Michael Albasini gave GreenEDGE its second WorldTour overall victory at the Volta a Catalunya since Simon Gerrans' win at the Tour Down Under in Australia. The double stage winner took the leader’s jersey with his win on the opening stage, and he never let it go.
“I didn't believe until this morning that I would win this race, I need to thank the team for the work that they’ve done throughout the week,” said Albasini. “This is an important win for me personally and for the team. It would have been impossible without them.”
Fumiyuki Beppu working for his teammates. Photo: © Graham Watson
“We’re extremely excited to give these victories to our supporters,” added Sports Director Neil Stephens. “We always do our very best, but the results don’t always show that. When you work really hard and come out with the win, it’s an outstanding feeling.”
The closing stage was a short nervous day between Badalona and Barcelona featured three category three climbs and one category one climb. The early break of nine riders got away only 6km into the day, never gained more than two minutes on the field, and the last rider from the break was reabsorbed around 30 kilometers from the finish on the slopes of the penultimate climb. At this moment, various riders tried to make a break but the pack gathered itself for the final mass sprint in Barcelona.
“There was really no moment today when we were under terrible pressure,” added Neil Stephens. “Those moments came earlier in the week. Today, we observed the different objectives of the other teams. When Garmin made their interests known, we let them ride on the front and took a secondary role. We knew all we needed to do was get Michael to the final climb. He started the day with a 1:30 lead. Even if he had gotten into a bit of a trouble on the last climb, which he never did, it would have been unlikely for him to lose that much time.”
Albasini not only stayed with the lead group on the final climb, he also managed to stay with the leaders on the technical descent. Julien Simon – Saur-Sojasun – took his second stage win ahead of Francesco Gavazzi – Astana – and Damiano Cunego – Lampre-ISD. Michael Albasini finished on the same time as the stage winner to retain both the leader’s jersey and his 1:30 advantage over Samuel Sanchez – Euskaltel-Euskadi. Jurgen Van den Broeck – Lotto-Belisol rounded out the overall podium two seconds further down.
“I had Daryl Impey with me on the final climb,” explained Albasini. “He has been by my side throughout the entire week. Each of my teammates did everything we asked them to do. They rode an incredible race, and I’m happy to pay them back by finishing off the job with the win.”
“An outsider might think the results that we’ve achieved up to this point are out of proportion for what to expect from a new team,” noted Stephens. “We had our first get together in September. The boys began working closely with one another in December. The staff has been working on this team for well over a year. There will be points throughout the year that we might not get as many results. We hope our fans will be patient and remember that we are team that always gives our very best.”
Michael Albasini fighting to keep his Leader's Jersey. Photo: © Graham Watson
Because any victory is a team victory, we wanted to share thoughts from riders that contributed to the second WorldTour stage win.
“It was an exciting moment when Albasini won the first stage. At that point, I don’t think any of us thought we would take the overall. Plans changed after the shortened mountain stage and the boys grouped together really well. Hats off to Neil Stephens. He kept his cool the entire week. He’s definitely one of the best directors I’ve ever worked with – incredible over the radio and really professional.” – Brett Lancaster
“The bad weather on stage three when we lost Julian Dean and Daniel Teklehaymont was the worst for me, but team came together after that. We always came together and did our job no matter what the challenges were.” – Fumy Beppu
Michael Albasini wins the Volta a Catalunya Overall. Photo: © Graham Watson