ORIHUELA, Spain (AFP) — Norway’s Edvald Boasson Hagen outshined world champion Alejandro Valverde and Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas to win the stage 1 time trial at the Volta a Comunitat Valenciana on Wednesday.
Many elite riders have chosen to start their seasons at this five-day race, won by Valverde last year, as part of their early-season bid to get back to top form.
Boasson Hagen of Dimension Data completed the 10.2-kilometer run through the town of Orihuela, past the surrounding sun-kissed orange groves and up a short, sharp final climb to a seminary in 12 minutes, 54 seconds.
Astana’s Spanish rider Ion Izagirre was 5 ticks behind in second, with German and four-time time trial world champion Tony Martin (Jumbo-Visma) third at 6 seconds back.
“It was really nice to finally win again. I was nervous with Valverde and Geraint and I was watching them come up the last climb,” said Boasson Hagen.
“Now I’ll take it day by day, I’ll fight as much as possible to keep the lead.”
Thomas, wearing his British champion red, white, and blue kit, suffered up the last climb but managed to finish in 13:15 to place 11th.
The Welshman said prior to the stage that his teammates Diego Rosa and David De La Cruz were more likely to challenge. “They’ll be doing GC. I’m here purely for a good hard workout,” he told Cyclingnews. “I want just to work hard all week and use it as a good block of racing.”
Dutchman Niki Terpstra, freshly signed for French outfit Direct Energie and winner of the Tour of Flanders last season, finished outside the top 10 after setting a fast pace in the plains.
Valverde crossed the line in eighth at 14 seconds behind, while 32-year-old Irishman Dan Martin, leader of UAE Team Emirates, flew up the last climb to register a 10th-place finish at 19 seconds behind Boasson Hagen.
Britain’s Adam Yates also shot up the final ascent but lost time on the plains and finished in 13:36.
Stages 2 and 3 are over rolling terrain ahead of Saturday’s potentially decisive ride that will feature first and second-category climbs before culminating in a sharp, 3.2km ascent.