It was a showcase of strength and climbing skills by Amaro Antunes on the queen stage of Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana. Portuguese was one of the most aggressive riders on the decisive climb and finished the day in 11th place.
Info: Stage 4, February 3rd, Orihuela – Cocentaina, 184,5km
Course: mountainous, seven categorized climbs, mountain top finish (4km, avg. 7,8%, max. 17%)
The hardest stage of the race got off to a very lively start, as multiple teams and riders were interested in getting that spot in the day’s main breakaway. Jan Tratnik was one of those attackers, but eventually, after nearly 60km of racing, a 6-man escape went clear without the representative of the “orange squad”.
Peloton was making sure that the escapees don’t go get too much space, as the maximum gap didn’t exceed 3 minutes. There were few reshuffles in the break – few riders got dropped and few bridged from the bunch – but at the end of the day, the final 4-kilometer climb decided the race.
CCC Sprandi Polkowice riders knew that ascent well, as they did recon during training camp in Calpe, earlier in the year. They made sure that their leader, Amaro Antunes is well positioned in the most crucial part of the stage and helped him kick off the last climb at the head of the shattered field.
Portuguese was in contention for the top places, as he was holding on with the strongest, riding aggressively and attacking couple of times. His rivals kept responding to his attempts though. He put on great performance but in the end he paid for his efforts and finished in 11th place, 31s behind the winner, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar). Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) was 2nd and Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) 3rd.
The team was great throughout the entire stage and thanks to them I could start the last climb well positioned. I may have been a little bit more patient and kept more steady pace on the climb, but I wanted to test myself among the best guys in the peloton and decided to give it go. It didn’t work out, but I’m happy with my performance and how I felt today. It’s beginning of the season and we have already showed that we can be up there with the top riders. I believe that together with my teammates we will do great things in the future – Amaro Antunes explained afterwards.
Valverde retained his yellow jersey, while Antunes moved up into top 10 overall (10th place, 1:09 back).