Victory for Wout Poels on Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana comeback

Wout Poels (Sky) became a surprise winner of the first major time trial of the year when he emerged as the fastest on the hilly course of the first stage of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana. The Dutchman covered the 16.25km distance in 22.36 which was a massive 15 seconds faster than Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) while world champion Vasil Kiryienka (Sky) had to settle for third in his rainbow debut, 21 seconds off the pace.

Last year Wout Poels took a massive step up and emerged as one of the best climbers in the world, most notably with an excellent ride at the Tour de France in support of Chris Froome. He had hoped to get the chance to lead Sky in the Giro d’Italia but has been asked again to sacrifice himself for Froome in the Tour.

However, Poels has sent a strong signal right from the beginning of the year to prove to his team management that it may be a good idea to give him more personal opportunities in the future. Despite being everything but a TT specialist, he rode to victory in the opening time trial of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana when he delivered a dominant ride on the hilly 16.25km course that was used for the opening test of the race that is back on the calendar for the first time since 2008.

Being teammate of TT specialists like world champion Vasil Kiryienka and Benat Intxatusti, Poels was asked to have an early start but showed his motivation by crushing the early opposition. After tackling the course that included both a bit of flat roads and a late category 3 climb, he stopped the clock in 26.34 which was a massive 26 seconds faster than Jesus Herrada (Movistar) who was the leader at that point.

Poels now faced a long wait in the hot seat and with specialists like Bob Jungels (Etixx-QuickStep), Vasil Kiryienka (Sky), Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana), Niki Terpstra (Etixx-QuickStep) and Jon Izagirre (Movistar) still to come, his time was expected to be get beaten. However, specialist after specialist failed to get even close to his mark and when world champion Kiryienka was the final potential winner to reach the finish, Poels still topped the leader board.

Sanchez turned out to be his nearest rival but he was a massive 15 seconds off the pace. Kiryienka had hoped for a dream debut in the rainbow jersey but had to find consolation in his teammate’s performance as he had to settle for third, 21 seconds off the pace. Jungels was seventh while Izagirre was unfortunate to crash but still delivered an impressive ride to lose 37 seconds.

In addition to Poels and Izagirre, there were encouraging GC performances from Leopold König (Sky), Herrada and most notably Diego Rosa (Astana) who all finished in the top 10. Rosa’s fourth place was a huge surprise as the Italian has never been a TT specialist and sets him up for another strong result and a possible leadership role at Astana as Fabio Aru finished outside the top 30. Daniel Martin did better than expected to finish in the same time as Aru while Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) lost 1.31 to get his season off to the usual slow start.

Poels is now the first leader of the race and will wear the yellow jersey in tomorrow’s first mountain stage of the race. The riders will get the chance to test their legs on an early category 2 climb before they hit the final 15km climb of Alto de Fredes. However, the average gradient is only around 5% so it is not an overly selective summit finish.

Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana 2016 – stage 1 results:

  • Wout Poels (Sky) 22’34”
  • Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) +15”
  • Vasil Kiryienka (Sky) +21”
  • Diego Rosa (Astana) +22”
  • Jesus Herrada (Movistar) +26”
  • Victor Campenaerts (Lotto-Jumbo) +27”
  • Bob Jungels (Trek-Segafredo) ,,
  • Leopold König (Sky) +29”
  • Reto Hollenstein (IAM) +30”
  • Imanol Erviti (Movistar) ,,