Ciccone Finds His 2021 Giro Legs | Volta a Valenciana Stage 2

Alto de Pinos – Spain – cycling – Giulio Ciccone (ITA – Trek – Segafredo) pictured during Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana 2023 – 74th Edition – stage 2 from Novelda – Alto de Pinos 178.2 km – Photo: Rafa Gomez/SCA/Cor Vos © 2023

The first mountain top finish in Volta a Valenciana ended with a bunch sprint. Trek-Segafredo climber Giulio Ciccone responded quickly to Mikel Landa’s attack in the final kilometre and won convincingly with enough spare time to celebrate.

Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana Stage 2 2023 profile by La Flamme Rouge

The stage was not easy, including more than 3500 metres of elevation over 178.6 kilometres. It ended with an uphill finish up the Alto de Pinos (Port de Bernia), which had at the end 2.8 kilometres at 8.04%. In Stage 1 the peloton climbed the Port de Bernia from the other side heading down to the finish in Altea.

The hardest climb in the stage was Cumbre del Sol. It was paced very hard by Bahrain-Victorious rider Matej Mohorič to thin down the peloton and reduce the gap to the last two survivors of the breakaway Javier Romo and Alessandro De Marchi. The peloton did the climb in less than 10 minutes, pushing around 6.46 w/kg, which was harder on the w/kg x time curve than the final climb.

Nothing much happened before the last climb when the INEOS Grenadiers took over from Bahrain-Victorious. Jonathan Castroviejo started an extremely long pull with 10.7 kilometres to go at the base of Alto de Pinos, showing that he has arrived in good shape in his 16th professional season.

Castroviejo starting his huge pull

The tempo was high during Castroviejo’s 8+ kilometres pull, as the peloton was stretched out and it was very hard to move up on the moderate gradients. Castroviejo’s pull was so strong that his teammate Laurens De Plus dropped straight off his wheel. It is not easy to draft behind Castroviejo as he climbs in quite an aerodynamic position. However the Basque rider eventually slowed down when the steeper climbing section started but no one was willing to take over from him with the peloton only around 20 riders deep.

As the pace had been relatively comfortable for stronger climbers, multiple attacks followed. First, it was Brandon McNulty, with Carlos Rodriguez forced to chase the American for Tao Geoghegan Hart but he could not pull for a long time. Thymen Arensman in his debut race for INEOS was already dropped and could not help his team. After no one wanted to chase McNulty it was Jumbo-Visma’s neopro Thomas Gloag’s time to shine. The Briton caught McNulty with 1 km to go and continued with the American on his wheel.

Gloag pulling with McNulty

Tao Geoghegan Hart obviously felt good and closed the gap to the leaders with 1 minute to the finish. Gloag continued to ride at his tempo and everyone was waiting for the next attack with the finish line less than 400 metres to go. Mikel Landa tried his luck and Giulio Ciccone immediately jumped on the Spaniard’s wheel with Landa practically providing him with a leadout as the last section was false flat.

Ciccone responds quickly to Landa’s attack

No one could challenge Ciccone as he sprung from Landa’s wheel in the technical last few hundred metres, showing signs he has his 2021 Giro d’Italia climbing legs back. The Italian took an impressive victory and was able to celebrate very early before the finish line. Hart finished second ahead of Pello Bilbao, but the INEOS rider was later relegated due to his deviation, endangering Bilbao towards the barriers. That meant Aleksandr Vlasov moved to the third spot and earned four bonus seconds, while Bilbao was second.

Giulio Ciccone (ITA / Team Trek – Segafredo) – Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBR / Team Ineos Grenadiers) – Pello Bilbao (ESP / Team Bahrain – Victorious) pictured during Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana 2023 – 74th Edition – stage 2 from Novelda – Alto de Pinos 178.2 km – Photo: Luis Angel Gomez/SCA/Cor Vos © 2023

Nine riders finished with the same time, including Alex Aranburu and Anthon Charmig. UAE Team-Emirates had an awful day as all of their leaders lost time on Alto de Pinos. Four UAE riders finished from 11th to 15th position – Brandon McNulty (11th, +0:08), Diego Ulissi (13th, +0:20), Marc Soler (14th, +0:20) and Rafal Majka (15th, +0:20).

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Thymen Arensman again was struggling on gradients steeper than 7% and lost 46 seconds, losing even to Callum Scotson. However the Dutchman stated on his Strava that the reason for his unsuccessful day was under-fuelling for the finale.

Thymen Arensman Strava Comment

The climbing level on Alto de Pinos was not that high as the first part of the climb was fairly slow when Castroviejo was pulling for such a long time. It had also been quite difficult in the early part of the stage, with the peloton riding for 4 hours and 38 minutes burning 4,250 kilojoules at 14.12 kj/kg/h. 6.36 w/kg for 7:38 minutes is not anything special but the fatigue, slow speed at the start of Pinos and tempo changes made the difference especially after a 4,000+ kilojoule day.

As mentioned above, Cumbre del Sol’s effort was harder on the w/kg x time curve as it was paced gradually and was earlier than Alto de Pinos.

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