Max Richeze sprints to second in Ventura, after last survivor of the break Tim Declercq is caught five kilometers from home.
The Tour of California ventured to Ventura on Thursday, when the riders embarked on a 218.5km stage, the longest in the history of the race. As soon as the flag was dropped, the bunch negotiated the flat opening kilometers at a rapid start, the pace relenting only after the first intermediate sprint, where launched by the excellent Maximiliano Richeze, stage 2 winner Kasper Asgreen pocketed bonus seconds and vital points in the fight for the green jersey classification.
Best climber of Volta ao Algarve earlier this year, Tim Declercq then made the day’s large break, which despite not possessing more than three minutes over the peloton, forced the chasers to work hard in order to reabsorb them. Inside the last 20 kilometers, the gap dropped to under a minute and that was the cue for “El Tractor” to prise himself from the break and put in a huge and admirable solo effort, which came to an end only with five kilometers to go, on a short but quite brutal unclassified climb.
“It was great for once to be chased instead of chasing others. I really wanted to joined the break today, and once I got carte blanche from the team, I gave everything to stay there for as much as possible. Sensing there was no more cohesion at the front, I attacked with around 20 kilometers left and played my card, but it was really difficult, because the field was close. Nevertheless, it was a nice day and I enjoyed being in the main move”, a smiling Tim Declercq explained after the stage.
Zdenek Stybar then launched a probing attack, but was immediately countered by two riders who took the bonus seconds as they crested the summit of the hill. Behind them, two chasing groups came back together on the downhill and pushed a big tempo to make up ground, sweeping the lead duo with the flamme rouge arch in sight. In the final stretch, Max Richeze delivered a fine sprint to take second behind Ivan Cortina (Bahrain-Merida), his first podium since becoming Argentinean National Champion.
“To be in contention at the of such a hard stage, with so many climbs and a savage tempo from the very outset, gives me a lot of satisfaction. Of course, to have won would have been even better, but I’m content with this result, as it gave me the chance to be up there on the podium with this beautiful jersey”, Max said after netting Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s 55th top 3 finish of the year.
Kasper Asgreen also got involved in the fight for a top ten in Ventura, sprinting to fifth place, a result that helped him reclaim the points jersey. At the same time, the young Dane – a runner-up at the prestigious Ronde van Vlaanderen this season – gained one position in the general classification, where he now finds himself in second ahead of Friday’s queen stage, thanks to the bonifications scored at the start of the day.
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