The seven-time Monument winner went for a good result in the first flat day of Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana.
Another day, another long-lived breakaway in the Spanish race, this time consisting of seven riders – Jorge Cubero (Burgos), Garikoitz Bravo (Euskadi), Antonio Molina (Caja Rural), Enrico Barbin (Bardiani), Artem Ovechkin (Gazprom-Rusvelo), Roman Maikin (Gazprom-Rusvelo) and Nikolay Mihalov (CCC Sprandi Polkowice) – who worked together and stayed at the head of the stage until the last 12 kilometers, when they were swept away by the peloton. A couple of minutes later, Bob Jungels attacked from the bunch and got a handful of seconds, but was sent in the wrong direction by the race motorbike with 1200 meters to go. As a result, he lost his advantage, but fortunately came back quick in the main group and kept his 5th place in the general classification.
"It's a pity, because I went flat out in that attack and had a good gap. I honestly I think I would have won the race. Unfortunately, a motorbike in front of me went straight, instead of making the right corner and I followed it. That road should have been closed, not open, but there's nothing I can do now to change things. Despite of that, I remain upbeat for the rest of the week", said the Luxembourg champion minutes after arriving at the team bus.
The sprint was led out by Cofidis for Nacer Bouhanni, who eventually finished second, behind Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo). Alexander Porsev (Katusha) rounded out the podium, while Tom Boonen was fourth at the finish in Alzira, a town visited by the race for the first time in 9 years. The 2005 world champion, riding his first event of the season in Spain, made an analysis of the sprint: "It was a chaotic finale. In the last meters I hesitated a bit if I should take Bouhanni's wheel or go on the right. I went with the latter, but maybe I should have chosen the left side. But that's sprinting sometimes. Important thing is that I feel good, and that's why this morning we decided that I will try something in the sprint. As I said, I just went with my instinct and I'm satisfied with the outcome, especially considering this was my first sprint in a long time."
Most certain, stage 4 will decide the general classification of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana. The peloton will roll out from Orihuela and will tackle four categorized climbs along the way. The last one, Xorret de Cati (4 km, 22% maximum gradient), is set to provide the ideal terrain for those who will look to take the victory or move up in the standings.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele