CYCLING: Lopez wins Volta de Catalunya, Kristoff & Wild sprint to wins in Flanders

Colombia's Miguel Angel Lopez wins the crucial fourth stage of the Volta de Catalunya (Photo: Namuss Films)

A busy week of European cycling saw an outstanding victory for another Colombian climbing star in Miguel Angel Lopez, who won the 99th Volta Ciclista de Catalunya with a brilliant victory in the Pyrenees Mountains.

The first two stages were for the sprinters, but the race turned in the mountain stages – of course – and Lopez moved from 40th to sixth with a fifth-place finish in the third stage, and then into the lead with a brilliant win in the fourth stage, which finished in La Molina in the Pyrenees, at 1,690 m altitude!

That victory gave him a 14-second lead after Adam Yates (GBR), and 17 seconds over countryman Egan Bernal and that is the way they finished. Yates made a brave attempt at a breakaway with 20 km left, but was reeled in well before the finish. It’s the third tour win in Lopez’s career and the second this year, also including the Colombia tour in February. He’ll take a rest, then attack the Tour of the Alps (22 April) and Tour de Romandie (30 April) before tackling the Giro d’Italia in May.

In Belgium, one of the famed Cobbled Classics – Gent-Wevelgem – was held for men and women.

The women’s race came down to an all-out sprint at the finish, with Kirsten Wild (NED) once again taking the win, just as she did Thursday in the women’s race in the Drie Daagse Brugge-De Panne. How deep was the sprint? The first 87 riders were given the same time!

Dutch women continue to dominate the Women’s World Tour, now winning four of the five races so far this year and collecting eight of the 15 medals. Wild and fellow Dutch rider Lorena Wiebes finished 1-2 for the second straight race, with Letizia Paternoster (ITA) third in Wevelgem. A 1-2 in two straight races by the same riders hasn’t happened since the 2017 Women’s World Tour when Anna van der Breggen (NED) and Lizzie Deignan (GBR) did it in the La Fleche Wallone and Liege-Bastogne-Liege races.

In the men’s race, heavy wind played a major factor and brought the peloton together with just 20 km to go, letting everyone in on the final sprint.

In the end, it was Norway’s Alexander Kristoff who screamed to the lead with 250 m to go and no one could catch him. German John Degenkolb got close to his back wheel, but he settled for second with home favorite Oliver Naesen (BEL) third.

It was Kristoff’s 15th World Tour win. Summaries from a busy Sunday:

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.

Stage 3 (179.0 km): 1. Adam Yates (GBR), 5:02:18; 2. Egan Brnal (COL), 5:02:18; 3. Dan Martin (IRL), 5:02:18; 4. Nairo Quintana (COL), 5:02:18; 5. Miguel Angel Lopez (COL), 5:02:18. Also in the top 25: 24. Joe Dombrowski (USA), +2:01.

Stage 4 (150.3 km): 1. M.A. Lopez (COL), 4:02:07; 2. Gregor Muhlberger (AUT), 4:02:23; 3. Marc Soler (ESP), 4:02:23; 4. Bernal (COL), 4:02:23; 5. A. Yates (GBR), 4:02:23.

Stage 5 (188.2 km): 1. Schachmann (GER), 4:25:45; 2. Matthews (AUS), 4:25:58; 3. Ryan Gibbons (RSA), 4:25:58; 4. Impey (RSA), 4:25:58; 5. Patrick Bevin (NZL), 4:25:58.

Stage 6 (169.1 km): 1. Mathews (AUS), 3:56:36; 2. Phil Bauhaus (GER), 3:56:36; 3. Impey (SA), 3:56:36; 4. Bevin (NZL), 3:56:36; 5. Mikel Aristi (ESP), 3:56:36.

Stage 7 (143.1 km): 1. Davide Formolo (ITA), 3:19:41; 2. Enric Mas (ESP), 3:20:32; 3. Schachmann (GER), 3:20:34; 4. Dion Smith (NZL), 3:20:36; 5. Valverde (ESP), 3:20:36.

Final Standings: 1. Miguel Angel Lopez (COL), 29:14:17; 2. Adam Yates (GBR), +0:14; 3. Egan Bernal (COL), +0:17; 4. Nairo Quintana (COL), +0:25; 5. Steven Kruijswijk (NED), +0:56. Also in the top 25: 21. Joe Dombrowski (USA), +11:03.

UCI World Tour/Gent-Wevelgem in Flanders Fields
Denze to Wevelgem (BEL) ~ 31 March 2019
(Full results here)

Men/Final Standings (251.5 km): 1. Alexander Kristoff (NOR), 5:26:08; 2. John Degenkolb (GER), 5:26:08; 3. Oliver Naesen (BEL), 5:26:08; 4. Mathieu van der Poel (NED), 5:26:08; 5. Danny van Poppel (NED), 5:26:08; 6. Adrien Petit (FRA), 5:26:08; 7. Matteo Trentin (ITA), 5:26:08; 8. Rudiger Selig (GER), 5:26:08; 9. Matej Mohoric (SLO), 5:26:08; 10. Jens Debusschere (GER), 5:26:08.

UCI Women’s World Tour/Gent-Wevelgem in Flanders Fields
Ieper to Wevelgem (BEL) ~ 31 March 2019
(Full results here)

Women/Final Standings (136.8 km): 1. Kirsten Wild (NED), 3:33:34; 2. Lorena Wiebes (NED), 3:33:34; 3. Letrizia Pasternoster (ITA), 3:33:34; 4. Marta Bastianelli (ITA), 3:33:34; 5. Amy Pieters (NED), 3:33:34; 6. Lotte Kopecky (BEL), 3:33:34;7. Michela Balducci (ITA), 3:33:34; 8. Elena Cecchini (ITA), 3:33:34; 9. Elisa Balsamo (ITA), 3:33:34; 10. Marta Cavalli (ITA), 3:33:34. Also in the top 25: 23. Coryn Rivera (USA), 3:33:34.