Danny Van Poppel (LottoNL-Jumbo) won the opening stage of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana from a mass sprint finish. Luka Mezgec (Mitchelton-Scott) took 2nd place and Jurgen Roelandts (BMC Racing) placed 3rd.
The opening stage of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana took riders on a 191km trip from Oropesa del Mar to Peniscola. While the stage was undulating throughout, the only categorised climb came midway through the stage and so had little effect on the final result. A 4-rider breakaway animated the early part of the stage but they were caught just inside of 20km to go, setting up a big bunch sprint.
With no big name sprinters at the event this year, it was an interesting finale as everyone was keen to give the sprint a crack. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka’s Scott Thwaites threw his name into the hat and our Brit was well positioned heading into the technical final 4 kilometers.
It quickly became a bit messy with a number of turns and roundabouts to be negotiated before reaching the final kilometer. A number of riders went down in two separate crashes, fortunately none of our African Team riders hit the deck but Thwaites did get boxed a bit after all the jostling.
Van Poppel led from the front and was strong enough to hold off all challengers to take the stage win and the overall leaders jersey too. Thwaites was our best placed rider on the line, rolling home in 16th place.
Bingen Fernandez – Sport Director
First stage of Valencia and the first race of the year for the most of the peloton. After a fast start with many attacks a group of 4 riders escaped and took a max difference of 4’30. The sprinter’s team started to control the gap and caught them in the last 15 km. In the last kilometers we moved up in the key moment to position our leaders. In the final town the fast speed and the road furniture caused some crashes. Bernie came close to crashing, fortunately he did not but after the near miss he was lost from protecting Scott for the sprint.