Schachmann and Burgos-BH’s Diego Rubio were off the front of the shortened stage for nearly 100 kilometres, with a margin that never rose above three and a half minutes as Michelton-Scott chased hard behind, with the break only 18 seconds ahead at the finish.
In a stage run off at a ferociously fast average speed of 45.461kph, Schachmann said afterwards that the extreme cold, with temperatures hovering around freezing all day, heavy rain and sleet, had made racing brutally tough.
"I think there's maybe one per cent of the bunch that like this kind of weather, and I'm not one of them," the German said. "I can't imagine how cold it was in the bunch because I was riding hard the whole day, just shaking on the bike, my neck was cramping up in the cold and the long descents in particular were really bad." He compared it to one notoriously cold stage last year in the Tour de Romandie.
A former double U-23 Time Trial World Championship silver medallist, Schachmann, 24, exploited his skills against the clock to maximum effect as the duo slogged away on the long, draggy route across central Catalonia. Finally, the German’s good positioning in the final kilometre was enough to net him the win.
After Niki Terpstra’s win in the E3 Harelbeke, Elia Viviani's in the Driedaagse De Panne and Alvaro Hodeg’s in the opening stage, Schachmann's triumph is the Belgian team's second in 24 hours and fourth in a week.
"I saw I had a chance both today and yesterday [Friday] and I tried to get in the break on both occasions, this time it worked out," Schachmann said.
"Always with these special conditions, a shortened stage" - in this case the stage was cut by over 70 kilometres after heavy snowfalls swept through the Pyrenees this morning - "there's a little bit more of a chance to get away.
"With ten kilometres to go, we had 55 seconds, and at five kilometres it was still at 30. With so many roundabouts in the last five kilometres that was good for us, as we could take the best line. And then with 500 metres I was on his [Rubio's] wheel and after the final [right-hand] corner I had a better position. And I also think I had more legs. But all my respect for Rubio because today he raced like he was in a big team."
For Quick-Step Floors, in any case, the victories keep on coming, with Schachmann's the 19th of the season for the Belgian squad. "We have a great team spirit, and the old ones are passing on the good team spirit to us younger riders," the German explained. "With that kind of [collective] confidence, we can turn that spirit into victories."
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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