The 2015 cycling season is now officially underway in Europe and it was the Italian sprinter Matteo Pelucchi who drew first blood with victory at the Trofeo Santanyi, the first of four races at the Challenge Mallorca.
The 26 year-old Italian on IAM beat Team Sky new recruit Elia Viviani and perenniel top ten finisher Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar) in a fast tailwind sprint in the town of Campos.
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It was no ride around the park for the peloton, which featured 2014 WorldTour winner Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing). Strong winds and wide, open roads meant the re-introduction into the racing season was, for many, rather tougher than they might have liked.
“I was definitely blowing away the cobwebs,” said Ben Swift (Sky), Britain’s highest finisher in seventh after working for Viviani.
“I felt incredibly bad at the start. I’ve had a bit of an illness and this is the first time I’ve gone hard in the last ten days, and it felt pretty alien to be honest.
“It’s definitely nice to get that first race under the belt though.”
“Yeah, it was tough,” added Pelucchi, “especially because it was the first race back for me.
“All day, there was a load of stress. I felt good myself though, and the team did a perfect job.”
Most riders use the Challenge Mallorca to ease their legs back into the season. Dan Martin (Cannondale-Garmin) explained he was taking part in order to find a bit of form ahead of a team training camp next week, while many riders rode the additional 50km from the finish line back to the race hotel.
It’s just the start of a very long season, but for Pelucchi, who also beat Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) and Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) and let out a big roar across the line, the victory still meant a lot.
“It’s a big race for me to win,” he said. “There are a lot of good riders here, and the level of those riders is actually very high.”