Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) won the 2nd stage of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana ahead of Team Astana duo, Luis Leon Sanchez and Jakob Fuglsang, respectively. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka had Merhawi Kudus place 6th on the stage, sprinting from a small chase group.
Stage 2 of the Vuelta Valencia took riders into the mountains with 5 categorised climbs during today’s 154km route. The final climb peaked some 30km before the finish and so a small group arriving at the line did seem like the most obvious outcome. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka looked to Merhawi Kudus for a top result today, keeping the Eritrean climber well positioned heading into the final climb.
The early 5-rider break of the day was caught on the final climb by a Team Sky led peloton. The British team was hoping to keep control of proceedings on the uphill gradient but Fuglsang had other ideas. The Dane attacked around 4km from the top of the climb and he was followed by Valverde. The pair led over the top with the peloton just 15″ behind, with a mostly downhill 30km remaining.
Sanchez was able to bridge across to the leaders on the descent and the trio started their 3-man time trial effort to the line. After the peloton blew to pieces on the climb, the first chase group comprised of just 21 riders. Kudus was part of this selection for our African Team. With 4 riders in the chase group, it was up to Team Sky to do the bulk of the work but they were no match for the 3 up the road. The gap slowly grew to 30″ as we reached the final 3km of the stage.
In the end, Valverde was the fastest from the front group, taking a good win. The chase group came charging in 19 seconds down on the leaders, with Kudus putting in a fine sprint to take 6th on the stage. Kudus’ effort was enough to secure the lead in the young riders’ white jersey competition heading into tomorrow’s 23km team time trial stage.
Merhawi Kudus – Rider
It was a tough day, always up and down. The final climb was important to start with a good position. The team helped me all day to be in a good position for the start of the climb. Sky set a high pace but I was able to follow their rhythm. The descent was a little tricky at first, so 3 guys could get a gap. I remained calm in the chase group and just had to wait for the final. I followed Van Avermaet in the sprint and could take 6th. I am happy with this start to my season, also because it is my first race back after my big crash at the Vuelta a Espana last year.