16 February 2019, Murcia (ESP)
Riccardo Zoidl tested his legs on day two of the Vuelta Ciclista a la Región de Murcia, going on the attack in the second half of the 177.3-kilometer long stage before another intense finale saw him finish alongside Serge Pauwels in the second chasing group behind the stage, and overall winner, Luis León Sánchez (Astana Pro Team).
Despite an aggressive start, the peloton remained all together on the slopes of the first of four categorized climbs, the Alto El Garruchal, before another series of attacks on the descent saw various groups of riders drawn out at the front of the race with a ten-rider breakaway eventually established after almost 40 kilometers of racing.
However, the main bunch, led by race leader at the start of the day Pello Bilbao’s Astana Pro Team teammates, was keeping a close eye on the front of the race and subsequently the advantage of the leaders was never allowed to extend beyond one minute.
With 95 kilometers to go, the race headed onto the Alto de Aledo, and it was on the slopes of this category three ascent that Zoidl went on the attack to form part a reshuffled ten-rider front group.
From there, the CCC Team rider, on only his second day of racing in 2019, decided to try his luck, pushing on at the front of the race to go solo onto the base of the day’s only category one climb, the 7.2-kilometer long Alto Collado Bermejo, which had an average gradient of 7.1%.
More movement off the front of the peloton saw a group of ten General Classification favorites start to close in on Zoidl, who had been joined once again by Damien Howson (Mitchelton-SCOTT) and Jakub Fuglsang (Astana Pro Team) but, in the end, as the road flattened out towards the final climb, a group of between 30 to 40 riders came back together.
The summit of the Alto Cresta del Gallo came with 12 kilometers to go and in anticipation of the final battle on the slopes of the climb, the peloton, which still included Zoidl, Pauwels and Laurens ten Dam, continued to stick together.
As the gradient kicked up, and the pace intensified, riders were quickly spread out along the road with Sánchez and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) going clear to battle for both the stage win and the overall title in Murcia.
Zoidl and Pauwels were sat in the second chasing group behind the leading duo as the race entered the closing kilometers of the day, and the pair continued to work hard right up to the line, finishing inside the top twenty behind Sánchez.
Unfortunately, Pawel Bernas crashed on the descent of the day’s first climb and was immediately taken to hospital for observation. An update is provided below.
Quotes From the Finish Line
“I was feeling really good at the start of the stage, much better than yesterday, so I decided to test myself and follow the move of Carlos Barbero (Movistar Team) and Jakub Fuglsang (Astana Pro Team). We quickly caught the remaining riders from the initial breakaway and as Barbero and Fuglsang started to play off one another through the feed zone, I decided to just push on ahead. I was then climbing on my own and still felt good but around two kilometers from the top, Fuglsang and Damien Howson (Mitchelton-SCOTT) were coming back.”
“The three of us then went over the top all together but by the end of the descent, the Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) group had caught us and soon around 30 or 40 riders were back together.”
“In the final, when the attacks started on the last climb, it was a little harder for me to go with the moves as I had already used a lot of energy riding alone on the biggest climb but, I was still able to finish in the second group alongside Serge Pauwels.”
“It was nice to be active and at the front of the action on only my second day of racing this year. I felt really good on the climbs on what was another really hard day of racing and I think it’s been a good start to my season so far.”
CCC Team doctor, Dr. Dario Spinelli:
“Pawel crashed on the descent of today’s first climb and was immediately taken to hospital for observation. Fortunately, his injuries are less severe than we initially expected with X-Rays showing no fractures. Paweł has multiple abrasions and a contusion on his left wrist, and we will need to continue to monitor him over the next few days. He will have to miss Clásica de Almería tomorrow but pending no further complications, we do not think that he will have to have any significant time off the bike.”
“Of course, I’m disappointed about crashing out of today’s race however, I feel very lucky that nothing is broken as it was a scary crash over the barrier on a very fast descent. It was a dangerous point as two riders had crashed before me in the same place and two more crashed after me.”
“Although I will miss Clásica de Almería tomorrow, it looks like I will not have to have too much time off the bike so I feel happy about that. This is definitely a positive outcome to a crash that could have been much worse.”
Vuelta Ciclista a la Región de Murcia
Stage 2: Beniel > Murcia (177.3km)
Top 3: 1. Luis León Sánchez (Astana Pro Team) 2. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) 3. Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-SCOTT)
CCC Team Top 3: 15. Serge Pauwels 20. Riccardo Zoidl 34. Laurens ten Dam
Top 3 on GC: 1. Luis León Sánchez (Astana Pro Team) 2. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) 3. Pello Bilbao (Astana Pro Team)
CCC Team Top 3 on GC: 19. Riccardo Zoidl 25. Laurens ten Dam 28. Serge Pauwels