Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana 2018 – Stage 1 Preview – Ciclismo Internacional

Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana 2018 – Stage 1 Preview

By David Hunter

Oropesa Del Mar – Peñiscola 191km

The race opens with a sprint stage.

The cat 2 climb is too far from the end to have any significance, which means we should have a full bunch approaching the finale together.


The long finishing straight is great news for the sprint teams. We do have three tight corners from 2km to 1km, making that section incredibly important. Sprinters who are lucky enough to have a train with them, will be looking to hit the front with 3km to go. Once there, it is vital to stay at the front until the flamme rouge, even if it burns all of your riders. At that point, it is possible to jump on another train and sprint to glory.

Sprint Trains

As this is a relatively small race, at the beginning of the season, we are not blessed with the best sprinters in the world. That usually means messy finishes, but some teams should have the quality to control.

BMC – with riders like De Marchi, Schär, Küng and Van Avermaet available, you can be sure that Jurgen Roelandts will be put into a strong position. BMC are not what you would call a sprinter team, but they do possess a huge amount of power. Expect to see quite a lot of them in the closing 5km.

Mitchelton Scott – the Aussies will have Bewley, Albasini and Trentin available to deliver Mezgec into position. The success of their train will depend on Trentin, who has just returned from injury. If not able to hit top speed, they could struggle to compete with the others.

Lotto Jumbo – they have some big engines here, their TT riders are capable of controlling the final kilometres. I’m excited to see what Danny Van Poppel can do, he could turn out to be one of the signings of the season.

EF Drapac – not sure I actually believe I’m saying this, but they arrive with a strong sprint train! They can call upon Vanmarcke, Van Asbroeck and McLay to deliver Modolo into the top spot. There is still some debate about who will actually sprint, but the three in front of their chosen man look really strong and they should be able to control the final 3km.


A nice start to the week with pleasant conditions for the riders. There is only a small wind and it’s coming from the south, which is bad news for the breakaway as they head into Peñiscola.


Jurgen Roelandts – having not won a race for nearly five years, you can’t expect Roelandts to start this stage with a huge amount of confidence. However, he now has the full backing of the BMC squad, which will give him a huge boost. The man they call Yogi, rarely gets to sprint in anger, as he is a brilliant lead-out man, but things are changing. Now riding for BMC, he will be their designated sprinter and I hope to see him challenging for the win.

Danny Van Poppel – after two years with Team Sky, he’ll be happy to be home. Still just 24 years of age, he still has a lot of improving to do. Jumbo see him as a work in progress, he is nowhere near the finished article. Given that he has already achieved some significant results, I look forward to seeing what the Jumbo coaches can do with him. His teammates have huge engines, something that will help position him in the closing kilometres.

Sacha Modolo – if he gets the nod, he’ll be expecting to make the podium. It usually takes a while for riders to settle at a new team and Modolo also has to contend with the language barrier. An Italian speaker, he doesn’t have a great grasp of other languages, that will make it hard for him in the opening months. Winning would certainly help!

Luca Mezgec – doesn’t often get a chance to sprint, but he’s still a fast finisher. He’ll be looking forward to getting involved in the finish, the love of that feeling never leaves a sprinter. Looking at his rivals, he’ll have a good chance if positioned well.

Baptiste Planckaert – the Katusha man had an okay 2017, but he would have hoped to have made a bigger impact. He has a fast finish, but usually prefers a tough day in the saddle. He’ll be pleased if he can finish in the top 5.

Marko Kump – after a frustrating year for UAE, I’m happy to see him riding for CCC. When given a chance, he always seemed to perform well in 2017, he just didn’t get enough opportunities. He will immediately feel more confidence, being the main man for his team, something that should give him a few extra watts in his sprint. He has a chance of making his way onto the podium.

Nelson Soto – the young Colombian sprinter is one I’m following closely in 2018. He didn’t have a great start in Mallorca, but this year will be a steep learning curve for him. After taking three stage wins in Vuelta a Colombia, it was a great move by the Spaniards to secure him for two seasons. I’m sure he’ll be a success and a good result here would do wonders for his confidence.

Prediction Time

This is a tough one to call, as this is the opening race for all the top sprinters. Looking at the trains, I think Jumbo will be able to put Danny Van Poppel in a good spot and I expect him to take the opening stage.

*Overall preview

David Hunter

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