Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana
Tour Colombia 2.1
EF Pro Cycling dominated the opening day’s Team Time Trial at the Tour Colombia 2.1, beating Deceuninck-Quickstep by 45 seconds over the 16.7 km course. Team Ineos came third, just a second behind Deceuninck-Quickstep. Pro Continental outfit Rally Cycling had an incredible day out, beating the rest of the WorldTour squads and finishing fourth overall, 59 seconds down on EF Pro Cycling. Ecuadoran rider Jonathan Caicedo (EF Pro Cycling) was first across the line, and thus wore the General Classification leader’s jersey heading into Stage 2.
The sprinters got their opportunity in Duitama at the end of Stage 2, with Deceuninck-Quickstep providing another brilliant leadout for their man Alvaro Hodeg. But instead it was Juan Sebastian Molano (UAE Team Emirates) who hit the front with a huge burst of speed to beat Hodeg by a bike length. Itamar Einhorn (Israel Start-Up Nation) claimed the final podium spot in third after nearly colliding with teammate Edwin Avila in the final hundred meters. Caicedo (EF Pro Cycling) kept the GC lead heading into Stage 3.
Molano won again on Stage 3, hitting the line ahead Avila and Hodeg in Sogamoso. The most challenging stage of the race thus far, riders contested three categorized climbs over the 178 km route, with the reduced peloton coming back together only in the final 15 km. The top three in GC stayed the same, with Molano moving up to fourth thanks to consecutive days of time bonuses.
Sergio Higuita (EF Pro Cycling) used a come-from-behind sprint to win Stage 4 ahead of Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quickstep) in Santa Rosa de Viterbo. The peloton had shrunk to less than 20 riders following the Alto de Malterias climb which topped out inside 3 km to go. GC leader Jonathan Caicedo (EF Pro Cycling) was held up on the climb after teammate Dani Martinez went down following a touch of wheels. Last year’s Giro d’Italia winner Richard Carapaz (Team Ineos) put in a big move approaching the final kilometer and nearly earned himself the stage win, but Alaphilippe worked hard to bring the Ineos man back with just a few hundred meters to go. As Carapaz was caught, Higuita countered over the top and flew to the stage win as well as the GC lead. Tour de France champion Egan Bernal finished second on the day, and jumped to fourth in the GC behind Higuita, Martinez, and Caicedo, respectively.
Molano (UAE Team Emirates) made it a hat trick of stage wins by taking Stage 5 in a nail-biting finish with Hodeg (Deceuninck-Quickstep) who faded slightly in the final meters. Jhonatan Restrepo (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec) claimed the final podium spot on the day, ahead of two Americans, Travis McCabe (Israel Start-up Nation) and Colin Joyce (Rally Cycling), who finished fourth and fifth, respectively. Higuita finished well within the bunch to maintain his GC lead ahead of teammates Martinez and Caicedo heading into Sunday’s final stage.
EF Pro Cycling dominated the final stage of the Tour Colombia 2.1, with Martinez winning ahead of Higuita and Egan Bernal (Team Ineos). Higuita secured the GC victory after another superb climbing performance on the Alto del Verjón which finished at 3,290 meters. Jonathan Caicedo (EF Pro Cycling) finished fifth on the day and rounded out an all-EF Pro Cycling podium in the General Classification.
Along with his three stage wins, Juan Sebastián Molano (UAE-Team Emirates) took home the Points Classification, Fabio Duarte (Team Medellin) won the King of the Mounts Classification, EF Pro Cycling won the Team Classification in dominating fashion, and Higuita won the Young Rider’s jersey in addition to the General Classification.
Tour de la Provence
The first stage of this year’s Tour de la Provence finished in a traditional bunch sprint in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. Nacer Bouhanni (Arkea-Samsic) won in his new team colors after a tumultuous couple of years with Cofidis. The Frenchman found his way to the front in the closing kilometers, and came around early launcher Jakub Mareczko (CCC) in the final bend to take victory. Giacomo Nizzolo (NTT) was third, and American neo-pro Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo) earned his best professional result to date by finishing in tenth.
Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana) won Stage 2 after ripping away from the peloton with 2.5 km to go on the final climb of Les Crêtes above La Ciotat. Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb) – whose attack had kicked off proceedings but was then duly shuttered by Vlasov’s counter – led home a reduced group of favorites to take second on the stage. Vlasov’s teammate, Alexey Lutsenko (Astana), finished third. The 23 year-old Russian champion grabbed hold of the General Classification leader’s jersey and carried a 28-second lead into Stage 3’s decisive finish at Mont Ventoux.
Nairo Quintana returned to the top step of the podium with an explosion of gusto that cycling fans have been missing since the Colombian’s meteoric rise just a few years ago. The stone-faced climber launched an attack with over 7 km to go on the final climb of Mont Ventoux, but no one could even come close to answering as Quintana extended his advantage to over 90 seconds by the finish. There was no shortage of firepower in the chase group behind either, with teammates Alexey Lutsenko and Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana), Hugh Carthy (EF Pro Cycling), Sepp Kuss (Team Jumbo Visma), and Thibaut Pinot (Groupama–FDJ) among them. Quintana’s win is the first in his new team’s colors – the red and black of Team Arkea-Samsic – who will be delighted with the success of their new signings in this year’s Tour de la Provence.
The final stage of the Tur de la Provence was a hilly affair, and in the end, a breakaway of four stayed away from the field with just a few seconds to spare. Owain Doull (Team Ineos) got the better of his breakaway companions in the final sprint to take the win – Team Ineos’s first of the 2020 season – in Aix-en-Provence. Matthias Brändle (Israel Start-Up Nation) finished second, American Ian Garrison was third in his first race for Deceuninck-QuickStep, and Romain Combaud (Nippo Delko One Provence) finished just off the podium in fourth. Another American rider Quinn Simmons (Trek – Segafredo) rounded out the Top 10.
Quintana finished safely in the bunch to secure the GC victory, with Astana teammates Vlasov and Lutsenko rounding out the GC podium in second and third, respectively. The former took home the Best Young Rider classification, while the latter won the Points Classification. Jonas Koch (CCC Team) won the King of the Mountains jersey, and Astana won the Team Classification at this year’s Tour de la Provence.
Clasica de Almeria
Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) became the first rider to win back-to-back titles at the Spanish sprinter’s classic, the Clásica de Almería. The German just beat Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) and Elia Viviani (Cofidis) on the line during a chaotic finish in Roquetas de Mar. It was Viviani’s French outfit who lead out the final sprint, but Ackermann got the jump on Cofidis leadout man Fabio Sabatini and dashed to victory ahead of the hard-charging Norwegian in Kristoff.
World champion Ceylin Del Carmen Alvarado (Alpecin–Fenix) won a three-up sprint to the line ahead of Denise Betsema (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) and Annemarie Worst (777) to take both the race win and overall victory in the 2019/2020 Telenet Superprestige series. The race took place on a hilly course in Middelkerke, Belgium which at times seemed more like a pump track than a cyclocross course. Unique features coupled with a gloomy Belgian overcast provided a slippery surface for the riders to navigate. Alvarado and Worst had gotten together from the off, and were joined up front on the first lap by U23 world champion Shirin Van Anrooij. As Van Anrooij fell back, Betsema came to the fore, and a three-way battle ensued until the final sprint. Alvarado led from the front, and took a clear victory ahead of Betsema and Worst, respectively – this marks the 14th win for Alvarado in the 2019/2020 CX season.
Belgian National Champion Laurens Sweeck (Pauwels Sauzen–Bingoal) took a big win on Saturday at Noordzeecross. The Belgian big man has been a recurring figure on the podium the past few seasons, but has earned only a handful of big wins to his name – but for the recent Belgian National Championships. After a rather large group formed in the opening laps, Sweeck attacked as the race approached its midpoint, and there was no response. Over the next few laps, a battle of teams and technique ensued in the chase group behind. Eventually it was Toon Aerts (Telenet Baloise Lions) who threw down the decisive attack which separated both himself and Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen–Bingoal) from the rest of the group. But no one could do anything about Sweeck, who made a last-minute bike change to show off his clean Ridley resplendent in the Belgian National Champion colors. Sweeck’s win also guaranteed his triumph in the overall 2019/2020 Telenet Superprestige series.
As if Ceylin Carmen del Alvarado (Alpecin-Fenix) and Annemarie Worst (777) hadn’t seen enough of each other already, the duo battled again on Sunday at Vestingcross from the umpteenth time this season. The two Dutchwomen broke away early again, with Denise Betsema (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) in tow for the second day in a row. Eventually, Betsema would be distanced on the course plagued by slippery off-cambers, and the race win would come down to the final sprint. Once again, World Champion Alvarado came out on top, with confetti flying as she crossed the line in her 15th triumph of the season.
Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen–Bingoal) took a brilliant win on Sunday at Vestingcross on a challenging course that did little to challenge him. “This course suits me, a lot of intervals. It’s a shame Vanthourenhout had bad luck quickly, but Sweeck helped me well. I soon knew that I was going to win. The legs were good today,” Iserbyt said after the race. Tom Pidcock (Trinity Racing) equaled his best-ever Elite result by finishing second, and Toon Aerts (Telenet Baloise Lions) rounded out the podium in third.
Upcoming Race Schedule
The Vuelta a Andalucia Ruta Ciclista Del Sol headlines another busy week of pro racing around the world this week. Beginning on February 19th, the Spanish race runs through the 23rd, as does the five-day Volta ao Algarve em Bicicleta which takes place next door in Portugal.
The inaugural Dubai Women’s Tour begins on February 17th and continues with four stages through the 20th.
The multi-day Vuelta Comunidad Valenciana Feminas in Spain and Tour Cycliste International du Var et des Alpes Maritimes round out another week of pro racing in Spain and France, respectively.
The final weekend of cyclocross is here – the 2019/2020 UCI CX season finishes with the GP Leuven in Belgium on Saturday and the IInternationale Sluitingsprijs Oostmalle on Sunday.