CYCLING: Belgium’s de Gendt conquers Stage 1 for a big lead in the Tour of Catalonia

Belgium's Thomas de Gendt en route to a huge Stage 1 win at the Volta Ciclista de Catalunya

Belgium’s highly experienced Thomas de Gendt owns stage wins in the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana, but it’s at the Volta Ciclista de Catalunya – the Tour of Catalonia – where he has had the most success.

Coming in the 99th running of the race – first staged in 1911 – he had won three stages, in 2013, 2016 and 2017, and he stormed to the lead in the first stage in 2019, running away with the mountainous route outside Calella and winning the stage by 2:38 over German Maximilian Schachmann and a huge trailing pack.

He maintained the lead through the hilly second stage, won by Australia’s Michael Mathews. The race continues to be a climber’s challenge, with an uphill finish in Stage 3, mountains in the next two stages and hilly routes in the final two stages this weekend.

The field includes many of the top climbers in the sport, including five former champions:

● Alejandro Valverde (ESP) ~ Winner in 2009, 2017-18; second in 2015
● Dan Martin (IRL) ~ Winner in 2013; second in 2009; third in 2011
● Nairo Quintana (COL) ~ Winner in 2016; second in 2018
● Riche Porte (AUS) ~ Winner in 2015
● Michael Albasini (SUI) ~ Winner in 2012
● Tejay van Garderen (USA) ~ Third in 2014
● Marc Soler (ESP) ~ Third in 2017

In addition, the superstar field include the four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome (GBR), the brothers Adam and Simon Yates – Simon is the reigning Vuelta a Espana champion – plus emerging Colombian star Egon Bernal and French stars Romain Bardet, Warren Barguil and Thibaut Pinot. Stage summaries so far:

UCI World Tour/Volta Ciclista de Catalunya
Spain ~ 25-31 March 2019
(Full results here)

Stage 1 (163.7 km): 1. Thomas de Gendt (BEL), 4:14:32; 2. Maximilian Schachmann (GER), 4:17:10; 3. Grega Bole (SLO), 4:17:14; 4. Michael Mathews (AUS), 4:17:14; 5. Mikel Aristi (ESP), 4:17:14. Also in the top 25: 19. Nathan Brown (USA), 4:17:14; … 25. Sepp Kuss (USA), 4:17:14.

Stage 2 (166.7 km): 1. Mathews (AUS), 4:09:34; 2. Alejandro Valverde (ESP), 4:09:34; 3. Daryl Impey (RSA), 4:09:34; 4. Schachmann (GER), 4:09:34; 5. Odd Eiking (NOR), 4:09:34.

27 March: Stage 3 (179.0 km): Sant Feliu de Guixols to Vallter 2000 (mountain finish)
28 March: Stage 4 (150.3 km): Llanars to La Molina (mountains)
29 March: Stage 5 (188.2 km): Puigcerda to Sant Cugat del Valles (mountains)
30 March: Stage 6 (169.1 km): Valls to Vila-seca (hilly)
31 March: Stage 7 (143.1 km): Barcelona (hilly)