Ben O’Connor (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale) took his team’s first win of the 2024 season with a solo ride to the line at the Vuelta a Murcia.
He took advantage of the French squad’s strength in numbers at the head of the 199km race, proving the strongest from the lead group and dropping Tim Wellens (UAE Team Emirates) on the final climb of the day.
Out front, it was the Australian who pushed his advantage on the descent and remaining flat run to the line in Murcia. Further back, Jan Tratnik (Visma-Lease A Bike) worked his way across to Wellens, joining the Belgian 3km out before beating him in the race for second at the finish.
O’Connor, Tratnik and Wellens were among an elite group which broke away from the peloton on the major mid-race climb of the Alto Collado Bermejo. Sepp Kuss (Visma-Lease A Bike), Dani Martínez (Bora-Hansgrohe), Nicolas Prodhomme (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale) and Jefferson Cepeda (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) also made the move.
On the way down the other side, the attack caught the breakaway survivors of Tosh Van der Sande (Visma-Lease a Bike), Arne Marit (Intermarché-Wanty), Thomas Gachignard (TotalEnergies), Paul Lapeira (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale) and Mathias Norsgaard (Movistar), with the enlarged group enjoying a two-minute lead over the peloton heading into the final 80km.
Teams including Ineos Grenadiers and Groupama-FDJ led the chase behind but the leaders would prevail. Wellens and O’Connor made a move to go clear just over 40km from the finish as others fell back towards the peloton.
They pushed their advantage on the road to the final difficulty of the day, the Alto Cresta del Gallo some 12km out. It was there that O’Connor made his winning move, accelerating to leave Wellens behind as he struck out for the finish alone.
Further back, attacks came from Michał Kwiatkowski (Ineos Grenadiers) and Jan Tratnik, with the Slovenian proving the strongest man in the chase to work his way across to Wellens late on and secure second in the final, 42 seconds after O’Connor had raced to victory.
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