VUELTA A ANDALUCIA 2016
1st stage - Wednesday 17 February 2016
Daniele Bennati (Tinkoff) won the first stage of the Vuelta a Andalucia. The Italian jumped around Bert Van Lerberghe (Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise) with 300 metres to go. Juan Jose Lobato (Movistar) finished third.
The riders faced three moderate climbs over Alto de Jabugo (14km), Puerto de los Pinos (32km) and Alto Castalio del Robledo (52km) it was then downhill for the second half and ended with a flat and fast final 30km into Sevilla.
Four riders had escaped from the main peloton and were ahead by 1:30min but the flat run-in to the finish line in Sevilla made for a perfect bunch sprint scenario.
Nicholas Roache and the rest of Team Sky protecting their best sprinter Ben Swift were positioned at the front of the peloton with just under 10km with Tinkoff team just behind, followed by Movistar. They caught the breakaway four in the last 2km. Ben Swift found himself blocked in at the fast finish and came in 11th. So close was the finish that the first 153 riders were awarded the same time of 3hrs 56min 02sec.
Just before the race the French team Direct Energie announced that sprinter Bryan Coquard had withdrawn as he had broken his scapula (collarbone) in a training accident on the road caused by bad weather and the draught form a passing truck.
2nd stage - Thursday 18 February 2016
Palomares del Río (Sevilla) (12.00) - Córdoba (c.16.30) 186.3km
Sprinter Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) (France) won stage two in 4hr 39 min 36 sec, beating Fabio Felline (Trek-Segafredo) and Ben Swift (Team Sky) to the line in Cordoba. He took advantage the lead out by teammate Christophe Laporte, who finished fourth.
Earlier that day, 25km after the start peloton divided into two with a group of 25 in front including Nickolay Trusov (Tinkoff) and Rubén Fernández (Movistar) who fell and rejoined the main group. The two groups merged after 8km as the main peloton spread out.
Then almost immediately came a four man breakaway group; Reinier Honig ( Roompot - Oranje Peloton ), Pablo Torres ( Burgos BH ), Aitor Gonzalez (Euskadi Basque Country - Murias ), Ruben Pols ( Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise )
For the middle part of the race which managed to keep a 3 minute lead. But then came the ascent when line Kanstantin Siutsou (Dimension Data) tried his luck, breaking away from the group on his own. However the decent down into Cordoba allowed a group to reform.
Ten km from the finish Dani Moreno (Movistar) and Tim Wellens had broken away to slight lead but within a km they had been joined by 15 other riders. The group gained 20 seconds but bit by bit became 40 riders. .
The finishing straight was narrow and Bouhanni managed to get himself in the best position to cross the line first.
Wout Poels' victory in the Vuelta a la Comunitat Valenciana has put him the limelight this week. He said before today's stage "Today has a difficult downhill section into Córdoba. It's not a day you can win the race but it's certainly one where you can lose. Stage 3 is also tough; there are lots of little climbs and that suits me, because it makes everybody more tired."
Simon Geschke tweeted "Not a fan of Sprinters that get pushed up the lst climb by teammates and then with the stage."
Overall standing after stage to was 1st Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) 8hrs 35 in 35 sec. 2nd Juan José Lobato (Movistar) 3rd Raymond Kreder (Roompot-Oranje). 58 riders share this time.
3rd stage - FriDAY 19 February 2016
Monachil (Granada) - Padul (Granada) 159km
Oscar Gatto rode to victory in Padul with 3hr 51min 17 sec and Team Sky's Ben Swift sprinted to second place, capturing the overall lead. Roompot's Raymond Kreder finished third on the same time with another 48 riders.
"Today, I was feeling very fit again, so on the final climb there were about 30 riders, and I was there and the feeling was good," said Gatto. "I was very pleased that great riders such as [Rafal] Majka and [Roman] Kreuziger helped me today. Then, as last man, I had Jay McCarthy who paced me up to perfection to deliver the sprint in style, and this kind of finish is most suited to my skills."
Ben Swift is now overall leader with 12h26'52" although 46 riders share this time.
Team Sky Sport Director Dario Cioni was happy to see Swift move into the leader's jersey, but admitted it wasn't quite the perfect day. He said: "It turned out to be a good day but not the perfect day we had hoped for. We only got the leader's jersey when we wanted the stage win too, but it's nice to see the team working really well again, and it's just a pity Ben couldn't get on top of the podium.
4th stage - SatURDAY 20 February 2016
Individual time trial Stage around Alhaurín de la Torre (Málaga) (14.00 to 14.30) 21km
Van Garderen (BMC) (USA) won the 21km individual time trial in an impressive 27 minutes and five seconds.
Vasil Kiryienka, who was one of the pre-stage favourites, finished 40 seconds down in 16th, while neo-pro Gianni Moscon produced a fine performance to finish 14th, just 36 seconds behind Van Garderen.
Ben Swift, who started the day in the race leader's jersey, put in a brave effort on the hilly parcours and finished a minute down.
Wout Poels finished sixth 20 seconds down on new race leader Tejay Van Garderen and will have to attack hard on the final day.
Local favourite Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) is also a threat to Poels' GC ambitions, sitting seven seconds behind the Dutchman in eighth place overall.
Thanks to the time trial all rider now have their own race time.
Van Garderen will now defend his leader's jersey on Sunday's final stage.
"It's a big confidence booster but we definitely have our minds firmly set on tomorrow. It's going to be a tough challenge, but we're excited," van Garderen said after taking his first win of 2016 and his first ever tie trial victory in Europe.
Only half a minute separate the top ten after four stages.
1 BMC VAN GARDEREN 12h53'57"
2 TLJ KELDERMAN 02"
3 IAM COPPEL 07"
4 BMC BOOKWALTER 15"
5 DEN CHAVANEL 17"
6 SKY POELS 20"
7 BMC SÁNCHEZ 21"
8 MOV VALVERDE 22"
9 MOV MORENO 24"
10 TGA LUDVIGSSON 34"
5th stage - Sunday 21 February 2016
San Roque (12.00) - Gaucin (c.12.20) - Cortes de la Frontera - (c.12.50) - Jimera de Libar (c.13.10) - Benadalid (c.13.20) - Algatocin (c.13.30) - Gaucin (c.13.45) - Casares (c.14.10) - Estepona (c14.30) - Peñas Blancas (c15.05) 164.2km
Apologies to anybody tourists in Casares following this race, the route changed due to poor road conditions to a double climb over Pañas Blancas. After Algatocin - Jubrique - Peñas Blancas - Estepona - Peñas Blancas 171km
Valverde Wins the final sage and his fourth Vuelta a Andalucia.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) (ESP) broke away from the peleton on his own half way up Peñas Blancas to win by 36 seconds in a time of 4hrs 46min 51 sec. He was chased by a gang of three Bauke Mollema (TFS) +36 sec, Rafael Majka (TKN) +42 secs, Tejay Van Garderen +48 sec. He must of known as did the close followers that he needed a lead of 22 seconds (see stage results above) to secure his victory.
147 riders began the fifth and final stage in San Roque at noon. After 8km thirteen riders lead by Ben Swift (Team Sky) pulled away and at one point lead by 47 seconds. However by 45km and exactly one hour into the race the peleton included everybody again.
At km 60 in the climb up to Alto de Cortés an escape formed by Rubén Fernández (Movistar), Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal), Beñat Txoperena (Euskadi Basque Country), and Murias at 20'' from the peloton.
By the time the race reached Peñas Blancas for the first time at km 124 Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal), was ahead 47" on his own ahead of Nicolas Roche (Team Sky), Jerome Baugnies (Wanty - Groupe Gobert) who were 55'' in front of the peloton.
Racing down Peñas Blancas (980m descent in 14km) on his own must have been exhilaration for Tim Wellens who overshot the bens a couple of times, testing his brakes and trying out off road mountain bike as one twitter follower pointed out. No doubt the exhilaration was tempered knowing that in under half an hour they would be climbing all the way back up again to the finish.
With a long decent and a long climb ahead it was still anybodies race.
There was a different group of three; Jerome Baugnies (Wanty - Groupe Gobert), Nicolas Roche ( Team Sky) and Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) out ahead when they reached the long Estepona sea-front (at km 151) for the timed sprint trial it was to the applause of the Sunday afternoon strollers,
Back to the last 980m climb up Peñas Blancas and with 11km to go all riders were together in one peloton again. Team Sky appeared to be controlling it and blocking any escapes. However at 7km to go, Alejandro Valverde ( Movistar) attacked and within a kilometer was 20 sec ahead.
Pre Race Report
The 2016 race is set to be interesting, with total of 168 cyclists in 24 teams from 14 countries competing, including Team Sky from Great Britain, Movistar from Spain, Tinkoff from Russia and Lotto-Soudal from Belgium (22nd time in this race).
There will not be a head-to-head finish as in 2015 since Contador is racing in the Algarve the same week. Despite Spanish media reports to the contary, defending champion Chris Frome is not part of Team Sky in 2016 and remains at the training camp in Mallorca. There is however still an impressive line up, perhaps because the course has been eased on previous years has made it attractive for the the early season race.
The course has French cyclist Nacer Bouhanni and the Spanish cyclists Luis Angel Maté and Dani Navarro are confirmed part of the French Cofidis team. The USA team BMC Racing are making their debut, with Philippe Gilbert (Belgium) and Samuel Sanchez (Spain). Other teams come from as far afield as the US, Brazil and South Africa. Wout Poels, fresh from his General Classification success at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana debuts and leads Team Sky.