Strong results for Mohoric in Catalunya
While the riders of the BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM never got into contention in Flanders, the team performed impressively at the Volta a Catalunya, with Matej Mohoric finishing within the top10 in six of the race’s seven stages and scoring a 3rd as the best result.
For pure sprinters the Volta a Catalunya does not offer a lot of opportunities. For this reason, the BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM decided to reduce its sprint fraction to Niccolo Bonifazo as its designated sprinter and Grega Bole as his lead-out man. Giovanni Visconti, Matej Mohoric, and Enrico Gasparotto were free to chase stage wins and could rely on the support of Valerio Agnoli and Domen Novak. As expected the first stage ended in a bunch sprint, and two riders in red, gold and dark blue finished in the top10 with Niccolo Bonifazio finishing in 6th and Matej Mohoric in 9th. One day later the team even did a bit better with Mohoric finishing in 5th and Enrico Gasparotto in 6th. With this result, Mohoric took over the young rider’s jersey from his teammate Bonifazio. The young Slovene managed to defend this jersey in the third stage, crossing the finish line in 9th as part of the first group of chasers twenty seconds behind solo stage winner Thomas de Gendt.
The fourth stage of the Volta a Catalunya had been designed to be the Queen’s stage, finishing in the Pyrenees at more than 2000 meters above sea level. But a cold snap with snow forced the organizers to change the course and shorten the stage, canceling the long final climb. In an attempt to get himself a head start for the new, final ascent over 11 kilometers, Matej Mohoric attacked on the descent leading into it, gaining a full minute on his chasers. But this effort was doomed as the pure climbers blasted past him. This was the only stage of the race where no rider of the BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING was to finish in the top10. On the next day Matey Mohoric missed out on the elusive stage win by a mere ten seconds: Just like the day before the young Slovene attacked on the last descent, bridged the gap to his teammate Giovanni Visconti who had spent all day in the lead group and sprinted to a 3rd place. In his wake, Visconti crossed the finish line in 4th.
The penultimate stage of the Volta a Catalunya had to be shortened again due to cold weather and snowfall. In wet and cold conditions Niccolo Bonifazio got dropped when echelons formed, and in the remaining two attackers managed to stay ahead of the peloton. Matej Mohoric sprinted to a 4th place, adding another top5 result against strong competition to his tally. And Mohoric still was not done, as he was the most aggressive rider throughout the last hour of racing of the final stage as well: As soon as the early attack had been neutralized, Mohoric went on the attack on the local circuit around the Montjuic, pulling seven riders with him. Lap after lap, Mohoric attacked on the descent and kept the speed high and the chasers at a distance. On the last climb, he had to succumb to two stronger climbers, but he still managed to get a 6th place in the sprint of the chasing group. BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM’s sports director Harald Morscher had mixed emotions about the race: «Our goal at the Volta was a stage win, and we sadly missed out on that. But the team was racing actively every single day, animating the race.»
Contrasting to the energetic performances at the Volta a Catalunya, the BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM was no factor in Flanders: Having recovered from a recent cold, Sonny Colbrelli was not back to his best yet and could not follow his fastest opponents at both the E3 Harelbeke and the Gent-Wevelgem one-day race, respectively. Thus Heinrich Haussler moved up in the team’s ranks, becoming the protected leader. At E3 Harelbeke he, Colbrelli and Borut Bozic managed to escape a massive pile-up with 108 kilometers to go, but Kristijan Koren and David Per were less lucky and out of the race. Heinrich Haussler soldiered on but eventually ran out of steam, finishing the race in 19th. At Gent-Wevelgem things looked more promising at first, but Heinrich Haussler suffered a flat at the foot of the Kemmelberg, just when the speed picked up. Despite a quick wheel change with his teammate Borut Bozic, Haussler would not get back to the front rows anymore, crossing the finish line in Wevelgem in the first large chasing group in 49th.
98TH VOLTA A CATALUNYA
STAGE 5: LLIVIA - VIELHA D’ARAN, 212.9KM
1. Jarlinson Pantano, COL, in 5:20.53 hours
2. Vegard Stake Laengen, NOR, st
3. Matej Mohoric, SLO/BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM, + 0.10