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The Brit attacked with 1km to go and after he was joined by Valverde and Formolo, he responded to an attack from the Spaniard before beating his rivals with a late acceleration

Photo: Unipublic/Graham Watson

ALEJANDRO VALVERDE

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CHALLENGE MALLORCA

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DAVIDE FORMOLO

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NTT PRO CYCLING TEAM

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STEPHEN CUMMINGS

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30.01.2015 @ 16:16 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Stephen Cummings got his career as an MTN-Qhubeka rider off to the perfect start when the Brit won his first race in his new colours, the Trofeo Andratx which was the second race of the Challenge Mallorca race series. The Brit was the first to attack on the final climb and after Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Davide Formolo (Cannondale-Garmin) had joined him, he responded to an acceleration from the Spaniard before passing his rival to take a beautiful victory.

 

In 2011, Stephen Cummings came out from the off-season with all guns blazing when he won the mountain stage to the top of Alto do Malhao in the Volta ao Algarve. Last year he again underlined his status as a man for the early season when he finished second in the Dubai Tour and won the Tour Mediteraneen overall and today he made sure to use that status to give MTN-Qhubeka a flying start to the season.

 

Having skipped yesterday’s opener of the Challenge Mallorca, Cummings made his first appearance in his new colours in the second race, Trofeo Andratx, which was the first of two hilly races in the series. For the first time since 2005, the riders had to tackle a summit finish in the Mallorca race series and it was on the final climb Cummings made his move.

 

His teammate Johann van Zyl had done a fantastic job to be the lone survivor of a 10-man breakaway and the strong South African wasn’t brought back until 2km remained. At this point, Movistar were riding tempo on the front to set up Alejandro Valverde for a win and as they passed the flamme rouge, only 18 riders were left in the main group.

 

This is when Cummings made his first move and initially only Valverde and climbing sensation Davide Formolo could follow the Brit. Moments later, Valverde did what everybody expected when he launched his own attacks and everything seemed to be on track for a home victory.

 

However, Cummings still had something left in the tank and he managed to respond to the acceleration. Just before the line, he even managed to come around his rival to take the win while Formolo had to settle for second.

 

Valverde will get a chance to take revenge tomorrow when the third race offers another hilly route. The Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana is the hardest race in the series and includes no less than 7 categorized climbs. In the finale, the riders will go up the famous Puig Major climb before they descend to the bottom of the small Coll den Bleda which summits just 5km from the line. After a short descent, the road is slightly rising and it should again be a day for the climbers.

 

A summit finish

For the first time since 2005, the riders at the Challenge Mallorca would tackle a summit finish when the racing continued on the second day with the Trofeo Andratx-Mirador del Colomer. The 149km race took place along the hilly northwestern coast of Mallorca and saw the riders tackle two smaller category 3 climbs in the first half before they went up the famous category 2 Puig Major. After a long descent, the riders travelled along flat roads to the bottom of the climb of Mirador del Colomer whose 3.4km with a 6% average gradient led to the finish.

 

The riders again took the start in sunny conditions but like yesterday they were faced with a strong wind that had the potential to do some damage. With the hillier profile lending itself to attacks, the race got off to a much faster start than yesterday with several riders trying to get clear.

 

Greipel takes off

André Greipel (Lotto Soudal) decided to use the race to test his form and he launched a strong solo attack after 10km of racing. He was joined by Dylan van Baarle (Cannondale-Garmin), Johann van Zyl (MTN-Qhubeka), Mark Christian (Great Britain), Jose Goncalves (Caja Rural), Imanol Estevez (Murias Taldea), Huub Duyn (Roompot) and Igor Merino (Burgos) to form an 8-rider group that was 20 seconds ahead after 15km of racing. Nico Brungger (Roth Skoda) and Marcos Jurado (Spain) took off in pursuit while the peloton slowed down.

 

When Estevez beat Duyn and Goncalves in the first intermediate sprint after 20km of racing, the chasers were 36 seconds behind while the peloton had already lost 2.27. The chase duo made the junction while Movistar assumed their position on the front of the peloton.

 

The gap grows

When Estevez beat van Zyl, Duyn and Goncalves in the first KOM sprint, the gap had reached 4.30 and it would even reach 6.23 after 50km of racing. As the 10 escapees hit the second climb, Goncalves dropped his companions and he crested the summit with a 14-second advantage over Duyn, Estevez and Merino. At this point, the peloton had reduced their deficit to 5.52, with Movistar still doing the work.

 

The Spanish team upped the pace and when Greipel beat Estevez and Jurado in the special sprint at the 68km mark where Goncalves had again been brought back, the gap was down to 4.57. The German sprinter used the opportunity to attack and as he got a gap, the rest of the breakaway split to pieces, with van Baarle, Goncalves, van Zyl and Brungger setting off in pursuit.

 

The break splits up

Greipel started to climb the Puij Major with a 28-second advantage over his chasers while the peloton was at 6.00 and it didn’t take long for the German to be caught by the nearest group as soon as the road started to point upwards. Merino, Duyn and Jurado managed to rejoin the leaders while Estevez and Christian were struggling.

 

On the climb, van Baarle, Goncalves and van Zyl proved that they were the fastest riders when they attacked at the 87km mark. Greipel, Brungger and Duyn were their nearest chasers but they were losing ground on the climb. Jurado dropped Merino while further back Movistar had really upped the pace, reducing the gap to 3.42 at the 90km mark.

 

A strong trio

When Goncalves led van Zyl and van Baarle over the top, the trio were 57 seconds ahead of their three chasers while Merino had passed Jurado and was at 1.25. However, the Movistar work had an effect as the peloton was now just 1.54 behind.

 

After 103km of racing, the peloton had caught all the chasers but the front trio were working hard to maintain their advantage. However, they were constantly losing ground and when van Zyl attacked at the 110km mark, the gap was less than a minute.

 

Van Zyl is caught

Van Zyl was brought back by his chasers and the front trio were still 48 seconds ahead with 25km to go. Impressively, they managed to maintain a 1-minute gap over a peloton that had been reduced to 50-60 riders.

 

Van Baarle led Goncalves and van Zyl over the line at the final intermediate sprint with 24km to go while Goncalves was faster than van Baarle and van Zyl in the final special sprint a little later. However, the peloton was now riding at full speed and with 5km to go, the gap was only 21 seconds.

 

Goncalves was the first to get dropped as they started to climb and later van Zyl also left van Baarle behind. With 2km to go, however, it was over for the MTN-Qhubeka rider as he was caught by a group that was down to just 18 riders with 1km to go. This is where Cummings made his move and after he had responded to Valverde’s attack, he took an impressive first win for his new team.

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