Gerrans sprints to third on opening stage of Pais Vasco

Mon 4 Apr 2016

Tour Down Under champion Simon Gerrans outsprinted the bunch to take third place for ORICA-GreenEDGE on stage one of the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco today.

Good work from Simon Yates and Adam Yates on the final climb of the day brought the head of the race together, before a late attack involving Daniel Navarro (Cofidis) and Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) made it to the finish with Sanchez taking the win.

Sport director Neil Stephens was pleased with how the team performed on the opening stage.

”Obviously it’s slightly disappointing that we didn’t get the win,” said Stephens. ”The team did some great work throughout the stage, especially in the final third to keep Simon (Gerrans) up there for the finale.”

”Simon is coming into some form now and looks to be in great shape which bodes well for the rest of the race and the Ardennes classics.”

”Adam and Simon (Yates) set an incredible pace on the last climb. It’s really good to see the team working so well together on the first day. All the overall contenders are still together so we have everything still to race for and the team is feeling confident about the rest of the week.”

How it happened:

A wet and cloudy morning in Etxebarria welcomed the riders to the start of stage one. A short but difficult stage, featuring eight climbs which together with the poor weather conditions made the route a daunting prospect. The early breakaway of four riders escaped within the first 20kilometres and eventually gained over three minutes on the peloton.

Standing at only 135kilometres the short first stage seemed suited to the four escapees. Initially working well together for around 60kilometres, their advantage began to fall when they started to contest the intermediate sprint and mountains points. With 40kilometres left to race the lead of the four riders had dropped to just over one minute with Christian Meier and Amets Txurruka working hard on the front of the peloton.

Of the stage's eight climbs the two hardest were left until the end - the category one Ixua and then the category two Alto di San Miguel. Approaching the Ixua, the breakaway had only two riders left and an advantage of only 30seconds. Sensing the oppurtunity, Dario Cataldo (Astana) attacked from the front and bridged over to and then dropped the remaining two escapees.

A small group including Sergio Henao (Team-Sky) attempted to follow Cataldo but ORICA-GreenEDGE, riding tempo on the front of the peloton, controlled the attack with only three riders managing to gain a few seconds with Cataldo further up the road. The advantage of Cataldo grew to over 35seconds, Cannondale moved up to the front of the bunch with ORICA-GreenEDGE and Movistar in an attempt to reduce the gap. A crash occured between the climbs which resulted in Ruben Plaza needing a bike change and subsequently losing contact with the group.

With Adam and Simon Yates pulling the peloton up the steep gradients of the final climb, the advantage of Cataldo dropped to single figures immediately. Cataldo was caught with nine kilometres left to race as the main bunch split into pieces with the speed of the ascent.

Navarro attacked immediately as the climb was crested and began a furious descent towards the finish. Sanchez caught up to Navarro with under five kilometres left to race and the two riders began to work together.

In the final 300metres there appeared to be some confusion between Navarro and Leon-Sachez about who was going to start their sprint first and it almost cost them. Gerrans burst from the bunch with 200metres to go but ran out of road at the finish line, coming in third behind Sanchez and Navarro.

The racing continues tomorrow with Stage 2 covering 174.3km from Markina-Xemein to Baranbio-Garrastatxu.

Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco stage 1 results:

1. Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) 3:54:21
2. Daniel Navarro (Cofidis) ST
3. Simon Gerrans (ORICA-GreenEDGE) ST  

General classification after stage 1:

1. Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) 3:54:21
2. Daniel Navarro (Cofidis) ST
3. Simon Gerrans (ORICA-GreenEDGE) ST