Keisse lits up Valenciana final stage
300 meters separated the 34-year-old Belgian of his first win of the season.
The extreme weather protocol was put in place on Sunday, when strong and dangerous winds in Paterna prompted the organizers to shorten the final stage of the 68th Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana. That meant that after the neutral start, the riders jumped on the team buses and traveled to Valencia for a 50km-long stage on a flat city circuit with wide roads.
Right from the gun, Iljo Keisse attacked and got a gap over the peloton; three riders tried to join him, but couldn't match the Belgian's fantastic power, and Iljo went on to stretch his advantage to 34 seconds at the halfway mark. Inside the final 20 kilometers, Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) left the field and linked up with the Quick-Step Floors rider, and despite several teams chasing them, they continued to stay at the front and tackled the final lap with a 15-second advantage.
Into the last kilometers, Keisse and his breakaway companion looked poised to make it, but their road came to an end before the final bend, as they were swarmed with only 300 meters to go. Despite being caught so close to the line, Iljo still had something left in the tank to sprint and get a fifth place, just behind teammate Yves Lampaert, on the stage won by Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie).
"It's a pity Iljo didn't make it, he put in a superb effort, tried to stay out until the finish and would have deserved to win. He's an incredible rider, one who never gives up, which you could see again today when he produced this great display", said sport director Wilfried Peeters right after the finish.
Besides five top-5 placings, Quick-Step Floors also saw Dan Martin (5th) and David De La Cruz (7th), best Spaniard in the race, do a solid general classification at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana; in addition to that, Belgian champion Philippe Gilbert leaves the race with the orange jersey in the bag, which rewards the winner of the combined classification.
"We came here to take a stage victory, and even though we didn't get it, I think we can look back with pride. We were protagonists in all five stages, Dan and David showed a good condition for their first race of the season, which was a tough one, and this gives us confidence for our next appointments", continued Peeters. "Philippe proved consistency and was rewarded with the orange jersey, while Laurens really impressed with his long presence in break on the queen-stage. Overall, we can be happy with our ride and results."
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele