Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) made his 2024 season debut with a podium at the opening day of the Challenge Mallorca, the Trofeo Calvià, a strong start even if a bout of leg spasms late on denied him the chance to challenge for victory.
The US rider won the race two years ago with a 60km solo ride over the hills of eastern Mallorca, but this time around he was coming to the finish in Palmanova with two other men – Simon Carr (EF Education-EasyPost) and Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe).
Carr had been in the break for all but 25km of the 150km race, while McNulty and Vlasov bridged across when the action kicked off in the peloton with 60km to run.
All was set for a three-man battle in the final kilometres until McNulty suddenly dropped off the rear of the group, looking down at his cramping legs as he fell out of contention for the win.
“I think it was a really good race,” McNulty said later. “We stuck to our plan to make the race hard and attacked early, and at the end, I had cramps in both legs.
“These things that can happen in the first race back, but overall, it was good. I felt strong all day, but it was just the cramps in the end.
“I think the rest of the week should be fine and we’ll look for more results.”
McNulty had hit the front with teammate Marc Soler on the hilly mid-section of the race, the Spaniard later dropping back after helping McNulty into what turned out to be the winning move.
One by one, the remains of the breakaway – Mattia Bais (Polti-Kometa) and Pablo Castrillo (Kern Pharma) – dropped away to leave the trio of McNulty, Carr, and Vlasov to contest the win over the final 30km.
Unfortunately for McNulty, he wouldn’t make it to the line with his two companions to fight for an eighth victory of his career, but it still comes as a positive start to his season.
Meanwhile, Vlasov said that the race – also his season debut – was “really hard”, with the three leaders going “full gas” to the finish. The Russian GC man said he was pleased despite missing the win in the final sprint against Carr.
“It was a really hard race,” Vlasov said after the finish.” The last part was full gas. It was hard, as we expected. We wanted to do it as hard as possible to arrive in the final with less people.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t win but it’s a good start to the season. I just did my race and had fun today.”
Carr called his win “just instinct”, saying that EF directeur sportif Tejay Van Garderen advised him to drop behind Vlasov and take him by surprise at the finish.
“I was just focused on him and when he was going to launch his sprint and just timing that right,” Carr said. “I think in the end I had the jump on him anyway. I was just super focused on what he was doing and not looking back at all.
“It’s great to win this race, especially coming off winning Langkawi last year. This winter has been smoother than any other winter I have had as a pro, so now I can really show what I can do, instead of just catching up all the time. I am very happy.”
The trio are set to compete in the remainder of the Challenge Mallorca heading into next week – the Trofeo Ses Salines-Felanitx (January 25), Trofeo Serra Tramuntana (January 26), Trofeo Pollenca-Port d’Andratx (January 27), and the Trofeo Palma (January 28).
The next three races are all run on hilly parcours, with Thursday’s Trofeo Ses Salines featuring a rising finish, while the final day at the Trofeo Palma is one for the sprinters.