The first race in Europe this season is along the Mediterranean coast Spain as teams test out their legs in preparation for the big one week races soon to come.
BMC did what they do best, taking the opening stage’s Team Time Trial ahead of Team Sky, setting up tough battle for Wout Poels (Sky) to defend his title. On stage 2, World Time Trial champion Tony Martin took a solo win, his first on his new Katusha-Alpecin team. Due to a late climb in the stage and a fast run in to the finish, there were GC breaks in the bunch, with defending champ Wout Poels losing time to his main GC rivals Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors).
Stage 3 saw a technical sprint finish, but with the big stars in Dubai for the Dubai Tour, the second tier sprinters had the opportunity to show their early form. 2016 Vuelta stage winner Magnus Cort Nelson (Orica Scott) took the win ahead of Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis).
Stage 4 saw a tough summit finish, with Nario Quintana taking a decisive victory over his GC rivals, gaining over a minute on BMC’s Ben Hermans and Dan Martin, and 48 seconds on Wout Poels, securing himself overall victory ahead of a likely sprinter’s stage.
The final stage was shortened due to high winds, leaving the race to run just 5 laps of the Valencia city circuit. Quick-Step Foors’s Iljo Keisse broke away from the bunch on the technical circuit, and was later joined by former teammate Michal Kwiatkowski (SKY). The pair made it to the last lap with a slim advantage of about 20 seconds, but were caught in the closing meters of the stage. Direct Energie’s Bryan Coquard took the sprint finish ahead of compatriot Nacer Bouhanni.
The bunch sprint secured overall victory for Nairo Quintana, with BMC’s Ben Herman and Manuel Senni rounding out the podium. Last year’s winner Wout Poels finished 4th.
Cyril Gautier of AG2R claimed the mountains classification, while Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) took the combination classification, the leader of the best placing amongst GC, points, and mountains.
Racing on the Iberian Peninsula will continue on February 15th as the peloton will take on the Volata ao Algarve in Portugal and the Vuelta a Andalucia Ruta del Sol in Spain. Also, in the Middle East, riders will take on the Tour of Oman, with the challenging Green Mountain.