Enrico Gasparotto 10th at the opening stage of Volta Ciclista A Catalunya
Stage 1 – Calella – Calella / 178,9 km
Calella, March 20th – 97th edition of Volta Ciclista a Catalunya kicked off today in the City of Calella. Enrico Gasparotto of BAHRAIN MERIDA Pro Cycling Team took excellent 10th place and Antonio Nibali handled the climbs excellently.
The opening stage of this traditional race, almost as old as Giro and The Tour and older than Vuelta España, took place in a beautiful sunny day in City of Calella, with average S wind of 15 km/h. Key strategy of BAHRAIN MERIDA Pro Cycling Team for today’s race, prepared by sports directors Herald Morscher and Vladimir Miholjević, was to do everything possible to keep the high team position and to help Ondrej Cink and Janez Brajkovič to get in top 10 in general classification.
After first 35 km and just before Alt De Prapers climb (Cat. 3), four riders, including our Antonio Nibali, went for the breakaway. After 100 km the breakaway quartet – Antonio Nibali, Rolland (Cannondale), Affonso and Nazaret (both Brazil) – still wasn’t leveled out to an even. Antonio Nibali won the King of the Mountain at the Coll Formic climb (Cat. 1) and came second best in three climbs – Alt De Prapers climb (Cat. 3), Alt Dels Pinars De Badó climb (Cat. 2) and Alt El Muntanyá climb (Cat. 1). Immediately after the last mountain, Coll Formic, the peloton became compact. In the last kilometer started groupings and regroupings and the sprinters were looking out for a chance of victory. Davide Cimolai (ITA) – FDJ and Nacer Bouhanni (FRA) – Cofidis made to the front and performed wheel-to-wheel sprint. Cimolai won the race and proved once again that Volta Ciclista A Catalonya suits him well, as he also won the same stage last year.
Enrico Gasparotto was our best rider and took 10th place at today’s opening stage, with 10 seconds behind the winner. Ondrej Cink, Janez Brajkovič, Tsgabu Grmay, Yuikya Arashiro and Domen Novak finished in the group.
Our riders were happy with the performance and Enrico Gasparotto commented: »It was quite a good rythm all day. Not super fast but it was ok. I tried to do the sprint but I couldn’t fight well enough for the position. I was quite good in the end, but when the real sprint started, I stayed where I was – I didn’t have enough power. Tomorrow will be a new experience in TTT.«
Ondrej Cink added: »It wasn’t easy today. It was up and down all the time. A lot of climbing and in the end it was a lot of fighting for the position for the sprint. I was in the group. I feel good and I am looking forward to the next stages. Tomorrow in the TTT it will be difficult because it is all new for me. I will be more focused for the next stages.«
»It was a pretty fast day, a bit stressfull but it actually went better than I thought it would, so I am pretty happy with my legs. Hopefully tomorrow we can limit the loss and than we go on,« Janez Brajkovič expressed his feelings about today’s race.
Also Harald Morscher, team director was really happy about Gasparotto’s result: »Today’s stage was really fast and dynamic and we are very happy that Enrico Gasparotto finished in top ten. He may not be a full sprinter as some others at this race, but it gives us confidence for the next days. It is very important that today our leaders, Ondrej Cink and Janez Brajkovič looked good and had a good day and great support from the others. Tommorrow is a TTT stage and hopefully we will get through it in the best possible way and then focus on the other stages that have lots of hard climbs. With Janez and Ondrej we have good cards in our hands.«
Photo: MIWA IJIMA