Brilliant win for Vandenbergh in Valenciana last day
A gutsy attack and an all-in effort brought the Belgian his first victory in almost 9 years.
With around 15 kilometers left of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana's final stage, just as the peloton got accustomed to the urban circuit in Valencia, Stijn Vandenbergh decided to make his move and leave the pack together with Mirco Maestri (Bardiani). Not many would have credited them with a real chance of giving the sprinters the slip on such a flat course, but in no time the gap between the two and the chasers hit the 30-second mark, and that made Stijn believe he can go all the way.
As soon as he crossed the line at the end of the 3rd (out of 6) lap of the day, the Etixx – Quick-Step rider powered away from his Italian companion and went solo, still having half a minute in hand. But the real action of the day was yet to begin, being triggered minutes later, when a plastic bag got stuck in the back wheel of Stijn Vandenbergh's bike and his advantage began to drop. Despite this, he didn't give up and put in a monumental effort, which helped him enter on the final lap with a gap that hovered between 15 and 20 seconds over the peloton led by Cofidis and Katusha.
A man of all seasons, capable to take matters into his own hands when he senses an opportunity, the 31-year-old rode hard in those endless final two kilometers, managed to hold off the bunch and crossed the line victorious, upsetting the sprinters and notching the team's 8th win of 2016, and the 5th of the week, one which proved to be more than great for Etixx – Quick-Step, in both the Dubai Tour and Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana.
"I came in good shape here, felt really strong, and when we entered on the circuit I said to myself that I have nothing to lose if I give it a shot. I tried not to think of the peloton, to go full gas, and in the end it all paid off. It's really nice to win and to get more confidence ahead of the spring, especially as it has been quite a long time since my previous success", said Stijn Vandenbergh, an ever-loyal team rider, who scored his first victory in almost 9 years, the previous one being recorded at the 2007 Tour of Ireland, where he came at the top of the overall standings.
Besides the victory in Valencia, on Sunday, Etixx – Quick-Step nailed another stage success earlier this week in the Spanish race, thanks to Daniel Martin, who conquered Alto de Fredes, on Thursday. In the general classification, the best placed rider of the team was Luxembourg champion Bob Jungels, who finished 12th.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele