What's Cool In Road Cycling

Roadside PEZ: Valencia ’17 Stage 1 TTT!

Roadside PEZ: Stage racing hit the roads of mainland Europe this week in the Spanish region of Valencia on Wednesday. Our man in Iberia, Alastair Hamilton, was there at the opening stage 1 team time trial to soak up the ambiance and take in the action. Bikes, riders, beards and all the other fun of the race. 2017 is GO!

The Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana really started the evening before with a teams presentation and in typical Spanish fashion, no one knew it was on. The organization had emailed earlier in the week to say that race accreditation could be picked up on the 31st at 6pm and as it was only 1 hour away, no problem. On the way there I get a Tweet to say there is a presentation at 7!

Half Japanese team: UKYO

The biggest surprise of the evening was being able to park right outside the hall, although when the race director himself, ex-Festina pro and Vuelta a España winner Angel Casero, tells you that you’ll get a fine for parking there, you do take notice. Once the creds were on the car there wouldn’t be a problem.

Chris Butler with his Caja Rural-Seguros RGA team

The accreditation was expedited very quickly as I was recognized from last year by one of the girls. I had been using my usual act of ‘I’m a foreign journalist’, but of course she knew who I was and knew I spoke Spanish, but at least I managed to jump the Q and get out in 5 minutes before I got a parking ticket.

Roubaix winner, Mathew Hayman

2016 Valencia winner, Wout Poels

It seemed that the teams didn’t know that there was a presentation either, Sky arrived 10 minutes after it finished (but everyone waited), Quick-Step couldn’t get there, BMC sent three directeurs Sportif and two riders as did Astana. Most of the ProConti and Continental team brought most of their riders. Good to see the Japanese UKYO and the Israeli Cycling Academy teams. It was also good to see Chris Butler who riders for the Spanish Caja Rural-Seguros RGA team, we have an interview with him soon and he will be writing a blog for PEZ through-out the season. But the biggest draw had to be Giro and Vuelta winner Nairo Quintana, always happy and smiling.

Always happy, Nairo Quintana

The Stage 1 TTT
The plan for Wednesday’s stage 1 team time trial was simple: Go the start and see the first teams off the ramp, follow a team to the finish and then see the top teams come in. I’m not usually a pessimist, but I had a feeling something would go wrong, then they do say the simplest of plans are the best. Not only did the plan go perfectly, I also had my car passed to drive on the course by the Guardia Civil, there was also a nice little baker at the 250 meter to go banner that was more than happy to sell me a couple of empanadas and a coke for lunch. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The start ramp next to the beach

The race start was from Orihuela beach (Playa de la Glea) to Orihuela town, which was 39.7 kilometers away and for good measure there was a 3rd Cat climb at 11 kilometers to loosen any stiff or early season legs.

Looking for their heroes bike

The start was set round the port, which is only for small sport boats (Puerto Deportivo), although some teams were preparing somewhere else and just riding up to the start, most had their trucks parked up round the corner. Good to see Euskadi back in the peloton, not as big as it used to be, but maybe one day.

The Euskadi team, not quite Euskaltel size

Geoffrey Soupe might have the biggest beard in the peloton, but the best facial hair for style has to belong to Oscar Pujol who is riding for the Japanese UKYO team. He did say it took a long time to grow just right.

Big beard for Soupe

More style for Pujol

Another happy rider who is always smiling – Daniel Teklehaimanot.

Another happy guy

Having a look at the bikes; I had never seen the Dare bikes of the UKYO team before, interesting.


Nice jig

At the LottoNl-Jumbo truck the mechanics were setting up some bikes with a neat measuring device and at Dimension Data they putting together a new bike for Merhawi Kudus. Nice looking bike, but not sure about the design.


Down at the start ramp things were starting to get going. First off was the Japanese/Spanish UKYO team, but I missed them, next was the Portuguese W52-FC Porto-Porto Canal team. They looked good and finished 20th from the 25 teams.

W52-FC Porto-Porto Canal

The Israeli Cycling Academy where ready for their ride, not a great result finishing 23rd at 5:57.

Cycling Academy ready to go

After a few teams had shot off up the road, I picked the French Direct Energie team to follow. I didn’t think it was likely they would get caught, but they did catch a couple of other teams.

Direct Energie started fast

The climb effort from Direct Energie

They started well, pushing it hard over the climb and then past the salt lakes. Good idea to keep the windows closed as the smell is not the best.

Strange vista

Two of the riders had worked more than the others and sat up about three quarters of the way through the stage. The speed never dropped below 50 kph.

Just as we came into town we started to get tangled with other team vehicles as we were catching riders from Roompot and Inteja Dominican team. You’ll understand why there are no photos of the final, it’s not the easiest thing to drive and take photos at the same time… especially in town.

Not a bad ride, they finished 13th at 2:57 down on eventual winners BMC. And now it was my job to find some lunch and as I said there was a baker’s shop 250 meters from the finish line, perfect.

You can’t miss that green

The teams started with only 4 minute gaps, so the action was quite brisk at the finish line. By the time I got there Cannondale-Drapac had just crossed the line, good enough for 9th place in the end, beating Orica-Scott by 3 seconds. LottoNl-Jumbo were in the hot seat, but Quick-Step soon knocked them off.

PhilGil happy with the fastest team… for a little time

Astana, good for 5th

Next up was Astana, another good ride, just 23 seconds down on Quick-Step who were starting to believe they could take the win. Until…

BMC had been out on the course during the week and had been doing specific TTT training at their base near Denia during the build up, and it showed as they took 49 seconds out of Quick-Step with a blistering ride.

Van Avermaet

Olympic road champion, Greg Van Avermaet didn’t look like he had been worked too hard, but the clock said other wise. There was only Quitana’s Movistar and last year’s winner, Wout Poels with his Sky team to come in, but the BMC boys looked confident.

Movistar brought Nairo across the line at the front of their arrow, not good enough at over 1 minute slower than the Swiss bike and watch team.

Nico Roche

New boy at BMC, Nicolas Roche, had a face that told of the effort he had made.

Sky: Good, but not good enough

Wout Poels would not be pulling on the yellow leaders jersey as Sky came in 21 seconds down, but taking a good second spot and ex-World champion, Michal Kwiatkowski, was KOM. Young Italian Manuel Senni pulled on his first overall leaders jersey as a professional. There was a little confusion as he tried to put it on the wrong way round, he’ll know next time.

Senni: “how do I put this on?”

So, that was the first stage of the first European stage race and the first PEZ Roadside of the year over and what a good day it was. Except the Orihuela town street plan got the better of the GPS, not just mine as all the organization and team cars could be seen going round in circles trying to find the way out.

Stage 2 is a lumpy, hard day and the weather forecast is for cold and rain, a day for the men of the North. Stay PEZ for, as Ale Federico would call it, ‘Race Chasing’.

Stage report and video in EUROTRASH Thursday.

Vuelta a la Comunitat Valenciana Stage 1 Result:
1. BMC in 43:17
2. Sky 0:00:21
3. Quick-Step Floors at 0:49
4. Movistar at 1:02
5. Astana at 1:12
6. LottoNl-Jumbo at 1:16
7. FDJ at 1:30
8. Katusha-Alpecin at 1:52
9. Cannondale-Drapac at 1:57
10. Orica-Scott at 2:00
11. CCC Sprandi Polkowice at 2:15
12. Dimension Data at 2:27
13. Direct Energie at 2:57
14. AG2R-La Mondiale at 3:12
15. Gazprom-RusVelo at 3:16
16. Cofidis at 3:17
17. Caja Rural-Seguros RGA at 3:50
18. Euskadi Basque Country-Murias at 4:09
19. Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij at 4:19
20. W52-FC Porto-Porto Canal at 4:27
21. Burgos-BH at 4:28
22. Spain at 5:13
23. Israel Cycling Academy at 5:57
24. Team UKYO at 6:14
25. Inteja Dominican Cycling Team at 7:15.

Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana Overall After Stage 1:
1. Manuel Senni (Ita) BMC in 43:17
2. Michael Schär (Swi) BMC
3. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC
4. Nicolas Roche (Irl) BMC
5. Stefan Küng (Swi) BMC
6. Ben Hermans (Bel) BMC
7. Lukasz Wisniowski (Pol) Sky at 0:21
8. Philip Deignan (Irl) Sky
9. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Sky
10. Wout Poels (Ned) Sky.

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