Volta a la Valenciana #2: Van Zyl takes Polka Dot Jersey on birthday

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Johann van Zyl Valencia Stage 2 Stiehl Photography

The 2nd stage of the Volta a la Valenciana saw the time trial world champion, Tony Martin (Katusha-Alpecin) solo to the stage win ahead of a small chase group, led over the line by Pim Ligthart (Roompot-Nederlandsje Loterij) and Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo) respectively.

Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka were attentive at the start of today’s 180km stage as it left Alicante, looking to place a rider in the break of the day. The peloton stayed together right up until the 1st categorised climb on the day at kilometer 27, where we had Serge Pauwels summit in 2nd place. It was just after the climb then that the break of the day formed and our South African birthday boy, Johann van Zyl made the move.

Van Zyl was joined by two others, Cyril Gautier (AG2R La Mondiale) and Hector Saez (Caja-Rural) as they forced out the gap to 6-minutes. There were 4 more categorised climbs on route and Van Zyl managed to take maximum points on the 2 of those climbs and was 2nd on the 3rd climb. The peloton though, made sure to slowly reel in the escapees before the final climb, as it peaked with just 6km to go.

Van Zyl had done enough though and secured the King of the Moutains jersey. On the final climb, Martin was clearly the strongest as it was his 2nd attack on the positive slope that made the difference. Martin started the descent with less than a 5″ lead on 6 others but it was enough for the time trial expert. Behind the chasers, and also just 20 seconds behind Martin, was a small peloton that contained Kristian Sbaragli, Ben King and Merhawi Kudus. Sbaragli crossed the line 10th as our best placed rider on the day.

Johann van Zyl – Rider
Well today there was only one option for me and that was to make the most of it. I am getting old so I need to take every opportunity I can get (laughs). It was a super fast start, firstly quite technical with a lot of roundabouts and afterwards the first climb started. All our guys were at the front following the attacks. Over the first KOM where Serge was 2nd there was a slight lull and I took the opportunity to attack. 2 guys followed and that was my birthday present, 5 hours of chopping off with 2 other guys in the pouring rain and 5 degrees. I managed to actually win a couple of KOM sprints to secure the KOM jersey for the day. I’m super happy about that. It’s a great birthday present, not that it was given to me, and also a good day on the bike squeezing some watts and getting into shape.

Bingen Fernandez – Sport Director
A hard stage in the country side of Alicante where there are no big climbs but there is no flat either. To add to this we had rain and 9 degrees. This made the day even harder. We had Johan in the front, he was able to take the KOM jersey. This was a good present for his birthday. The final kilometers were pretty intense with a number of crashes. Igor crashed as the road was so slippery, he is okay.  In the last descent 7 guys took advantage and Kristian finished 10th.