Haimar Etxeberria, third again in Almagro and in the overall of the Memorial Sanroma

XXIII Memorial Manuel Sanroma Valencia
Stage 2: Almagro - Almagro (168 km)

Haimar Etxeberria finished third on the podium at the Memorial Sanroma. The EOLO-KOMETA Cycling Team U23 rider, one of the new faces of the team for the present season, finished third in a second and definitive stage that was solved in a reduced sprint in which the fastest rider was Sergi Darder (High Level) and where Etxeberria finished again third. The final overall went to Fran García Rus (Cortizo), a podium where Etxeberria climbed to third place. The U23 structure of the Foundation has been present on the final podium of the Sanroma Memorial in its last three editions.

The second stage, the most orographically complex day due to the pass over the Alto de Huertezuelas, began calmly and was grouped in its first part, apart from some unsuccessful movements. The turn towards Huertezuelas gave way to a new race. On the access curve to the foothills of Sierra Morena, a pile-up, in which Pablo Uría and Luca Bagnara were involved without consequences, fragmented the group and added to the tension. From this climb, several attempts to break the group, a loss of contact with leader Fran Rus, an EOLO-KOMETA Cycling Team riding close together and a final regrouping of about thirty riders on the return to Almagro.

Photo: Álvaro García / El Pelotón

In the vanguard of this leading group, which travelled at a fast pace, several offensive movements took place, some of them with a ‘blue’ presence as the one led by Andrea Montoli during the second flying goal. Finally, in the last third of the stage, seven riders broke the discipline of the group to, well together, amass more than a minute advantage: Ramón Fernández (EOLO-KOMETA Cycling Team), Joan Albert Riera (Arabay), Pau Domenech (Oleka), Tomás Miralles (Essax), Álvaro Sagrado (Brocar-Ale), Fernando Santos (Froiz) and David Chamorro (Bicicletas Rodríguez).

Miralles, nice classified in the general classification, unleashed the reaction of the Cortizo and High Level teams behind, with the EOLO-KOMETA Cycling Team block staying tightly grouped. The breakaway was travelling at 45 km/h and started La Garganta with 30 seconds of advantage and two members less, Sagrado and Domenech. Miralles moved up the ramps to reach the summit alone, with a ten-second margin, while in the main group Haimar Etxeberria launched a breakaway in which the leader Rus took off. However, it was Fran Muñoz who managed to catch up with Miralles to manage the last kilometres with a minimal advantage. Both of them, after a nice battle riding at 56 km/h towards Almagro, would finally be caught in the final kilometre by a group that was going for the ‘volata’.

Ramón Fernández, one of the protagonists of the offensive movement in the final part: “It was a good warm-up, the whole breakaway rode with the air in our faces… It wasn’t a premeditated breakaway, it was a race situation in which the race was going a bit crazy and we had to watch out for all the breaks. In the pass I didn’t feel good and I got cut off, but then the sensations came back and I felt very good. A little earlier I had been in another bigger break, but Rafa asked me not to go through. It was just a matter of catching us and the cut was made and we were able to sail through. There was a moment when we were a minute and a bit behind, we were close and we thought we could make it, but the wind didn’t stop, they got very strong at the back and it was clear that they would catch us. In any case, it was a very nice race to start the season”.

Rafa Díaz Justo, U23 team manager: “A podium finish is a very good way to start the season, but it’s even better because of the attitude the guys have shown during these two days, although with the regret of losing Pablo and Luca early because of the pile-up before the hard section. Today, the most demanding stage, but with the hardness very far from the finish line, we wanted to play tactically without trying to carry the weight of the race because our role was different: to keep Haimar as protected as possible until La Garganta and the sprint while we were attentive to possible cuts or movements that could occur. Montoli and especially Ramón and Fran have been very active in that line. Fran was very close to Miralles, who had a series of options for the overall. And Haimar, who arrived very well, has shown that he has a very interesting speed for what is to come”.