Cannondale-Drapac has been racing on two fronts in southern Europe last week. Our Classics squad raced together for the first time in the 43rd Volta ao Algarve in Portugal while a seven-rider line-up with climbers, general classification riders, and rouleurs entered the 63rd Ruta del Sol, or Vuelta a Andalucia, in Spain.
RUTA DEL SOL
The Ruta del Sol marked Cannondale-Drapac’s first race of the season with disc-brake equipped bikes, part of the disc-brake plan for the season as set up by Slipstream Sports and Cannondale. The entire team took the start on disc-brake bikes, with GC hopes for Rigoberto Uran and chances for Tom Van Asbroeck in stages four and five.
Unfortunately, Van Asbroeck had to withdraw from the race in stage one, after falling ill.
Without a sprinter now in the team, Simon Clarke got himself in the break in stage five, which managed to hold until the finish line. He sprinted to second place behind Lotto-Soudal’s Tim Wellens.
“We were pretty confident when the break got out to six minutes that it was going to be hard for the bunch to catch us. But with the strong wind there was always going to be a lot of stress in the bunch and they would come into the finish quickly. So nothing was guaranteed,” said Clarke.
“Obviously Tim Wellens was the man to beat, so I just kept a very close eye on him and made sure he didn’t get away from us. I also had Andreas Klier in the team car, who was great support and gave me very valuable information.
“For me, it was a very successful week, not only for myself coming back from a six month break after a shoulder reconstruction and a lot of hard work in rehab to get back to race condition, but also for the team, who rode really well as a tight unit. It was very motivating to see.”
Clarke’s second place finish in the final stage marked the first podium place of the season for the team. Additionally, Uran finished eighth in the general classification.
“The team rode well,” says sports director Klier. “Rigo does have the form to be able to win a bike race in the upcoming weeks. In general, there has been a high level of GC riders over here, therefore I would say that we can be satisfied with what we saw.”
VOLTA AO ALGARVE
Both Taylor Phinney and DS Ken Vanmarcke made their debut for the team in the Volta ao Algarve. A team made up of Classics riders, the Algarve was used for some final race kilometers to prepare for the Classics season coming up.
Ryan Mullen had a great race, putting in a strong individual time trial in stage three, finishing 35 seconds from the winner even with a mechanical mishap after the start. He also got himself in the break in stage four and at some point it looked like he could sprint for the finish with his two companions. It wasn’t to be, but it shows the form is good.
“He would have finished top-five in the individual time trial without this little mishap, and in stage four we were once again very close to the podium,” says Vanmarcke. “Mullen really made the peloton nervous when he and his breakaway companions still had 1’10” at 10 kilometers from the finish line.
“Stages one and two didn’t deliver the results we had hoped for, but the team had put in a great effort. Right until the last stage, we were motivated to try something and we had Sep Vanmarcke and Alberto Bettiol in the break in stage five. Unfortunately we didn’t get the results we aimed for here, but that’s bike racing for you.”
The most important thing: “Our riders are ready for the Spring Classics.”