The final stage of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana ended with a thrilling bunch sprint which Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie) won ahead of Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) and Coen Vermeltfoort (Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij). Kristian Sbaragli flew our African Team colours in the final by placing 10th.
The final stage of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana was supposed to be a 131km round trip in Valencia but the dangerously strong winds at the start saw the UCI’s extreme weather protocol exercised and the stage was reduced to a 35km criterium around the city streets of Valencia. The short and flat nature of the revised course made it almost certain to be a sprint fest finish.
Iljo Keisse (Quickstep-Floors) was still going to make a fight of it though for the sprint teams and he attacked inside the first 4km of the stage. Keisse rode to a 20″ lead before Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) joined the Belgian up the road with just 17km to go. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka led the peloton for the better part of the criterium with Ben King, Johann van Zyl and Daniel Teklehaimanot stringing out the peloton. Our pace setting was largely to keep Merhawi Kudus who was 9th overall out of trouble but it also looked after Sbaragli’s sprint interests too.
As the race began the final 7.5km final lap around Valencia, the main sprint trains took up the chase to pull back the 2 escapees, who still had just a 15 second lead. Right up until 1km to go it looked like either Keisse or Kwiatkowski would take a fantastic win but on the final corner with 300m to go, the duo were caught. Coquard benefited from the frantic panic the peloton was under to catch the break, and was able to win the final sprint. Our Italian fast finisher, Sbaragli, was right there in the mix too and placed 10th on the line. Kudus came home with the main group to secure 9th overall, a solid start to the year by the young 23-year old Eritrean.
Merhawi Kudus – Rider
Today the shortened stage was good because of the strong wind. Even in the circuit there was some wind, so we rode in the front. The team was really good once again. It worked to be in front because it was safer and also we had Krisitan who could sprint. I am happy with a top 10 result, and happy to start the year in a good way with our team, everyone was great. I have confidence and motivation for my next races.