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Will Barta (Movistar) held off the sprinters to take an impressive solo victory in the final stage of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana on Sunday, as fellow American Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) won the overall classification of the Spanish stage race.
Barta was part of the day’s early breakaway and then surged over the top of the mid-race Frontera ascent. He spent more than 50km out front alone. Although it often appeared that he might get caught in the long run-in to Valencia, he powered through the final kilometres to maintain a slim lead and crossed the line with the win by eight seconds.
Jonathan Milan (Lidl-Trek) won the sprint for second place, and Vito Braet (Intermarché-Wanty) took third on the day but Barta was ahead of them.
McNulty finished safely in the peloton to secure overall title at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana.
He finished the five-day race 14 seconds ahead of Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain-Victorious) and 17 seconds on Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe).
It was Barta’s first professional victory after a series of career-disrupting injuries and set backs.
“To be honest, for a long time, it felt like I would be caught,” Barta admitted.
“The gap was 13 or 14 seconds, and I didn’t know how many people were behind or who was chasing, so I thought, ‘I might as well try; there’s nothing to lose.’
“There were a lot of corners, and I thought that would help me. I made it to the corners, the gap stayed the same, and I knew I could do it.”
McNulty has been given leadership opportunities at UAE Team Emirates in the early part of the season and proved his ability in Spain. He will next target the UAE Tour.
“It feels nice. I knew I had good legs last week in Mallorca, so to come here and get the win is nice,” McNulty said.
“It was a bit less chaotic than last year but we knew Bora would try on the long climb. Vlasov attacked; they were racing for the bonus seconds, so it was hard. But once we were on the downhill, it was controlled, and we just had to stay safe. In the end, it was a nice day,” McNulty said of the final stage.
Asked how it felt to win his first race of the season this early and what his next goals are, McNulty said: “My goals are to try to win anything. I prefer a start like this than to be suffering off the back all week, so I’m happy with this.”
How it unfolded
The Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana concluded with a 93km race from Bétera to Valencia. Along the route were two categorised ascents, beginning with a category three climb over Oronet, at 25km, and then a mid-race climb over Frontera at the 50km mark, followed by a descent and a flat run-in to the finish in Valencia.
McNulty started the day in the race lead after winning the previous day’s shortened stage 4 atop Alto del Miserat. He had 14 seconds ahead of Buitrago and 17 seconds on Vlasov.
An early breakaway emerged that included Barta, Xavier Cañellas (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Joel Nicolau (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Diego Pablo Sevilla (Polti Kometa), and José María García (Illes Balears Arabay). The break swelled to six when chaser Filippo Fiorelli (VF Group-Bardiani CSF-Faizanè) jumped across to join the leaders.
None of the riders in the early move were a threat to McNulty’s overall lead. Still, UAE Team Emirates and effort from Bora-Hansgrohe kept the gap at a manageable distance heading into the Frontera ascent.
Barta surged ahead alone as the breakaway split apart over the climb, which was the most challenging part of the route at 5km at a nearly 9.3% average gradient. He gained a minute over Fiorelli and Sevilla while the remaining riders reabsorbed into the field.
The climb was the only place to make any gains in the general classification, and as anticipated, attacks came from Vlasov and Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious). Those were followed by counter-attacks from Matej Mohoric (Bahrain-Victorious) and Oier Lazkano (Movistar), reducing the main field to just 20 riders.
On the flat run-in toward Valencia, Barta was the only rider left out front and hung on to a slim 25 seconds as the peloton swelled back up to 50 riders with sprinters hunting a final stage win.
Barta’s gap was slashed to just 14 seconds inside 3km from the line, along an exposed stretch of road as he fought against gusts of wind, as the peloton, led by Lidl-Trek and Euskaltel-Euskadi bore down behind him.
Under the flamme rouge and into the final metres, Barta fought to hold onto his 15-second lead. When Bora-Hansgrohe joined the lead-outs, it appeared the American might get caught, but it was too late for the sprinters, and Barta crossed the line eight seconds ahead of the bunch sprint to take his first pro victory.
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