Daniel Teklehaimanot (Eritrea) soloed to victory at Prueba Villafranca-Ordiziako Klasika. The Eritrean left his eight former break companions behind in the closing three kilometres of the one day Spanish classic in Basque Country. It is the first professional victory for Teklehaimanot in Europe.
“I’m really happy,” said Teklehaimanot. “I’m so happy to get this victory for the team. Everybody worked really hard. We did a lot of work in the peloton and we always had a rider in the break. It was with the team that I get this win.” “Daniel and Wes [Wesley Sulzberger] were in the front together,” Sport Director Neil Stephens added. “They played off each other.
Eventually toward the finish, the boys talked amongst themselves. They worked the tactics out. Daniel hit them first. The rest of the group had to chase him down. Wes was ready to take care of the small group sprint if it came back together.”
Before Teklehaimanot and Sulzberger escaped the stranglehold of the bunch, Jens Keukeleire flew the flag for ORICA-GreenEDGE in the early break. The Belgian was part of an early move of 18 riders that animated the field as it was whittled down to 13 riders, then 8 and finally three. The peloton overtake Keukeleire and his two breakmates around the 20 kilometre mark.
“This is a hard race,” said Stephens. “There’s a lot of climbing and it’s always raced aggressively. On the start, I knew we had a few different options, but I wasn’t sure how the race would pan out. I also wasn’t sure about anybody’s form. I knew they had all done their best in training, but after such a long break from racing, I wasn’t sure how they’d come off today.”
“We had Jens in the early break,” Stephens continued. “Cannondale tried to control. We were happy to have Jens out there, but we also knew we had options in the finish.”
Shortly after Keukeleire’s escape attempt came to a close, Haritz Orbe (Euskadi) and Florian Vachon (Bretagne-Séché Environnement) slipped down the road. The duo gained only a small advantage before ORICA-GreenEDGE set a tempo that bridged the gap.
The peloton split after the penultimate climb. Angel Madrazo (Movistar) launched an attack that would inspire the winning move. Ten kilometres from the finish, Teklehaimanot and Sulzberger were part of a nine rider escape.
“I did my attack at 2.5km,” said Teklehaimanot. “I opened up about 10” and I continued like that to the finish.”
Teklehaimanot soloed to his monumental victory 2” ahead of Madrazo. David Arroyo (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) narrowly edged out Sulzberger in the small group sprint for the final spot on the podium. The peloton finished the race nearly a minute behind the winner.
“This race is generally won by a rider coming off the Tour de France or a hard man with a punch,” said Stephens. “We had a few Tour riders on the start line, but a hard man won today. It’s a big win for Daniel. I’m not surprised, but I’m certainly happy for him and the team.”
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