History repeated itself for Maximilian Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) on Friday's stage 5 in the Volta a Catalunya, as for a second straight year the German racer claimed a breakaway stage win the day after the Volta had left the Pyrenees.
In 2018, Schachmann, when racing for Quick-Step, claimed the win in the Catalan town of Torrefarera in appalling weather conditions, as the race moved out of the Pyrenees on a stage shortened by a third following snowfall in the mountains.
But whilst in 2018, Schachmann out-duelled Diego Rubio (Burgos-BH) for the win, on this occasion he dropped his three fellow breakaways, Andrey Amador (Movistar Team), Tejay van Garderen (Team EF-Education First) and Jumbo Visma's Bert-Jan Lindemann with nine kilometres to go, and soloed home ahead 13 seconds of the bunch.
A winner recently of the GP Industria & Artigianato - Larciano and also of a Giro d'Italia stage last year in Prato Nevoso, Schachmann told reporters he had been hoping for a victory after riding actively in several previous stages. On Monday, in fact, he was the only rider to stage a lasting counter-attack behind the stage winner Lotto-Soudal's Thomas De Gendt, albeit only finishing four seconds ahead of the pack.
"I always was lacking a little bit but today I felt good and thought I would try for it again," Schachmann said afterwards. "I hoped that all the riders are a little bit tired because of the last two stages and this was actually the case.
"I got away on the descent of the first climb"- the first category Alto de Collada de Toses at the start of the stage - "and that's actually the first time I've ever got away on a descent!
"We didn't have everything on our side because we had a strong headwind all day, but I just felt great and went all out in the last 50 kilometres."
Schachmann said he started to believe that he could still win with 20 kilometres to go, even though there were only 90 seconds between the leading quartet and the pack. At 11 kilometres from the finish, with less than a minute, it looked like it was going to be tight, though.
"I saw the advantage was rising and falling rather than just dropping so that was good for me, and it was covered [less exposed - Ed.] in the city, which is also an advantage. And then when I thought I could actually win came with two or three minutes to go."
"I was in so much pain though, I thought I had to pedal hard to the finish because otherwise, I would regret it tonight. So I told myself to keep going until my legs gave out completely and I couldn't pedal any more, and to race like it was the last race of my life.
"His goal was always to try for a stage win here," Christian Pomer told Cyclingnews as he and fellow sports director Jens Zemke stood savouring the taste of victory outside the Bora-Hansgrohe team bus, "because on GC we knew we might play a role, but with the team we have here, we'd not be in contention for the victory.
"We came close on stage 1, again on stage 2 and again yesterday [Thursday, with Gregor Muhlberger, second on the stage - Ed.] and today we got it."
Pomer said with a wry smile he remembered very well how Schachmann had taken a stage the previous year when he was directing Bora-Hansgrohe chasing down the breakaway "because we had the team working behind and we were first that day - but in the bunch. I had to answer some uncomfortable questions!"
As for Schachmann, "he has a very special personality, he has huge self-confidence, I spoke to Brian Holm, his former director and he says it's the typical German self-confidence! But I have to say he is a very smart guy, always analyses things very carefully and I had experience too, knowing that it would be really difficult to catch him.
"I also spoke to Andre Greipel (Arkea-Samsic) and he said he thought today was a breakaway day. So we planned to have a go, and it worked out."
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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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