Despite the wet weather, it was a fast start to the final day of racing in Spain with a strong six-rider group, including Stefan Küng, jumping off the front of the peloton early and opening up an advantage over the opening 10km, of the 135.2km course.
However, behind the breakaway, the main bunch was keen to keep control of proceedings, and consequently, after peaking at 1’23” after 32km of racing, the gap to the leaders was pulled back to around the one-minute mark.
Heading into the second half of the stage, and with a potential bunch sprint up for grabs, the peloton picked up the pace and the gap to Küng and the rest of the breakaway began to fall before, with 40km to go, just 30 seconds separated the two groups.
On the descent of the day’s only categorized climb, Küng attacked to begin an impressive solo effort at the front of the race, which saw him head into the final 20km still holding onto an advantage of around 20 seconds.
While Küng continued to dig deep up ahead, the peloton began a frantic chase with riders stretched out along the road as the race was eventually pulled back together and the stage was set for a fast and furious finale.
With four sharp turns to navigate before the final run into the line, it was a battle for position in the bunch but, after being protected by his BMC Racing Team teammates, Roelandts was in a perfect position when the finish line came into view.
As the sprint was launched, Roelandts' impressive turn of speed saw him power towards the line before punching the air with delight after sealing victory in Valencia.
Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana also proved to be a strong season opener for Kilian Frankiny, with the 24-year old crossing the line safely in the main bunch on stage 5 to secure ninth overall on the General Classification as well as the final white jersey of the week as the winner of the Best Young Rider Classification.
The Winner’s Interview with Jürgen Roelandts:
Congratulations, Jürgen. How do you feel after today’s victory?
“It’s been a while since I have had a victory. I’ve moved teams, and I had an operation in the past six months, and this is my first race back. I proved today that I have worked hard and I was even able to take this victory. It’s amazing for me. I think I made all the right choices over the last six months and it all came together today.”
“I had three really good training camps in the winter with BMC Racing Team and I was happy to get back into competition. To have a third place on stage 1, the TTT victory, and now this sprint victory, it means a lot to me. I must thank the whole team. They stayed with me the whole time. It’s my first victory in a few years. The other years I have been working for Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) which also brought a lot of success. But it’s always more fun to win yourself. I’m happy for BMC Racing Team in the first place, as it’s always nice to give your team a victory, and also for me. I’m really looking forward to the next races.”
Talk us through the sprint. How hectic was it?
“It was pretty hectic but it was a long straight and Brent Bookwalter, Michael Schär, and Alessandro De Marchi brought me into a good position. Then I was looking for my own way. I knew it was a tight left corner so I took it right outside and passed a lot of guys in this turn. Then, Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale) was in front with his sprinter from AG2R and I think he went really fast in the last corner, a bit too fast. I was staying on the inside because if you miss a turn, a left turn, you always go out on the right. So I stayed on the inside of the wheel. It was still a bit far out but I just had to go and I just made it to the line.”
This was your first race with BMC Racing Team, what are your goals looking ahead to the rest of the season?
“My main goals will be the Classics with Greg Van Avermaet. I know he is the number one there. I knew I would get to have opportunities with the team at races like this to go for the sprints. It’s a lot of fun to win for myself again. It’s been three years, so I am super happy.”
Quotes From the Finish Line:
- Stefan Küng - “It was a pretty grim day with a lot of rain and cold temperatures at the beginning of the stage. My plan today was to go in the breakaway, and I was able to do that. We had a good group of six riders in front. It was obvious that the bunch wasn’t going to let us get too far away, so we were always sitting around one minute ahead. Then, when we got closer to the climb, the bunch got to within 30 seconds. That's when the attacks started within the breakaway itself, and David De La Cruz (Team Sky) came from the bunch behind. In the descent, I passed him, and suddenly after a technical part, I looked back, and I was alone. I knew that if I waited for the others, we would get caught pretty quickly, so I just gave it a go and tried to do my best. On a parcours like today, with the highways, it’s hard to hold off the whole bunch. It is never easy to get into a breakaway, so I was fully committed until the end, and it was a good training ride.”
“When I crossed the line, I saw that Jürgen had won and that meant that my day wasn’t all for nothing. Our guys could take it relatively calm in the bunch and set him up perfectly. I am really happy for him. He is a good fit for the team, and I think we will have a lot of fun and success together.”
- Kilian Frankiny - “With the rain today, it was not easy. Then, on the climb, Astana Pro Team tried something, so it was pretty hectic coming into the final. Stefan was still out in front and behind we were hoping that he could do it. Behind him, the team looked after me really well and kept me on the wheel so I could cross safely.”
“I am very proud to win the white jersey. There were a lot of talented riders here like Gianni Moscon (Team Sky) and other big names, so I am pretty happy. Also ninth on the GC here was my first overall top ten result with BMC Racing Team, so I am very happy.”
- Sports Director, Valerio Piva - “I am very happy for Jürgen and for the whole team. They have worked well together all week. We won the team time trial which was already a good performance from the team. Then, coming into today, our plan was to jump in the breakaway with Stefan, and he made it a very hard race. In the final, we wanted to pilot Jürgen into the sprint, and everyone did their job. We were able to win the stage, and we also kept the white jersey, so we leave here with two victories and the best young rider classification. I am very happy with how the season has started for this group.”
Race Profile - Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana:
- Stage 5: Paterna > Valencia, 135.2km
- Top 3: 1. Jürgen Roelandts (BMC Racing Team) 2. Danny Van Poppel (Team LottoNL-Jumbo) 3. Clément Venturini (AG2R La Mondiale)
- BMC Racing Team Top 3: 1. Jürgen Roelandts 43. Michael Schär 44. Brent Bookwalter
- BMC Racing Team Top 3 on GC: 9. Kilian Frankiny 16. Brent Bookwalter 20. Greg Van Avermaet
Photos: © Photo Gomez Sport