A miscalculation spoils the premiere of Pogacar at the Volta | Cycling | Sports


Thumbs up, jaw clenched and eyes to heaven, sincere but brief congratulations, recognition in any case. That was what Tadej Pogacar did when he crossed the finish line in Sant Feliu de Guíxols, this time second in the debut of the Volta Catalunya, unable to catch the sprint to the surprising Nicholas Schultz (Israel-Premier Tech), who with one kilometer left put on the turbo to face the final slope, the one in which Roglic dismounted Evenepoel in the previous course, the same one in which Colbrelli’s brakes stopped. heart two years ago to the shock of everyone, now recovered but which made him give up the bicycle. It was a stage controlled from step to step by UAE, the Pogacar team, an exercise in absolute supremacy that, however, went to waste because it miscalculated in the last kilometers, a winding descent with twisty curves, a constricted road and barely gaps to recover positions. Thus, abandoned by his companions and lost in the tangle of rival runners, Pogacar was only able to start with 300 meters to go. He was 15 away from placing the laurel, second in the end. The only mistake of the great favorite for the final scepter, the animal on two wheels and handlebars, who controlled almost everything except the final arrival, who also decided not to wear himself out prematurely waiting for what is to come, three steep stages—the first this Tuesday, from Mataró to Vallter-Setcases—and another in the middle of the mountain.

Sea and mountains with cycling in between. That was the beautiful and bucolic postcard offered by the departure of the first stage of the Volta Catalunya in Sant Feliu de Guíxols, as the coaches gathered at the foot of the seaport under a rock, where the fluttering seagulls swirled and where the hundreds of Pizpiretos bike fans – several schools came with their students to the show – enjoyed the team presentations. While fishing boats, such as Dorada Costa 2, Avi Toni, Mainada either Blue Moon, swayed on the water to the rhythm of the light breeze and slowly, the runners attended to the last-minute tactical talks in the coaches and paraded between the improvised human corridor and the cheers. There Sepp Kuss, the friend of the people, greeted effusively; there Enric Mas raised his arms; There Nairo Quintana stood with the media and with those who asked for his autographs; and Tadej Pogacar also raised his hand on the lectern, as if he were asking for a turn, as if he realized that, once again, he was going to press the pedal harder and faster than anyone else. I’m missing a little. “But this is not everyone against Pogacar, but everyone against everyone,” Mas recalled. “But it is known that he is the strongest, the one who has the power to destabilize any stage or career,” they ruminated from the boxes of the teams.

Of the 175 runners who started the stage, only a few dared to launch an early breakaway. One failed attempt and another successful, barely 10 kilometers covered, with Petilli (Intermarché), Elissonde (Cofidis), Baudin (AG2R), Holter (Uno-X) and Bizkarra (Euskaltel) as exponents, gallant cyclists who faced the Alto de la Ganga – a third-class port – and Alto de los Ángeles – a second-class port – with the hope of wearing the red jersey of the mountain, a prize for Elissonde. But on the road, surrounded by pine forests, summer towns that serve as a second residence for the wealthy people of Barcelona, ​​the Mediterranean Costa Brava, the command was held by UAE, which for some reason has brought a team of excellent runners, in the case of Almeida, Jay Vine, Soler and, of course, Pogacar. He made and unmade the little group as he pleased, the rubber game: now we squeeze and cut; Now we give a little truce and see you soon, even though the difference barely exceeded two and a half minutes at most. The UAE law, the head of the snake and a sign that you race to win, that Pogacar does not understand holidays. Also penalty for teams with sprinters —Coquard (Cofidis), Van den Berg (DSM), Marit (Intermarché), Aular (Caja Rural) and Hayter (Ineos) as favorites in the Volta—, than in the current times, with scorching teams like Visma or cyclists with layer like Vingegaard or Pogacar, they no longer even try to control the stages that are not on the flat.

After Tossa de Mar, in a stage that seemed more like a classic than anything else because it ran through secondary roads, very narrow and full of curves, the UAE put on the turbo. And although there was a fall in the peloton – scratches from the battle for Van Gils (Lotto), Zambanini (Bahrain) and Sosa Cuervo (Movistar) -, with 33 kilometers to go, what was happening was over. So at the foot of Alto de Sant Grau – a second-class port – the escapees were absorbed, a new career. It happened that the UAE got a little tangled there, because after the sprint In the middle, their runners lost their position and had a hard time recovering it. Only Marc Soler, always a fighter, huge heart and sherpa experienced because the previous afternoon he trained on the track, and Almeida, a super-luxury gregarious, were able to set the pace, to pluck the daisy of the peloton. After the pass, however, came the descent, as technical as it was dangerous, as fine as it was tangled, and no one aspired to anything other than being well placed. “We were left without all the people we wanted, we got lost ahead of time and it took its toll on us in the sprint,” Soler accepted.

It happened that Schultz’s start had no echo, that no one caught his wheel. And when Pogacar hit the hyperspace button it was too late. At least to win the stage, not to earn a few bonus seconds, two seconds behind the leader and eight seconds behind the other candidates. It was just a miscalculation.

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