Wellens ends the Ruta del Sol on a high

Lotto Soudal rider sets his sights on Strade Bianche

Tim Wellens continued his run of early season success at the Ruta del Sol, winning the final stage from the breakaway to take his third victory on Spanish roads in just eight days of racing.

The Lotto Soudal rider won two of the hilly races in the Challenge Mallorca series in late January and again used his climbing ability and tactical awareness to win the six-rider sprint in Coin near Málaga.

"At the end of last season there were four wins on my palmares, now it's only mid-February, and I've already taken three victories. I'd never have expected that a few weeks ago," Wellens explained with modesty, despite having twice won the Eneco Tour and the 2015 Gran Prix Cycliste de Montreal and the Tour de Pologne in 2016.

In truth, Wellens could have taken his fourth win in Coin but for a late crash on stage 2 that ended his chances and led to the break of the day bring caught. Wellens had switched to attack mode after failing to make the decisive selection that formed on stage 1 as Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) went on the attack.

"I first wanted to go for the GC but the first stage wasn't super good for me, I lost several minutes. So I went for stages and I got one. I'm satisfied with that. I was close to victory the other day, but I didn't make it after crashing at a roundabout. But I did it on the final stage."

He also revealed he had some local knowledge and so extra motivation.

"I know the region very well because I rented a house in Torremolinos last year and trained on these roads. It is nice to win here," he said.

Wellens was logically worried about the series of roundabouts in the finale of the stage following his first crash and the wet roads, but he lead out the sprint and held off Simon Clarke (Cannondale-Drapac) and Victor Campenaerts (LottoNl-Jumbo).

"I felt I was one of the strongest but couldn't get the win the other day. I'm not super fast, but I think I went in a good moment. I knew circuit was a little bit dangerous with the roundabouts but we'd covered it once, and so I knew what to expect," he explained.

"In the leading group everyone was afraid of each other and that made for a cat-and-mouse game but no one could pull away. I started the sprint at two hundred meters from the line. Beforehand I wasn't sure of I could win the sprint but in the end it was pretty easy. I find it more fun to win this way than going solo. It's more exciting."

Wellens is not a cobbled classics specialist and at 25 he is not yet a Grand Tour contender. He will not ride in Belgium this week at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Instead he has set his sights on Strade Bianche and then will follow an Italian race programme that includes Tirreno-Adriatico and perhaps even Milan-San Remo.

"My next goal is the Strade Bianche on 4 March. It is the first time that I'll ride it but I believe that I can get a good result," he said.

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