Mezgec grabs third after Mitchelton-SCOTT rip the race apart in Almeria

Sun 17 Feb 2019

Slovenian Luka Mezgec sprinted to third place at the Clasica de Almeria after an heroic effort from his Mitchelton-SCOTT teammates to tee him up for the finale. 

The seven-man squad ripped the field apart over the climbs as they looked to shed the pure sprinters in the bunch, but despite their best efforts, Pascal Ackerman (BORA-hansgrohe) held on and proved to be the fastest man on the day as he took the victory.

Steady start:
It didn’t take long for the day’s breakaway to form with the peloton content to let a group of seven go up the road inside the first 10km.

As the race headed over the first of four categorised climbs, the advantage to the escapees had increased to just shy of four minutes. That’s where the gap stayed until the leaders hit the Balcón de Sierra Alhamilla and Carlos Verona (Movistar Team) went solo, with the peloton picking up the pace behind.

Hitting the front:
The middle of the race was punctuated with three climbs in quick succession and that’s where the race came alive as Mitchelton-SCOTT set a blistering tempo on the front, splitting the peloton into two groups.

The pace didn’t relent as the race hit the flat roads to the finish with debutant Edoardo Affini, Chris Juul-Jensen, Jack Bauer, Callum Scotson and Dion Smith all taking their turns on the front to stretch the advantage to the second group on the road to over one minute.

As the pack hit the first of two finishing circuits it was clear the race would be contested between those in the front group. 

It was left down to the Italian duo of Affini and European champion Matteo Trentin to lead out Mezgec in the sprint and as the pair swung off, the kick for line saw a three-way battle between Mezgec, Marcel Kittel (Team Katusha - Alpecin) and Ackerman, with the latter coming out on top in Roquetas de Mar.

Luka Megec:
“Hats off, the boys did an amazing job today, I’m sorry I couldn’t finish it off but the problem was those fast guys, Ackerman and Kittel stayed in the front group and we all knew it was going to be hard to beat them in the sprint.”

“We started pulling before the climbs, then we went full gas on the climbs and we split the group apart.”

“We were still riding in the cross wins on the flat and when we saw there was a gap of 20seconds we kept up the pace. We didn’t get any help from any other teams but we were just pulling on the front all the way for maybe 90 or 100km.”

Clasica de Almeria Results:
1. Pascal Ackerman (BORA - hansgrohe) 4:27:58
2. Marcel Kittel (Team Katusha - Alpecin) ST
3. Luka Mezgec (Mitchelton-SCOTT) ST 

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.