Parkinson retains white jersey as stage two ends in bunch sprint
The peloton set out for stage two of the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana in the outskirts of Castellón, in almost perfect conditions. With relatively no wind present, it was apparent from the start that the main feature of the day would be the Category One climb, of Desert de Les Palmes at KM 67.5. Post training camp, the team had done reconnaissance of the climb, and had decided that it would be a decisive point in the race, if raced hard.
The first 40 KM of stage two was uneventful, with the peloton riding a steady pace around 40km/h. The team’s plan going in to the race was to get at least one rider up the road before the QOM, therefore securing numbers over the top, to have at the finish. As predicted, as breakaway of 12 riders slipped away after the first sprint, gaining a maximum advantage of 1minute 30seconds.
Within the group of 12, Trek-Drops had Lizzie Holden present, a strong climber and a savvy bike rider. Captain Tayler Wiles had confidence that this was a good situation for the team, and prepared for the run in to the QOM. Hannah Payton and Anna Christian led the team leaders, Tayler Wiles, Abby Mae and Kathrin Hammes into the bottom of the climb, dropping them off in the perfect position to remain in contention.
Canyon-SRAM applied pressure on the climb, right from the base of climb, which completely shattered the field. Kathrin Hammes made the front group of 10, which later on up the climb caught the group (that had dwindled) of breakaway riders. We now had two riders in the front group cresting the QOM, with Wiles not far off the lead.
The final 40km of the race, was fast, with only a mild crosswind coming off the ocean. Unfortunately, the leading group sat up, and the chasing group from behind, of about 10 riders caught on. The advantage here for the team, was now that we had 3 riders present in the group of now 30 riders. The tactic coming in to the stage was to be aggressive, and as soon as Wiles regained contact, the team began with their attacking. With just under 15KM to go, one lone rider attacked the front group, gaining 10 seconds. Kathrin bridged across to the Swabo Ladies rider, who was then followed by 4 more riders. The composition of the group was good, and gained a max advantage of 30 seconds. Canyon SRAM and Ale-Cipollini lead the chase, with race leader Barnes only leading by 6 seconds, and Ale-Cipollini having one of the fastest sprinters in the bunch. The small front group was caught, and the main bunch then sat up. A hard chasing grupetto also gained contact, and the group swelled to around 70 riders. It was going to be an all out bunch sprint.
Unfortunately, a few bad crashes in the finale held up a lot of riders and the sprint ended up being taken by Marta Bastianelli from Ale Cipollini, whom demonstrated her sprinting prowess. Abby-Mae managed to maintain her GC position as well as the Best Young Rider jersey.
DS, Loren Rowney commented
"I’m really happy with the team today, and how they came together as a unit. Quite often you don’t get to see the happenings within the race when there aren’t race radios, and you’re too far back. However, the fact we had Lizzie in the front, the team nailing the lead out in to the climb, and then Kathrin climbing with some of the best… I think that is a strong showing of what is to come this year. Race wins take patience, and that’s exactly what we need to have”
Road captain, Tayler Wiles reflected post-stage.
"I think the team raced a really great race today. Getting Lizzie up the road before the climb was perfect and she had a phenomenal day. Hannah and Anna did a good job of getting us into the base of the climb in good position to have the best crack at it possible. Going over the top with two riders and me just behind was a perfect scenario for us and once I caught on we were really able to animate the race and play off each other well. Unfortunately the finish was just a bit too far from the climb and it all came back together in a hectic and crash filled bunch kick, however it did mean we were able to keep Abby-Mae in the white jersey for another day which she has fought hard for. All in all it was a great race for the team in terms of teamwork and I’m looking forward to the stages to come."