Hot Temperatures in Argentina test team at Vuelta a San Juan
SAN JUAN, Argentina (January 29, 2017) – UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling men’s team weathered a hot, fast week of stage racing at the 35th edition of Vuelta a San Juan (2.1) in Argentina this past week. The team’s top result came from speedster Luke Keough, who claimed fifth place on stage 4.
Overall, UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling’s Daniel Jaramillo finished just outside the top 20, 3:50 in arrears of Trek-Segafredo’s Bauke Mollema who wrapped up the overall win after seven days of racing.
The opening day was a good one for the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling team.
Despite the blazing temperatures over the course of the 142km, the team played it safe in the bunch knowing the break of six would eventually get caught and the final result would all come down to the last kilometers.
“The boys did a good race today,” UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team Director Sebastian Alexandre said. “After the break got caught inside 20kms to go, Carlos Alzate, Luke Keough and Sebastian Haedo were together for the sprint in very good position, but unfortunately with 1.4km to go, half of the field (including Haedo and Keough) took the race road based on the technical guide and the other part of the peloton saw a race deviation and took the right path. It was sad as our boys were in good position but not much to do when those kind of thing happens.”
The chaos didn’t stop Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) from winning the first stage for the third year running. Alzate managed to claim 12th place for UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling after a hectic drive to the line.
Temperatures relented on the second day of the Vuelta a San Juan, which came as a welcome relief to sprinters looking to make their mark on the 129km stage. The fast and flat race was again dominated by Quickstep-Floors, delivering classics legend Tom Boonen to a win. Luke Keough was also up there in the mix finishing in 7th place despite a late crash that wreaked havoc on the remaining peloton.
“With 12km to go our guys were together in the first third of the field,” Alexandre said. “A rider almost took Alzate down and broke his wheel. A big crash happened at that moment and only three of our six guys were able to pass. The other ones got stuck and Alzate needed a new wheels. We’re achieving a good result, but have bit of sour taste because we still need to learn to put all the pieces together, but it will come.”
The next day was an individual test against the clock. Alzate finished in 35th place, 1 minute and 4 seconds down on Lithuanian Ramunas Navardauskas (Bahrain Merida Pro Cycling), who won the 11.9km out-and-back course with a time 14:03.
Stage four saw Fernando Gaviria notch his second win of the Vuelta a San Juan. Elia Viviani (Italy) finished second. UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling’s own Luke Keough finished an impressive fifth and Alzate crossed the line in 10th place after 160km of flat and fast racing around San Juan’s breathtaking wine region.
“Inside the last kilometer our three sprinters, Alzate, Keough and Haedo were together,” Alexandre said. “Haedo was boxed in and the other two got a clear shot to the line. We are getting closer to the podium every day.”
The climbers had their turn to shine during Vuelta a San Juan’s queen stage. Rui Costa (Team UAE Abu Dhabi) took top honors, followed by Colombian Rodolfo Torres (Androni Giocattoli) on the summit of Alto Colorado.
UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling’s top finisher was Daniel Jaramillo who came home in 19th place, 1:52 down on the leader.
The penultimate stage of San Juan set off in the town of Pocito under oppressively hot temperatures, prompting race organizers to shorten the stage. The decision created a frenetic race dynamic and Quick-Step Floors were swift to take advantage. Again, the Belgian-registered team claimed victory with Max Richeze winning out of a three-man break. Oliveiro Troia (Abu Dhabi) was second and Nicolas Tivani (Unieuro Trevigiani) crossed the line in third.
Keough continued to display stellar form with a top 10 placing in the bunch gallop.
More hot and sticky conditions greeted the riders for the final day of San Juan, forcing the race organizers to cut the race distance yet again, this time by 16km.
Max Richeze (Quick-Step Floors) took his second stage of the tour, outsmarting the sprinters and their lead out trains in the final kilometer with a late sneak attack. The remaining riders from UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling team completed the race safely.
“We are happy with what we accomplished in the past week of racing,” Alexandre said. “It was very hard, very fast. Unfortunately a couple of guys got sick and Chris Jones crashed today, so it’s been a difficult week but we’re all okay and we look forward to the next race.”
Next on the schedule for the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling men’s team is the Herald Sun Tour, February 1-5 followed by the Tour of Qatar, February 6-10.