Tim Wellens overpowers rivals to win opening stage of Ruta del Sol 2019

The overall winner in 2018 made a strong statement to start his title defence

Tim Wellens opened his Ruta del Sol title defence with an emphatic victory on the opening stage.

The Lotto-Soudal rider attacked on the brutal cobbled slopes of the final climb and was too powerful for his nearest rivals, Jakob Fuglsang and Ion Izagirre (Astana).

Wellens, 27, repeated his 2018 stage victory at Alcalá de los Gazules – a win that secured his overall victory at the stage race in southern Spain last year.

How it happened

The opening stage of the 2019 edition was a relentlessly undulating course over 170km from Sanlúcar de Barramed to Acalá de los Gazules, 130km south of Seville.

But with just a single category three climb on the road, the peloton focussed their attention on the final 1km ramp to the line.

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A breakaway of seven riders from the smaller teams led for much of the day, made up of Unai Cuadrado (Fundación Euskadi), Sergio Samitier (Euskadi Basque Country-Murias), Alessandro Pessot (Bardiani-CSF), Corentin Ermenault (Vital Concept-B&B Hotels), Álvaro Cuadros (Caja Rural-Seguros RSA), Michael Van Staeyen (Roompot-Charles) and Jetse Bol (Burgos-BH).

Bol rode away from his breakaway companions 45km from the line, but after 10km solo the Dutchman was reabsorbed back into the break as the peloton allowed them a 44-second advantage.

The escapees were quickly swept up with just over 20km to go as the peloton ramped up the pace – Mitchelton-Scott and Astana took to the front to dictate the rhythm.

Astana then took the control of the race from 15km, with Bahrain-Merida also putting numbers at the front as teams battled for safe positioning ahead of the final climb.

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The fast pace caused havoc in the final 10km, as a brief crosswind section caused minor splits and Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) was dropped from the peloton.

But the front of the race regrouped and the peloton slowed 6km from the line, prompting an attack from Dries Van Gestel (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) who was followed by Matteo Montaguti (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec).

The duo pulled out a 20-second gap in the first 1.5km of their attack, the narrow winding roads playing to their advantage as the chase quickly ramped up behind.

Van Gestel and Montaguti were caught just over 2km from the line and the pace rocketed in anticipation of the approaching ramp.

Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) hit the front as the peloton turned right onto the climb, as the brutal gradients rapidly thinned out the field.



Steven Kruijswijk was also present at the head of the race, as was Jack Haig (Mitchelton-Scott), and Jakub Fuglsang (Astana) took the lead with 600m to ride.

Wellens launched a final attack on the savage cobbled section in the final 300m and rapidly pulled out an insurmountable lead, raising both hands as he crossed the line first.

Haig put in a valiant effort to follow Wellens but couldn’t match his power, and faded before the line as Fuglsang and Izagirre passed him to take second and third respectively.

Wellens takes the leader’s jersey heading into stage two, 216.5km from Sevilla to Torredonjimeno.

Results

Ruta del Sol 2019 stage one: Sanlúca de Barramed to Alcalá de los Gazules (170.5km)

1. Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto-Soudal, in 4-04-12
2. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana, at 5 seconds
3. Ion Izagirre (Esp) Astana
4. Jack Haig (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott, all at same time
5. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, at 9s
6. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Astana
7. Marco Canola (Ita) Nippo-Vini Fantini Faizane
8. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Gazprom-Rusvelo
9. Antwan Tolhoek (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, all at same time
10. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Wanty-Group Gobert), at 13s

General classification after stage one

1. Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto-Soudal, in 4-04-12
2. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana, at 5 seconds
3. Ion Izagirre (Esp) Astana
4. Jack Haig (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott, all at same time
5. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, at 9s
6. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Astana
7. Marco Canola (Ita) Nippo-Vini Fantini Faizane
8. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Gazprom-Rusvelo
9. Antwan Tolhoek (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, all at same time
10. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Wanty-Group Gobert), at 13s

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