Wellens continues winning streak in Andalusia


Lotto Soudal rider Tim Wellens took his second victory of the season today during the opening stage of the Ruta del Sol. On the steep slopes of the final climb in Alcalá de los Gazules - where Wellens also won last year -  the defending Ruta del Sol champion again proved to be the strongest. The 27-year-old Belgian soloed to an impressive victory; Jakob Fuglsang and Ion Izagirre completed the podium. Wellens will also start in the yellow leader’s jersey in Sevilla tomorrow.

After a fast opening phase of the race, seven riders managed to escape. However, the peloton - with Lotto Soudal attentive on the first rows - did not grant the escapees much advantage. Together with Team Astana and Mitchelton-Scott, it was Lotto Soudal who took the initiative and kept the advantage of the seven riders in check.

At twenty kilometres from the line, various teams opened up the throttle in an attempt to eliminate some of the pre-race favourites. Eventually, a reduced peloton reached the foot of the final climb in Alcalá de los Gazules where the battle broke loose. On the steep cobbled hill towards the city centre, Wellens first responded to various attacks but then decided to say goodbye to his rivals, on his way to a truly brilliant display of power that resulted in a solo victory. After stage wins in 2017 and 2018 it is now the third stage victory for Wellens in the Ruta del Sol.

Tim Wellens: “The team played a really important role in today’s victory. Due to the strong wind, the peloton was strung out all day but as a team, we managed to stay on the front rows of the peloton. Last year learnt us that we had to start the final kilometre in pole position, which the team also did. In the run-up to the final climb, some teams attempted to form echelons but we had been briefed very well, so there was no reason to panic.”

I could really turn the experience of last year in my favor.

“Once on the final climb, I was not sure if I had to attack or wait. The situation last year - when I was at the front with only one other rider - was a lot easier. After I responded to Izagirre’s attack, I gave my all until the line. I could really turn the experience of last year in my favor. It was difficult to sprint out of the saddle on the cobbles but sprinting while seated suits me really well. That is for sure an advantage on a finish like today.”

“Of course, I want to keep the leader’s jersey until Sunday. The time trial - which should suit me fine - will be of crucial importance. In my opinion, Izagirre will be the man to keep an eye on because he proved in Paris-Nice last year and during the Tour of Valencia this year to have good time trial abilities. But I also worked on my time trial skills and I look forward to seeing the result of that. The queen stage - which finishes in Granada - is scheduled on Saturday but the time trial will be even more decisive for the general classification.”

In Portugal, the Volta ao Algarve started with a sprint stage. Due to a massive crash in the deep finale, a heavily reduced bunch battled for the victory. The Dutchman Fabio Jakobsen was the fastest, Lotto Soudal rider Jasper De Buyst sprinted to a fifth place.