Narvaez comes close to maiden pro win
The Ecuadorian Champion concluded the tough Drôme Classic in second position, notching up his best result since turning pro.
Jhonatan Narvaez became the first South American rider to finish the Drôme Classic (206 kilometers) on the podium, after a solid team effort and a remarkable ride in the final 30 kilometers, when the race was restarted after the last rider in the break, Rémi Cavagna, had been brought back. Cavagna was the one to instigate the break of the day, after launching a powerful attack soon after the flag went down in Livron and pulling four other riders with him in that move.
Inside the final 60 kilometers, the 22-year-old surged clear from that group and maintained a 2:30-gap over the thinned out peloton, which reabsorbed him with 25 kilometers to go, on Col de la Grande Limite, where a series of attacks reduced the bunch to a slender group of just 30 riders. From that group, Luxembourg Champion Bob Jungels powered ahead on the descent from Côte des Roberts, dragging Jhonatan Narvaez and Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie) as the trio quickly put 20 seconds between them and the over favourites.
Giro d'Italia double white jersey winner Jungels – who fine-tuned his form in France ahead of a third consecutive start in Tirreno-Adriatico – was the heart and soul of the three-man group, relentlessly pushing a steady pace and sacrificing himself for his teammate to extend the advantage over the chasers on Mur d'Allex and Côte de Haut Livron, where Calmejane jumped from his wheel. Narvaez didn't waste any time and responded, but on the tricky downhill to the line he was distanced by the Frenchman, who soloed to the win.
Second in the Drôme Classic after an impressive show of strength and an indelible impression left against more experienced riders, Narvaez acknowledged that his standout performance and result are more than encouraging with a view to his next races.
"It was an interesting and demanding route in France, but very cold and most of the riders suffered for that. I felt good from the beginning, but the race was wearing me out in the end. Bob did a great job for me and I want to thank him for that, having a rider of his stature working for me was really incredible. Unfortunately, Calmejane proved too strong and denied us the top spot on the podium. It was my first European race in ten months and I leave with a good feeling though, really motivated to continue working towards my maiden pro victory and more success with the team."
The 20-year-old was followed on the podium by Bob Jungels, who netted Quick-Step Floors' 21st top 3 finish of the season, with another of the team's riders, Pieter Serry, ending the race in ninth place, two positions ahead of Maximilian Schachmann, the Classic Sud-Ardèche runner-up.
Photo credit: ©Sigfrid Eggers