The Vuelta Ciclista a la Región de Murcia was dominated by the BMC Racing Team, who put all seven of its riders into the winning split and then delivered Belgian Philippe Gilbert to the win from a four-man sprint. It was the team's third win of the season, and Gilbert's first of the year. Gilbert praised the team's cohesiveness.
"Today was just a great day. I won but it was really a win for the whole team. We really raced perfectly together. I've done a lot of races but I've never really seen anything like this in my life. There were 20 guys left at the top of the climb with 20 kilometers to go and I was suffering, but I was still there with the guys. To have all seven of us out of 20 guys was really amazing to see."
Gilbert started his season with a few strong showings in the Dubai Tour, but the win today confirms he is on track for a good year. "At the Dubai Tour I was already feeling good. I recovered well and trained a lot in between the two races so yeah, I think I'm ready for the season," Gilbert said.
The Vuelta a Murcia has been Alejandro Valverde's four times in the past decade, but the Movistar man was just short of the victory today after taking an aggressive tactic.
"We took a long shot at the win, racing aggressively," Valverde said. The team helped shatter the field on the category 1 Alto Collado Bermejo, and then Valverde went away with teammates Ion Izagirre and Ruben Fernandez on the descent, gaining a minute on the field. "I think it was a nice try from Rubén, Ion and Myself into the Collado Bermejo descent, but working hard at the front also takes a lot of energy, and with Gilbert’s strong teammates, things get more complicated into such a finale."
BMC ended up bringing the trio back, and then used its strength in numbers to help reduce the front group and set up the team for the win.
"We rode full gas to the last climb and kept a high tempo, almost at max speed," Gilbert said. "Tejay [van Garderen] attacked two kilometers from the top at which point we were only six or seven guys left. We caught him with two kilometers to go and then I took my chance in the sprint. So there was no way we were going to lose the race, either with Tejay winning solo or me in the sprint. I want to thank all of my teammates because we really raced together and it was so nice."
Valverde was philosophical after finishing second, saying it shows he has started out well at the beginning of a long season. “In the sprint, [Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana)] and myself were much more looking at each other rather than matching Gilbert’s moves; we jumped from a long way to go and the headwind made it impossible to stick until the end. Still, Gilbert is quite a name - this was a decent second place, and the race shows we’re ready to win."
The racing continues in Spain with the Clasica Almeira on Sunday, and the Trofeo Laigueglia in Italy.
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