Finally cycling is back!! Sadly, few conclusions can be drawn after the first week of competition. Well, except what we already knew: Alejandro Valverde is a cheat code. Happily, though, cycling is back and a few teams and riders have started the season on a very high note.
Giovanni Lonardi, Eolo Kometa’s sprinter started out the European road season with a win in Valencia, beating Arkea Samsic’s Amaury Capiot. A fall in the last km affected the final sprint, which was contested amongst three riders: the aforementioned two and Chris Lawless of Total Energie. The final sprint was surprisingly strong for the beginning of the season, and Lonardi barely beat Capiot at the line.
After that we moved over the Mediterranean Sea to the island of Mallorca, where five one-day races took place over the past week. Here, UAE Team Emirates and Lotto Soudal were a cut above the rest. The hilly course of the Trofeo Calvia suited Brandon McNulty to perfection, and the American proved as much by pulling off a solo effort that lasted more than 50km to claim the win for UAE. His teammate Joel Sutter crossed the line in 2nd place in front of his breakaway companions to make it a 1-2 to the Emirati team. Is this maybe a preview of what the season is going to be like?
One day after, the Trofeo Alcúdia was won by Eritrean Biniam Girmay. With authority! Most readers will remember this rider for his absurd acceleration to claim the silver medal in last year’s U23 world championship. At on 21 years of age, this rider has all the tools to be one of the best in the future and was smartly scooped up by Intermaché for the next 3 seasons. The profile of the race wasn’t complicated, but had a climb around 40km from the finish. Some sprinters lost contact at that point, after UAE increased the pace for their fast men: Ackermann, Molano, or Gibbons. Girmay was the the fastest out of the group of 46 riders that arrived at the line. UAE repeated their 2nd place from the day before, this time with Gibbons taking the silver medal.
Lotto Soudal’s dominance started on Friday, at the Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana. As the name suggests, this was the most mountainous race so far, which is why it wasn’t surprising to see names like Alejandro Valverde, Enric Mas, or Emmanuel Buchmann play a big role in the race. In the end, a small group ended up fighting for the win, with Tim Wellens being the fastest. Alejandro Valverde and Simon Clarke were 2nd and 3rd, respectively. Brandon McNulty, the winner of the Trofeo Calvia, was 4th. Tim Wellens had already won this race in 2017, 2018, and 2019 so this wasn’t really a surprise.
The 41-year-old Valverde would avenge that loss on Saturday at the Trofeo Pollença – Port d’Andratx. At another hilly course, this one with an uphill finish, Valverde repaid the work of his team by being the fastest of the leading group on the final climb and claiming the first victory of the season for Movistar. McNulty was 2nd, once again showing his outstanding form at the start of the season, and Bora’s new recruit, Aleksandr Vlasov was 3rd.
The final race of the Mallorcan week, the Trofeo Playa de Palma had a very similar profile to that of the Trofeo Alcúdia. And the finish was similar as well. Only this time it was Belgian teenager Arnaud De Lie who came in first. De Lie is a very promising Belgian sprinter that already has some interesting wins (two stages in the Tour of Alsace last year) among the pros given his 19 years of age. In Mallorca he beat Juan Sebastián Molano and fellow young Belgian sprinter Sasha Weemaes.
Finally, in the Europe Tour, another Belgian sprinter took home 1st place in the GP de Marseille: Arkea Samsic’s Amaury Capiot. He was 2nd in the opening race of the Europe Tour, the aforementioned GP of Valencia, but he had better luck a week later in the South of France. He beat former world champion Mads Pedersen (Trek Segafredo) and young Spanish sprinter Francisco Galván (Kern Pharma). The sprint itself was quite tight until the last 25 meters. The Arkea rider took advantage of Pedersen’s wheel to leapfrog him at the end and win with a margin of a bike length. TotalEnergies once again worked well for their sprinter (Boasson Hagen – 4th) but, just like in Valencia a week earlier, had to resign themselves with a top-5 finish.
P.S.: I would just like to leave a few words of sympathy and strength to Egan Bernal who suffered a horrible crash during a training session this past week. An unfortunate accident that fortunately didn’t leave the Colombian prodigy paraplegic, but puts a question mark on his cycling future. Hopefully he comes back as the legend in the making that he was but, for now, I wish him all the strength, physical and mental, to deal with the challenges ahead. Come on Egan!!