Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana stage 2: Matej Mohorič unstoppable as he descends to victory alone

Mohorič's attack on the descent was predicted by many, but not one rider could live with the Slovenian's technique as he left his rivals in the dust

Clock15:17, Thursday 1st February 2024
Matej Mohorič knew exactly what he needed to do to win this stage, and nobody could stop him

© Sprint Cycling Agency

Matej Mohorič knew exactly what he needed to do to win this stage, and nobody could stop him

Matej Mohorič (Bahrain Victorious) won stage 2 of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, producing a masterclass in descending from the final climb to win alone in La Valldigna.

It was a move expected by all at the start of the day, but no rider could live with the Slovenian as he rocketed down the final slopes and powered home his advantage over the final kilometres.

Behind Mohorič, Giovanni Lonardi (Polti Kometa) and Simone Consonni (Lidl-Trek) finished second and third, respectively, as the group looked at the delighted Mohorič with a sense of anguish.

The day's breakaway had consisted of seven riders, headlined by Euskaltel-Euskadi's Txomin Juaristi, but they were always held within three minutes and were eventually caught in advance of the final climb.

Whilst Mohorič powered away from the front of the race on the descent of the Alto Pla de Corrals, race leader and winner of stage 1 Alessandro Tonelli (VF Group–Bardiani–CSF–Faizanè) did enough to retain his race lead. He holds an advantage of 1:08 over Mohorič heading into stage 3, with Felix Großschartner (UAE Team Emirates) moving up to third.

"I was always focused on this stage in this race, I think it was the one that suits me the best," Mohorič said after the finish.

"Unfortunately we did not have the firepower to control the race, but some other teams believed in the success as well, so they kept control of the peloton and in the final, the lads did the perfect job to deliver me. It was really a team effort and I need to thank them for that and for the trust.

"In the end, I just did a descent pacing myself very fast but trying not to risk a crash and it was enough to make a difference and bring it all the way to the finish. So I am really happy and proud."

Sprint finish or daredevil descent?

Ahead of the start of stage 2 of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, much of the discussion in both the peloton and on commentary was spent pouring over the race's unpredictable finish. At 162.7km in length, stage 2 would take in three categorised climbs, the last of which topped out with 10km to go until the finish line.

After sprinting for fifth place behind the breakaway on stage 1, Lidl-Trek's new signing Jonathan Milan was confident of going for broke in a bunch sprint - "I'm positive for today, we will try our best for sure," he told Eurosport - but both Milan and Intermarché-Wanty's Arne Marit had one man on their mind.

"The last descent is very tricky. I'm quite sure [Matej] Mohorič will try something here," was the prediction from Marit, with Milan sharing his instinct.

"Matej will surely try something."

Sure enough, Mohorič confirmed his ambitions to attack on the descent in his pre-race interview with Eurosport, noting that he had already done a recon of the finish into La Valldigna back at a January training camp. Before worrying about the final 10km, however, first, the peloton had to decide who to let into the day's breakaway.

Seven-rider breakaway of Spaniards and Belgians

It would not take long for the day's major breakaway to form, with a group of seven clipping off the front after just 5km of racing. Remarkably enough, all seven riders were either Spanish or Belgian, with the former's Gorka Sorarrain heading up proceedings as the holder of the KoM jersey.

The Caja Rural-Seguros RGA rider was joined by compatriots Txomin Juaristi (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Eugenio Sánchez (Equipo Kern Pharma), José Maria García (Illes Balears Arabay Cycling) and Sinuhé Fernandez (Burgos - BH). The Belgian contingent, meanwhile, consisted of Bingoal-WB duo Sébastien Van Poppel and Johan Meens.

Their lead never exceeded three minutes and routinely hovered just below the two-minute mark, as the peloton decided to keep the move on a short leash. Van Poppel suffered the toughest day out front, having been struck by multiple mechanicals which left him needing to chase on at various points.

However, the break was altogether for the day's first KoM sprint atop the Alto de Benigánim (2.9km at 5.2%), which saw Meens lead Juaristi and Sorarrain across the line, before the latter claimed maximum points on the second climb to retain his hold of the jersey heading into stage 3.

With his KoM lead secured for another day, Sorarrain took his leave from the breakaway and drifted back to the peloton, whilst Van Poppel admitted defeat in his frustrating battle with mechanical issues.

The gap between the peloton and the now-five-man break stood at only a little over a minute with 50km to ride, dropping down to nearer 30 seconds just 10km later under the steam of Lidl-Trek spearheading the pack.

Although much of the peloton was enjoying a relaxed afternoon, there was a moment of stress for Jayco AlUla, whose team leader Eddie Dunbar was involved in a crash.

No attack sticks on the Alto Pla de Corrals

With the breakaway well in hand within sight of the final category-3 climb, the peloton had an air of tension ahead of Alto Pla de Corrals (5km at 3.9%). Out front, Juaristi's attack with 18km to go was enough to dispatch Sánchez, with the 28-year-old enjoying his 300th race day in Euskaltel-Euskadi colours.

Despite Juaristi's best efforts, however, the breakaway was completely caught in advance of a tight left-hand turn that had been earmarked with 16km to go. Lidl-Trek commandeered the front of the pack, determined to set up a sprint finish for Milan, but Mohorič was never far from the front.

UAE Team Emirates' Jan Christen was the first rider to make an attack, but Bahrain Victorious soon closed down his move and maintained a stranglehold on the front of the peloton.

Felix Großschartner (UAE Team Emirates) and Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe) both showed their faces at the front, but it was Bahrain Victorious' Santiago Buitrago who was able to nab the three-second time bonus at the top of the final climb.

Jayco AlUla were the first to make a move on the descent through Welay Hagos Berhe, but again, Mohorič was always close to the front and eventually, a ten-man group swelled to more than 30 riders. Race leader Alessandro Tonelli (VF Group–Bardiani–CSF–Faizanè) remained.

At long last, a powerful move from Mohorič went clear with 6km to ride. After a few probing attacks, his definitive attack was as breathtaking as usual, hugging bends and powering out of corners with a souplesse that was unrivalled.

At the start of the stage, every rider pointed to Mohorič and knew exactly what would happen. But still, they could not do anything about it, as the group behind scrambled to figure out their plans. Their plans, though, were not forthcoming. Mohorič was unstoppable.

Race Results

1

si flag

MOHORIC Matej

Bahrain Victorious

3H 47' 47"

2

it flag

LONARDI Giovanni

Team Polti Kometa

+ 13"

3

it flag

CONSONNI Simone

Lidl-Trek

"

4

it flag

FIORELLI Filippo

VF Group-Bardiani CSF-Faizanè

"

5

it flag

DE PRETTO Davide

Team Jayco-AlUla

"

6

au flag

MATTHEWS Michael

Team Jayco-AlUla

"

7

it flag

TIZZA Marco

Bingoal WB

"

8

us flag

STITES Tyler

Project Echelon Racing

"

9

at flag

KEPPLINGER Rainer

Bahrain Victorious

"

10

ve flag

AULAR Orluis

Caja Rural-Seguros RGA

"

Provided by FirstCycling

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