Jarlinson Pantano (Trek-Segafredo) held off the chasing peloton in a nail-biting ending to stage five at the Volta a Catalunya on Friday to claim his first win since his Tour de France stage victory in 2016. Pantano and Vegard Stake Laengen (UAE Team Emirates) were the last two standing from the day’s breakaway that had also included Trek-Segafredo teammate Laurent Didier.
With a two-minute gap and 15 kilometres to go, mathematically the pair looked good. But when Movistar and Team Sky decided to pick up the chase on the gradual climb ahead of a long descent to the finish, the gap fell rapidly. Pantano and Laengen’s lead was down to 1 minute and 25 seconds entering the tunnel with 12 kilometres remaining.
The climb crested in the six-kilometre tunnel where speeds reportedly were over 90km/h. When Alejandro Valverde attacked from the peloton entering the tunnel, it was anyone’s guess who would emerge first.
However, Pantano and Laengen exited still in the lead, but the gap had fallen drastically. With four kilometres to go to the line, they held a precarious 16 seconds.
“We knew that today would be the day for the breakaway to go until the end and we took the opportunity. I know Laengren, we were teammates at IAM Cycling, so we had a good understanding and worked together quite well. After having some problems after Paris-Nice and feeling a bit sick when I came here, I finally could grab a victory! I had a few rough days indeed, but that’s cycling: you have good days and bad days.”
The pair managed to maintain their slight lead, and the daring and savvy Pantano dove through the final turns. He opened up a 10-metre gap to Laengen that he held over the line for a huge win, his first with Trek-Segafredo.
“The truth is I am very happy with this big result. It has been a quite difficult day where Laurent and I went together in the breakaway. We knew that today was an opportunity for us. The team has put so much trust in me, so I am very happy I could finally give them something in return. So, for now, I hope I can continue in the same way. I want to thank my wife, my son and the whole team for their support. I really feel at home in this team, Trek-Segafredo feels like a real family, so I could not be happier to finally give them a victory!”
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) meanwhile maintained his overall lead of 16″ ahead of Egan Bernal (Team Sky) and 26″ ahead of Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team).
There’s been plenty of illness making the rounds in the pro peloton, and Trek-Segafredo has had its fair share of riders feeling its effects. Finally, the team could shake the bug, taking home two wins in the same day after Bauke Mollema also won stage two at Coppi e Bartali.