcia

“I want to thank my teammates for the great job they did today for me,” said Luis Leon Sanchez after the finish.

 

“It was a very selective race as always here in Murcia. In the finale we were in 7 riders fighting for the victory, then someone failed to keep the wheels and we remained 4 at the front,” explained the European Champion of the Astana Pro Team.

 

“I touched someone in launching the sprint and this cost to me a couple seconds in accelerating. Moreover the road was slightly uphill and this was perfect for my rivals. I did my best and I was fourth,” continued Sanchez.

 

“Of course if I had got the victory, it would have been better for us but I’m honestly satisfied and happy with my condition and with the fact that I recovered well after Valenciana,” concluded the Spaniard.

 

Tour of Austria winner confirms potential with 10th place in Murcia

Two CCC Sprandi Polkowice riders – Victor de la Parte and Łukasz Owsian – made the top 15 in the one-day Vuelta Ciclista a la Region de Murcia. 

 

”In the last few days I haven’t really felt very good, since I caught a cold during training. I didn’t know how my body would react and I started the race without big expectations,” Victor de la Parte said afterwards. “On the first climb my legs were solid and I managed to stay among the strongest 10 riders. After the top we were joined by a few other guys and BMC Racing started to pull very hard. I lost contact with the first group 2 kilometers from the summit of the second climb when Valverde and Gilbert attacked.  I am satisfied with the final result, because the level of the race was very high. I am also happy with the team’s performance – my teammates were great today.”

 

Victor de la Parte arrived over 1 minute behind the winner in 10th place. Also Łukasz Owsian put in a great performance, as he took 15th.

 

Verva-Active Jet with solid debut at pro continental level in Murcia

In its first race as a ProContinental outfit VERVA Activejet riders animated the early moves. Kamil Gradek found himself in the breakaway of the day with Benat Txoperena (Euskadi Basque Country – Murias), Carlos Barbero (Caja Rural Seguros RGA), André Silva (Louletano – Hospital de Loule), Artem Ovechkin (Gazprom-Rusvelo) and Sander Helven (Topsport Vlaanderen – Baloise).

 

The group broke clear and even got a gap of 7 minutes, but it was Movistar Team dealing the cards in the peloton and the escape was over before it reached the summit of Collado Bermejo. Gradek and his companions were caught two kilometres from the top by a group of approximately 30 riders that included Paweł Cieślik and Karel Hnik.

 

The Czech and the Pole were among the top riders on the last climb of the day, Cresta del Gallo, and Cieślik made his way to the finish in the top 20.

 

“I felt quite good and was in the first group on the last climb. I made a mistake, I waited for a water bottle riding at the back of the group. That cost me a good position ahead of a very technical descent. I didn’t know the road, so I never made it back to the front group. That’s a shame, it could have been much better,” Cieślik said.

 

Unfortunately, Czech rider Jiri Polnicky did not finish the race. The 26-year-old crashed hard on the descent and was immediately seen by the race doctor. Luckily, what looked like a serious accident only ended up with bruises, scratches and a few stitches.

 

Bora-Argon 18 admits defeat after tough day in Murcia

Bora-Argon 18 were unable to place a rider in the 19-rider group that escaped after the Collado de Bermejo and had Paul Voss as their best rider in 26th.

 

“We thought that the long climb at about the midpoint of the race would bring a first selection but Moistar and BMC set an incredibly high pace. It turned out that this was the decisive move of the day, with 19 riders in the front. We tried to neutralize the action but I have to admit that today the other guys were too strong for us. In the end, we could not interfere in the race finale. Now we will look forward to Algarve, recover and we will be back stronger than today,” sports director Christian Pömer said

 

Roompot come up short in Murcia

In the Vuelta Ciclista a la Murcia - Costa Calida Erik Breukink's Roompot team failed to play a significant role. "It was a fast pace on the climbs set by teams like Movistar, BMC and Astana. They are very strong and we thus came up short," the team leader was realistic about the difference in strength. Philippe Gilbert (BMC) won in Murcia where Etienne van Empel in 50th was the best-placed Roompot rider.

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