Coming into the final kilometer of the first stage of the Vuleta a San Juan, Marco Coledan had Boy Van Poppel on his wheel; the two were situated in the top 10 positions, poised for the upcoming sprint, when misfortune struck. The leading vehicles went straight, as indicated in the road book, and a good part of the peloton followed, including Van Poppel and Coledan. But a late change to the parcours meant this was the wrong direction, and those who veered left ended up on the right road, duking it out for the win.
"I was just following the wheel of my teammate Marco Coledan," said a disappointed Van Poppel. "We were in about 7-8th position in the last kilometer and all the cars went straight, following the road. After about two hundred meters we see the other half of the peloton across the road, on the other side of the median. There was no fence or anything to direct us left. It's pretty disappointing when the team worked so hard and we were positioned so well."
Boy Van Poppel climbs over the barrier to get to the finish. ©Bettiniphoto
"Boy said he felt really good and it's unfortunate this happened, "echoed Yaroslav Popovych, who has taken the helm as lead director for the first time. "In the road book we were to go straight, but they made a change just before the stage and when the lead vehicles went straight some of the peloton at the front followed. In the end, the officials gave everyone the same time, but we lost the chance to sprint for the win."
Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) won the stage, with Brändle pulling Mollema – both who were further back and able to follow the correct path – across the line for seventh and ninth places respectively.
Marco Coledan drops back to the team car for a chat with DS Yaraslav Popovych. ©Bettiniphoto
When the Tour de San Luis cancelled, the Vuelta a San Juan upped its UCI level to 2.1 and turned into a perfect replacement, giving many riders an appreciated warm-weather event in January to test their early season form. Trek-Segafredo will use the race to help build toward bigger races to come, but the incentive is high in the team to go for victories, pointed out Popovych.
"Bauke [Mollema] is very motivated to do well, he wants to do a good GC," he explained. "It may be hard as the climb is not that difficult, and last year a group of 13 riders came to the finish together. The time trial will be very important; Bauke wants to do a good TT and Matthias (Brändle) is in good form and wants to win this stage. Depending on how the climb goes, he could also be going for the overall podium. For the sprints, we have Boy, and hopefully tomorrow things will end better for him."