Laurance is the canyon of the Volta Catalunya | Cycling | Sports


Laurence (Alpecin) crosses the finish line before Van den Berg (EF).Quique García (EFE)

Jaw clenched, gasps of air that didn’t come, bottle of water please, liberating shout and clenched fist in the air to receive hugs from his teammates and slaps from rivals. Axel Laurance leaned on the bicycle, exhausted by the effort but happy with a victory. Nobody could beat him, not even the bullet-man from the previous day, a Van den Berg who demanded that he give one last blow to the kidney, second after all, sprint resolved by the hair. It was what prevailed on a crazy day, with 11 escapes and their consequent neutralizations, unsuccessful attempts, electric cycling and an ode to speed. But in Viladecans no one pedaled faster than Laurence. “Is amazing. It’s my first year in a World Tour team and winning the race is great, it’s clear. I came in great shape and had my focus on the first stage and this one. “I’ll take this one,” the cyclist proudly decided, once again validating Alpecin’s commitment to having fast riders.

At the start of Altafulla, the tension between the teams that have sprinters, since the stage, with two second-category passes -Coll de Les Ventoses and Alt de la Creu d’Aragall- but with 20 kilometers of flatness to the finish line, did not seem like the right terrain for the indomitable Pogacar to do again of yours. But there were also cyclists who wanted to leave their mark on the Volta, since the steep and broken terrain invited them to seek adventure. “Today is the day a leak could occur,” agreed a Bora mechanic. “Maybe this is the stage in which the peloton doesn’t push so hard and we can get someone into the breakaway,” they pointed out hopefully from the boxes of the Lotto. “Today or never,” they added from AG2R. It wouldn’t be because of attempts. Thus, since the starting signal was given, there in the charming Altafulla, a medieval corner of the Costa Dorada with the Mediterranean in the background, there were many cyclists who tried to put themselves in the middle of the peloton. One, two, three… The attacks continued, the attempts of those cyclists who tried to put their name in the Volta. But Cofidis denied them the biggest, worried about being able to celebrate at least one Coquard victory. Game of cat and mouse unsuccessful for the brave, satisfactory for the pursuers. Four, five, six, seven… Those who felt strong continued rehearsing, those who had legs to start and ride a few kilometers at the speed of light because the pace of the peloton left their shadow behind, since 45k/h was signed until reach the port, where Kron (Lotto), Lipowitz (Bora) and, finally, Kruijswijk – the Flying Dutchman because he has 12 participations in the Volta, more than any other cyclist in this course – dreamed of the feat. There was no way.

After the descent, at the impasse between ports, the eighth zafarrancho arrived and five cyclists declared victory, not bingo. Óscar Rodríguez (Ineos), Mosca (Trek), Paleni (FDJ), Steinhauser (EF) and Juul-Jensen (Jayco) managed to disengage from the peloton, accumulating up to 2m35s of advantage. But Alpecin and Cofidis didn’t want to hear or talk about the escape, so they turned on the turbo again, a surprise moment. And they got their way because on the climb they overtook everyone except Steinhauser and Óscar Rodríguez, who had started with the ramps, determined to win the Homeric way. An intention that Michael Woods (Israel) – who wanted to give an opportunity to his teammate Stephen Williams, phenomenal on the slopes and a notable sprinter – cut short, capable of pulling and detaching the multicolored snake throughout the ascent, also of catching the escapees after trample the port. A good show that the fans stationed on the sides of the road applauded with enthusiasm. But he continued Show, the hypersonic race, the downhill recital of Andersen (Uno-X), Juanpe López (Trek) and Einer Rubio (Movistar). But, of course, they didn’t get their way either. Gifts in current cycling, none. Let them tell Pogacar (or Vingegaard).

Nine, 10… More attempts by runners who, now on the flat, started off fiercely, who did damage but who returned to the fold with their tongues hanging out due to fatigue, who slowed down the march and allowed the peloton to regroup. There were 6 kilometers left, the best was left. It was time for the teams to fight for position, for the wheelers to lift, wheel and act as leverage for the sprinters. Although there was an 11. A last attack by Pablo Castrillo (Kern Pharma) and David González (Caja Rural) at 2.5km. But they didn’t have the prize either. That was for Laurance, who celebrated the success before the curves return, this Saturday’s demanding mountain day, from Berga to Queralt. “It has been a very hard stage, with many attacks. But now we are going for tomorrow, which will be another very aggressive race from the beginning, with many concentrated climbs and shorts,” reflected Pogacar, who once again took the warrior’s rest.

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