The Dutchman enjoyed a breakthrough 2014 season with Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise that saw him sign with LottoNL-Jumbo before moving to Cannondale-Drapac for 2017. Having taken five-months to record his first top-ten of the season, Van Asbroeck has been steadily performing, carrying his consistently through to the Vuelta.
"This result means so much to me. It shows that the Tom Van Asbroeck of 2014 is back. I lost him for two years," Van Asbroeck explained.
The 27-year-old was full of gratitude after his best result of the season, singling out his wife and teammates.
"I have some people to thank for this, most of all my wife. But also Sep and Ken Vanmarcke, and Cannondale-Drapac, who have believed in me and supported me in getting here," he said. "I can't thank them enough. And of course the guys who helped me achieve this result today: Will, Tom, Toms, Simon, Brendan, Davide, Joe and Woods. Thanks boys!"
Starting the day with Davide Villella in the KOM jersey, the day's breakaway contested the three points on the day to ensure the Italian remains in the classification lead. With objective one complete, Cannondale-Drapac turned its attention to the sprint with Van Asbroeck who explained the team atmosphere is as good as he's ever experienced.
"The stage was really easy for me," added Van Asbroeck. "I had the support and trust of the entire team, and I felt it! Everyone's efforts led to this result. The climbers took care of providing drink bottles and food the entire day, and the rest did the lead-out in the final. The teamwork that I'm experiencing this Vuelta is unique. It's a really tight group. We'd ride through fire for each other."
Grand Tour debutant Tom Scully is the leadout man for Van Asbroeck at the Vuelta with the New Zealander explaining a dropped chain in the finale hindered his efforts.
"Will Clarke did a really strong job positioning in the last 40 kilometers and then Simon Clarke did a big burner to keep us there in the last five kilometers. Coming through the final kilometer, I was lead-out, drop off, positioning for Tom. I knew how technical the last kilometer was, and I thought it was important to be at the front at the right moment," Scully said.
"We took the last few lefts and rights, and it was time to open the sprint in the last 300 meters. I dropped my chain in sight of the line, which was a little frustrating. All I could do was get out of the way for Tom."
While stage 5 is a day for the puncheurs with the hard finish Ermita Santa Lucía, Van Asbroeck will have to bide his time for the next sprint finish. With six categorised climbs on offer, Villella have a much harder task to defend his classification lead.
"It wasn't stressful to keep the jersey today. There was only the third category mountain. Tomorrow will be more interesting as the stage will have more points to win," said Villella.
Stage 5 of the Vuelta a Espana is a 175.7 km day in the saddle from Benicassim to Ermita Santa Lucía.
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