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Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana stage 1 - Live coverage

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Hello and happy new year! It's February, obviously, but today marks the first event in the Cyclingnews live race centre of the 2022 season. 

The opening stage is already underway and we're nearing that big climb you can see in the middle of the stage profile. There's a five-man breakaway up the road with a lead of five minutes. 

Today's stage isn't as obviously decisive as stage 3's off-road summit finish, but it still represents dangerously hilly terrain that could shape the overall outcome, with three expected bunch sprints on the other stages. 

Valverde has won this race three times before and, despite being two months away from his 42nd birthday, is still in fine fettle, winning a round of the Challenge Mallorca last week and finishing runner-up in another. He's here as part of a strong Movistar team that also includes Enric Mas. 

Remco Evenepoel (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) looks a likely challenger to the Movistar duo, and we also have Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers), Vincenzo Nibali (Astana-Qazaqstan), Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates), among others. 

Anyway, back in today's stage itself, here are our five intrepid breakaway riders. 

The riders are already climbing, although they're not yet at the official start of the Remolcador climb. Still, the stage is starting to move through the gears and the gap to the breakaway is down below the four-minute mark.

Movistar and QuickStep-AlphaVinyl are the teams who have taken responsibility in the peloton so far today. With Valverede/Mas and Evenepoel, respectively, they have the top favourites for the overall title, although this is a race that could go any number of ways.

Evenepoel has been to recon the stage 3 gravel summit finish, and described it as a rocky mountain bike trail. He couldn't believe his eyes and thought his GPS must have been mistaken. We're hearing the path has since been flattened but still. Here's the full story. 

Here's a shot of our breakaway

The breakaway are over the top of the Remolcador and are zipping down the other side.

Kern Pharma and Euskaltel-Euskadi are both represented in this break and they're both represented in our 'best of the rest' kits round-up. 

60km to go

90 seconds is all they have left after an increase in tempo in the bunch on the big climb.

Here's a shot of the QuickStep-led bunch.

Inside the final 50km and we're still heading downhill. It's a lovely sunny day in eastern Spain.

The road has levelled out and the breakaway are flagging while the peloton looks super fresh. Still more than 40km to go and the gap is down below the one-minute mark.

Crash, near the back of the bunch by the roadside barriers. Riders from FDJ, DSM, Kern Pharma, Burgos-BH all down.

Oh no, this was a bridge, and it looks like someone flipped over the barriers in scenes reminiscent of Evenepoel at Il Lombardia or Gilbert at the Tour de France. It doesn't look like a big drop, and it looks like a soft landing, but that's a concern. 

It definitely feels like the start of the season. We've had a few races already but today has snapped us out of winter. Loads of big news stories on CN today, and plenty more coming soon. Over in France, Mads Pedersen has just won the opening stage of the Etoile de Bessèges.

The peloton continues its charge - just 25 seconds behind now.

Time for some info on this mouthwatering finale. Our man in Spain Alasdair Fotheringham has driven the route on his way to the press room at the finish, and this is what he has observed. 

All together. 

Alasdair also points out that it's 22 degrees out there. Lovely.

We're on the approach to the final climb now and things are heating up in the bunch. Movistar and QuickStep are still there but Jumbo and UAE have suddenly appeared.

Attack!

It's Xabier Mikel Azparren on the attack but he has failed to draw any interest from anyone else. He's dangling.

20km to go

Intermediate sprint coming up here ahead of the proper part of this climb.

Mohoric goes for it!

Mohoric takes it. He was challenged there by Ryan Gibbons, who settles for second. There was a third rider in the mix, from Bora, and it looks a little like Vlasov.

That's a three-second time bonus for Mohoric. Bahrain also have Teuns and Bilbao here but the Slovenian is certainly a danger man.

Things settle down after that intermediate sprint and we're onto the steeper part of this climb.

Crash. Another one near the back. Nans Peters is down and he has hit his face. His eye is covered in blood.

UAE have a couple of riders down. One of them is young Spanish talent Juan Aysuo and that's a blow.

Soler is one of the UAE riders down. And Movistar have just hit the front of the bunch to lift the tempo........

17km to go

And now the hip hop sensations Astana hit the front. 

And now QuickStep take it up.

It looks like Lampaert on the front for the Belgian team and Evenepoel is in his wheel, in second position. 

15km to go

The road snakes downhill for a few kilometres before flattening out ahead of our crucial final cat-2 climb.

QuickStep still in command on the descent, with Movistar poised behind.

11km to go and the road flattens out and now drags uphill. Lampaert gives it a grimace and gives it a few more watts.

The road heads through the town of Ayodar. It's draggy stuff, but the climb proper is still to come.

QuickStep are really committing here and riders are being blown out the back now.

Bahrain take over!

The red jerseys appear en masse at the head of the bunch. They have five riders on the nose.

We are on the proper part of the climb now, which is twisting up through a forest of tall trees. Bahrain are blowing this up now

Pello Bilbao completes his turn and hands over to Jan Tratnik.

Bahrain still have Teuns, Mohoric, and Sanchez in there. 

Tratnik is done. Teuns takes it up.

Evenepoel is up there behind the Bahrain riders and looks so comfortable.

Valverde and Mas are still present and correct behind Evenepoel.

Only around 25 riders are left in contention here.

We're a few kilometres from the summit. Will anyone go before that, or are we heading for a reduced group sprint?

Movistar sense a slowing and Muhlberger is now sent to the front for the Spanish team.

David de la Cruz is up there second wheel for Astana.

Mas and Valverde are looking good as their Austrian teammate lays the foundations. 

5km to go

Not an all-out attack but Mas is doing damage here

Mas eases off and Antwan Tolhoek sense the moment for a flyer. 

Tolhoek is riding for Trek now -  you'd be forgiven for missing that one - and he's being trailed by Fuglsang

But now Evenepoel goes!

Evenepoel is away. A well timed attack. Can anyone follow?

Vlasov sets off in repsonse.

Evenepoel has a small gap and he has less than a kilometre to the summit. 

Vlasov himself has a gap over a chasing quartet.

Vlasov isn't gaining here. The gap is holding and the gradient is easing now and Evenepoel is pulling away...

Evenepoel will be happy here on flatter ground and he'll soon crest the climb and will fancy his chances of finishing the job.

Evenepoel passes the summit and he now has just over 3km separating him from yet another solo win. 

The terrain now is either flat or slightly downhill. Given the race is in pieces behind, it's hard to see the Belgian being caught now.

No time gaps at the moment but Vlasov is at least 15 seconds in arrears.

Inside 2km to go now and we get a time gap. It is indeed 15 seconds.

Vlasov is still alone and putting in a good shift here, while Movistar will be licking their wounds. It didn't seem they were in the third chasing group.

1km to go

Evenepoel will fight all the way to the line, for every second. This could turn out to be a race-defining attack.

He comes into the barriers and sweeps through the final bends.

Evenepoel raises his arms, whips the crowd up, and crosses the line to win stage 1 of the Volta Valenciana.

Vlasov takes second place at 15 seconds.

Carlos Rodriguez takes third place from a select group of six at just over 30 seconds.

Valverde and Mas both finished in that group with Rodriguez. Also in there were Fuglsang, Tolhoek, and L.L Sanchez. Mohoric crossed a few seconds later.

The Ineos hierarchy is becoming clearer. Young Carlos Rodriguez looks like their leader after that. Pavel Sivakov came home in the next group and Tao Geoghegan Hart in the one after that. 

Valverde and Mas both finished in that group with Rodriguez. Also in there were Fuglsang, Tolhoek, and L.L Sanchez. Mohoric crossed a few seconds later.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Top 10
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team 4:16:32
2Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:00:16
3Carlos Rodriguez Cano (Spa) Ineos Grenadiers 0:00:31
4Enric Mas Nicolau (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:32
5Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Bahrain Victorious
6Antwan Tolhoek (Ned) Trek-SegafredoRow 5 - Cell 2
7Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 6 - Cell 2
8Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Israel-Premier TechRow 7 - Cell 2
9Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain Victorious 0:00:42
10David De la Cruz (Spa) Astana Qazaqstan 0:00:53

Let's hear from the winner

Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana 2022 - 72nd Edition - 1st stage Les Alqueries - Torralba del Pinar 166,7 km - 02/02/2022 - Remco Evenepoel (BEL - Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team) - photo Luis Angel Gomez/SprintCyclingAgency©2022

(Image credit: Luis Angel Gomez/SprintCyclingAgency)

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