Top Ten for Michael Albasini on Final Day of Mallorca ChallengeWed 12 Feb 2014
Michael Albasini was part of a 12 rider front group that survived the four categorised ascents of Trofeo Muro-Port d’Alcuida to contest the race win. Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step) emerged victorious on the last day of the Challenge Mallorca, edging out Francisco Ventoso (Movistar) and Ben Swift (Sky) for the top step of the podium. Albasini sprinted in for seventh place.
ORICA-GreenEDGE had a rude start to their day. Michael Matthews and Pieter Weening awoke with the stomach bug that had caused problems for Michael Albasini and Ivan Santaromita earlier in the week. With only eight riders in Mallorca, this left the Australian outfit with only six starters.
“On the team doc’s advice, we decided not to have Matthews or Weening start the stage, so we were two down from the beginning, “ said Assistant Sport Director Julian Dean. “We had to readjust the plans, especially given that today was built around Michael Matthews. In Michael’s absence, the other guys had a little more carte blanche, and if it came down to a sprint, Michael Albasini was going to be our guy.”
The early racing was fast and frenzied despite the gentle terrain at the start. The peloton seemed disinclined to allow a break up the road ahead of the climbs. When the bunch hit the day’s first ascent, Christian Meier joined a group of 13 riders in the breakaway.
“The break went on the first climb,” Meier noted. “We had about 30 kilometres of flat. It was really quick and nothing was going, so I sort of had a hunch that it would go on the climb.”
“We rode pretty hard on the climb,” Meier added. “It was quite a strong breakaway. There were some good guys in there. We were basically going uphill all the way to the top of Puig Major. We never really had a huge gap. Team Sky was controlling it pretty well behind, but everyone rode hard.”
Team Sky kept Meier’s group around the minute mark throughout the entire afternoon. Meier crashed out of the break on the second to last descent and, banged up from hitting the ground, pulled the plug on his day. The last two men standing in the move were back in the bunch shortly after summiting the final hill.
“Over the top of Soller, on the descent, I ended up getting caught off guard by one corner that had a stream of water,” Meier explained. “The roads here are notoriously slippery when they’re dry. I didn’t stand a chance. I saw the water at the last second, and that was it. At that point, we only had 40”on the group behind us. I didn’t really have a chance to jump up, get my bike right and get back in the break. It was essentially day over.”
“Normally I get up and jump on the bike and get going right away, but today, for some reason, I got up and I was really quite sore,” Meier continued. “It hurt immediately. That’s not normal for me, so I stopped and got into the car. The worst is my elbow. It was a decent chunk of flesh missing, so that’s a bit sore and swollen. Luckily, I don’t think anything is broken.”
“Christian wasn’t our only rider to crash,” added Dean. “We had three of our six guys go down today: Christian, Esteban Chaves and Ivan Santaromita. Both Christian and Santa got in the car. Chaves was okay, but obviously a crash is never ideal.”
Approximately 40 riders remained in the front group at the start of the last descent. The technical downhill further split the group until only 12 had made the final selection on the run in towards the line. Meersman was first to open his sprint, and he managed to hold off his challengers.
“Seventh was good for Alba,” said Dean. “He was a little unwell with the same stomach bug a few days ago, but he certainly has made good progress throughout the week. It was good for him to finish off better than he was in the first few days of racing.”
“It’s a little bit of a bummer for the other guys but we’ve had such good luck the rest of the season,” Dean added. “We’re going to have good luck and bad luck at various points of the year, and today is one of those days that makes real bike riders out of the guys.”