Volta a Catalunya Stage 1

Danish rider, Andreas Kron, in his first WorldTour stage race, won the opening stage of the 100th edition of the Volta a Catalunya ahead of Luis Leon Sanchez

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Volta a Catalunya Stage 1

Andreas Kron (Lotto-Soudal) won stage 1 of the 2021 Volta a Catalunya in a four-up sprint. Luis León Sánchez (Astana-Premier Tech) wearing the Spanish national champion’s jersey was denied the win in his home country when Kron held on to take the sprint win. The 22-year-old Dane of Lotto Soudal said afterwards “This is really fantastic. It is my first race in the WorldTour and my first victory in the WorldTour.”

Kron, a climbing specialist who won a stage in the Tour de Luxembourg last year, bridged over to make a leading group of four. They held on to the finish line, after which Kron crowned his work by winning the sprint ahead of Luis Léon Sánchez, Rémy Rochas and Lennard Kämna. “This is crazy, just fantastic”, said a quite speechless and happy Andreas Kron after obtaining his first victory in a WorldTour race. “Since I started cycling at the age of nine, I dreamt of winning a stage in a WorldTour race. This is the biggest scene of cycling.”

Kron proved the quickest to claim the stage and the overall lead in Calella, where he succeeds teammate Thomas De Gendt as stage winner. “In the Tour of Luxemburg last year I won by beating Diego Ulissi, so I knew I would have a chance today. I did my job in the front group, to stay ahead, but I kept in mind to save some energy. I started the sprint in ideal circumstances, in last position and well protected from the cross wind. It went perfect.”

The break of four formed with some 20km to go. “When Movistar stopped with its furious action, Sánchez attacked and some others went with him. Initially my teammates Maxim Van Gils and Harm Vanhoucke were also there. In the end, just Kämna, Rochas and me were left. I felt immediately that I had the good legs”

“We show that the Team Management made the right choice”, continues Andreas Kron. “The riders of my generation, like Pogačar, fight all the way, until the last second, and we prove we can beat the bigger names. And this is just the beginning of the season.”

The Race
In a region of Spain known for its beautiful terrain, it was fitting that the first day of the Volta a Catalunya took in some mountains. Three categorised climbs dominated the 178.4km parcours, with a first category climb ready to test the riders. Starting and finishing in the coastal town of Calella, the riders wasted no time in trying to make their mark on this 100th edition of the race, with several attempts to break away failing before a quartet managed to distance themselves from the peloton.

The breakaway of four opened up a gap of over five minutes before Bora-hansgrohe took up control at the head of the peloton and begun gradually reeling them back in. The catch was made with 52km to go thanks to a big effort from the Movistar Team, who pushed up the pace on the main climb of the 175km stage. Chris Froome (Israel Start-Up Nation) struggled on the only classified climb of the day at 50km of racing to go.

With everything back together, attacks going off here and there, the scene was set for a fast bunch kick, however, four opportunists launched away, Andreas Kron, Luis León Sánchez, Rémy Rochas, and Lennard Kämna. Team BikeExchange with help from Richard Carapaz and Rohan Dennis (Ineos Grenadiers) were left to take up the chase, doing all they could to bring the quartet back down the final climb and fast run-in to Calella.

Over the final Kämna attempted to get away but was quickly marked, and the four continued cat-and-mouse games until the final 400m. Forcing Rochas to open up, Sanchez tried to come around and hold on for the win. But Kron waited for the right time and launched around the group, and past Sánchez, while Kämna faded back of Rochas.

Luis Leon Sanchez (2nd): “The first stage looked good for us with a few climbs and a small ascent up there at the end. With not many sprinters in the peloton we knew it would be difficult for the group to control the situation. So, we tried to stay focused in the group throughout the whole day, especially in the final part. We were up there in front of the pack at the bottom of the last climb and I followed all moves, and, at the end, I was able to break away together with three more riders. Well, I missed the win today and of course, I am a little bit disappointed. In the sprint I was a bit boxed in behind two riders, while Kron went out on the left side. I lost just a moment and then I tried to give my best in sprint but still could not win. It was a good opportunity for me to get a victory, but I hope that more chances will come in the next days”.

Lennard Kämna 4th: “We rode a strong race and controlled it well. In the final part of the stage I had a good eye and I was part of the decisive attack. Unfortunately, the finale wasn’t a perfect one. On the one hand, I am happy because my legs are good and I am in a promising shape after the winter break, but to finish fourth in a group of four, well, is disappointing though.”

Dion Smith 5th: “It was a bit of a tricky one today because we have a couple of guys going for GC, so we don’t really want to use them all in the final and the four guys up the road weren’t really GC guys. We had Brent (Bookwalter) and Tanel (Kangert) riding on the flat run-in but for some reason the gap was staying quite far out. No other teams were really interested in this sprint so there was no cohesion, and so they managed to stay away which is a shame. I went pretty deep to stay at the front but today at least shows good signs for later in the week.

“For the sprint for fifth, it was a good test anyway to see how the legs are and Callum (Scotson) did an awesome lead-out and I trust him and his power and he put me in the perfect position. Today gives me confidence that I can climb but still finish well in the sprint.”

Nicolas Roche (16th): “Today we really committed to practice as a team towards riding well as a GC unit and then have Max there for the sprint at the finish,” explained Roche. “After the fast pace set on the climbs, we had to adapt quickly going into the final. We decided that I would have a go for the sprint, and I did the best I could. I think I finished around eighth from that peloton sprint so it was good for me to be able to give it a little try.”

Sylvain Moniquet: Kron’s teammate and neo-professional Sylvain Moniquet was the last survivor of the day’s early break of four. He took the points on the Port de Santa Fe del Montseny, but was swept up on the long descent. “I had to attack three-four times before getting away in the beginning of the stage. After some 15 kilometres we were gone”, explains Sylvain Moniquet. “I started immediately thinking of the mountains jersey. On that last 1st-category climb, the peloton was coming closer, so I succeeded in dropping the others and managed to pass as first rider on that climb as well. We will see the coming days if we will defend the jersey. Why not. This kind of races suits me better than the first Belgian races I did in the cold and on cobbles. I feel happy!”.

Next: Stage 2 is an 18.5km individual time trial



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