8 February 2019, Chera (ESP)
A punchy finale to Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana stage three gave Greg Van Avermaet the perfect opportunity to show his strong early-season form with the CCC Team leader powering to victory after an impressive display of teamwork in the final kilometers of the day.
It took around 20 kilometers for the day’s ten-rider breakaway to form and with a relaxed peloton behind them, their advantage was sitting at seven minutes as they crossed the finish line after climbing the Sot de Chera and the Salto de la Mora for the first time.
Over the next two categorized climbs, and the undulating roads in between, the gap started to to fall with race leader, Edvald Boasson Hagen’s Team Dimension Data teammates and Astana Pro Team setting the tempo at the front of the main bunch.
With 30 kilometers to go, and the peloton still pushing hard behind them, the breakaway’s advantage had fallen to inside three minutes and it looked certain that the race would come back together before the start of the second ascent of the Sot de Chera.
At the same time, CCC Team signalled its intention by moving up to the front of the bunch to protect Van Avermaet and help guide him into position ahead of what was to be an exciting and explosive finale.
It was Alessandro De Marchi and Łukasz Wisniowski at the front of the reduced field as the final rider from the breakaway was reeled in with seven kilometers to go before more strong teamwork saw CCC Team chasing down a flurry of late attacks to defend the interests of Van Avermaet.
Guillaume Van Keirsbulck led Van Avermaet onto the base of the final climb, setting a pace that put pressure on the rest of the field and allowed Van Avermaet to maintain his position at the front of the bunch as the road began to weave up into Chera.
In the end, Van Avermaet proved that he was the strongest at the end of 194.3-kilometer long stage, powering around the final corner and up the drag to the line to seal victory number one of 2019.
The Winner’s Interview with Greg Van Avermaet
Congratulations, Greg. How do you feel after your first win of 2019?
“I am really happy to take this win and it’s actually my first individual win here after winning the team time trial in 2017 and 2018. It’s always great to start the season with a win and especially on a hard parcours like this with everyone on the limit. I felt really strong today though and the team did a really good job all day but especially on the final climbs. In the end, I was in a good position on the last switchback, I was positioned perfectly, so I started my sprint hoping that nobody would come around me. It’s really good to start the season like this.”
You were named as one of the favorites coming into today. Were you confident in your form ahead of the stage?
“You train during the off-season and you hope to have good legs directly after a training camp but you never know. I think my form was there today and all the effort in the months leading up to this paid off. That’s always a nice feeling to have.”
“I felt good but I was keeping an eye on Valverde as he is one of the strongest on an uphill finish like this plus there were also some good sprinters still there. I think the fact that I’m a little bit of better climber than them played on my side. There were some attacks at the end, but the team rode really well and it was nice to see four of my teammates up there with me in the final. I just had to finish it off.”
You’ve mentioned the strong teamwork in the final kilometers of the race. How important was that today?
“It was really important on a day like this. We worked really well together at the start and we all survived the second to last climb. Then, I asked Guillaume to put me into a good position at the bottom of the final one. He did a perfect job and was even able to go a few kilometers further into the climb for me. I was quite surprised that we still had four guys from our team there.”
“De Marchi did a really good job to set a hard pace and Wisniowski and Antunes were still there too and that was really important. A lot of us here are still new to one another but it was great to see the guys working for me as well as they did today. It was all about position in the final corners and the guys made sure I was in the right place. To deliver a win with these guys is special as it’s not easy especially with the field we have here.”
Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana
Stage 3: Quart de Poblet > Chera (194.3km)
Top 3: 1. Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team) 2. Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-SCOTT) 3. Luis León Sanchez (Astana Pro Team)
CCC Team Top 3: 1. Greg Van Avermaet 24. Amaro Antunes 34. Łukasz Wisniowski