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López leads Catalunya after winning at La Molina, Hepburn puts sportsmanship first, Wild triumphs in De Panne. Those stories and more in today’s Daily News Digest.
Story of the Day: López soars to stage 4 win and race lead at Catalunya
Miguel Ángel López (Astana) won stage 4 of the Volta a Catalunya, soaring up the La Molina finishing climb and into the race leader’s jersey. The 25-year-old Colombian attacked his GC rivals on the final ascent, caught the last survivors of the day’s breakaway, and then soloed clear for the win.
Breakaway riders Gregor Mühlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Marc Soler (Movistar) settled for second and third on the day just ahead of a GC group that contained Egan Bernal (Sky), Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), Nairo Quintana (Movistar), and Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma). Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) finished several minutes down and relinquished control of the general classification after three days in the jersey.
“I had the ideal legs today to try something, to attack, and we pulled it off,” López said at the finish.
López leads the general classification at the Volta a Catalunya by 14 seconds over Yates after the challenging day in the mountains.
The 150-kilometer stage 4 featured four categorized climbs, including a double ascent of La Molina in the finale. Hard racing from the start in Llanars meant that it would be an hour before a break opened up a serious gap, although it was a strong move that did finally get clear. Soler and Mühlberger had plenty of other climbing talents for company up the road, including Maximilian Schachman (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), Patrick Bevin (CCC), and Joe Dombrowski (EF Education First).
The breakaway maintained a gap of around three minutes for much of the afternoon, with Sky putting in work in the peloton. The tough profile whittled down both the lead and chasing groups on the way to the first climb of La Molina, where Mühlberger and Soler jumped away from their fellow escapees. They built a small gap on the ensuing descent and the start of the final trip up as the peloton started mopping up the other members of the early break.
De Gendt was dropped on the early slopes of the 12.1-kilometer climb. López did not wait long to attack. He made his first dig some four kilometers into the climb, was chased down by Bernal, and then jumped again, getting clear for good. Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) linked up with brother Adam Yates to help set the pace for a strong group of chasers, but they were unable to close down López, who joined Mühlberger and Soler at the front.
The Colombian hung with the early escapees for a few minutes before powering away in the final kilometer. He made his way through the final hairpin alone to enjoy a solo victory at the finish line.
López should be able to enjoy his first day in the race leader’s jersey, as the Volta a Catalunya continues with a less challenging stage 5 from Puigcerdà to Sant Cugat del Vallès.
Beauty of Cycling
Michael Hepburn of Mitchelton-Scott took a moment at Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne on Wednesday to show us the meaning of sportsmanship. A crash 11 kilometers from the finish put several riders on the deck at a pinch point in the road. Hepburn was not caught up in the pileup, but dismounted to help clear bikes out of the road and then check on Australian compatriot Zak Dempster (Israel Cycling Academy) in a fine display of camaraderie within the peloton.
Wild wins in De Panne
Kirsten Wild sprinted to victory at Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne, earning her new WNT-Rotor team its first WorldTour win of 2019.
The high-speed finale came at the end of an aggressive day of racing, with constant splits and regroupings on the often narrow roads in the area, as well as a handful of crashes. One brought Elisa Longo Borghini down as another rider’s bike came hurtling into her, leading to an impressive bike throw – of someone else’s bike – from Longo Borghini.
A flurry of attacks and chase efforts inside the last 20 kilometers helped whittle down the peloton, but none of the moves managed to survive for long, leading to a sprint finale in De Panne.
Boels Dolmans and Sunweb were well-placed for the final kick, a long drag to the line in De Panne. Boels’s Amalie Dideriksen hit the front early but could not stop a swarm of rivals from passing her with so much road still ahead.
Wild surged ahead with around 200 meters to go, and held off Lorena Wiebes (Parkhotel-Valkenburg) and Lotte Kopecky (Lotto Soudal) to take a convincing victory in De Panne.
Return date unclear for Cavendish
Mark Cavendish has not raced since abandoning Paris-Nice, and according to Dimension Data manager Doug Ryder, his expected return date remains a question mark, Cyclingnews reports.
The 33-year-old sprinter saw the second half of his 2018 campaign derailed by a bout with Epstein-Barr virus. He has spent his first few months of this season trying to work his way back into racing shape, but it has been a challenge so far. Cavendish finished both the Vuelta a San Juan and the UAE Tour riding in support roles, but pulled out of Paris-Nice.
“We need to see how he’s going along. He’s training at the moment so we don’t have news really about when he’s coming back. We hope soon, but we’re not sure yet,” Ryder told Cyclingnews.
Durbridge breaks collarbone and finger
Mitchelton-Scott probably earned a few new fans on Wednesday thanks to Michael Hepburn’s good deed in De Panne, but the team came away from the race with tough news as well. Luke Durbridge crashed and collided with a tree, breaking his collarbone and his left finger. Both injuries will require surgery, forcing Durbridge to miss the remainder of the cobbled Classics.
Mitchelton’s Classics lineup will also be without Alex Edmondson in the near future, as the team has announced that an elbow injury sustained two weeks ago at the GP Industria and Artianato has not healed as quickly as hoped.
Landa wins stage 2 at Coppi e Bartali, Hamilton leads
Mikel Landa won stage 2 of the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali, topping Mitchelton-Scott’s Lucas Hamilton on a challenging day in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region.
Hamilton, whose team won the stage 1b team time trial, now sits atop the general classification in the race ahead of Mitchelton teammates Damien Howson and Nick Schultz, with Landa in fourth, 22 seconds down.
New tech on display in Tapei
The Tapei Cycle Show is underway. Over a thousand exhibitors are showing off their products this week in Taiwan, with plenty of new tech on display at the show.
Token is showing off a new Shuriken oversized pulley system and a new Ninja bottom bracket. Fumpa has a new electric tire inflator. Giant is teasing new performance concepts that the CCC team is already testing on the road.
We’re in the thick of Classics season now, with the E3 BinckBank Classic next on the docket. Friday’s race will see the majority of cycling’s top pavé specialists doing battle on a course featuring many of the same climbs used in the upcoming Tour of Flanders.
Niki Terpstra won the race in 2018 before going on to win De Ronde just over a week later. He’s back this season, riding for a different team after moving from Deceuninck-Quick-Step to Direct Énergie over the offseason. The defending champion will have stiff competition from the likes of Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), Greg Van Avermaet (CCC), and practically everyone on Quick-Step, to name just a few.
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