Last year, a strong performance by Jarlinson Pantano at Strade Bianche gave the world an early clue of Team Colombia guys’ character and skills. This time, it was once again Jarlinson to deliver the first top-5 placement of the season, and outstanding 4th place in Tour Mediterraneen fifth and final stage. In the uphill sprint in Grasse after 192 km, Pantano was just inches away of a podium spot, while Belgian Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto-Belisol) took the stage ahead of Francesco Reda (Androni Giocattoli) and Mikel Nieve (Euskatel Euskadi).
Lövkvist Thomas (IAM Cycling) won GC after four days of hard racing.
After a frantic start with several breakaway attempts, a 17-man group forced its way away from the bunch in the early going. With several strong men among the escapees, including Frenchman Jeremy Roy (FDJ), the peloton needed to react, always keeping the pace under 4 minutes.
The breakaway splintered on the tough Tanneron slopes, and was ultimately reeled in the final 20 km. With less than 15 km to go, IAM’ Gustav Larsson moved on the attack, and was followed by 6 more riders, including Pantano. The new escapees managed to increase their gap to 25 seconds, that proved enough to stay clear of the bunch in Grasse.
Jarlinson Pantano was understandably happy with his display after the finish: “I am very happy! Quite honestly I didn’t think the finale was that tough, but my legs responded pretty well and I managed to come up with a good result. Our season is starting in a completely different way than last year, and that shows our development as riders at the World stage. It was our debut race, but I think the team started showing its potential right away, and that is good – also for our morale. Now we need to keep on going, and delivering solid performances on the road to the Giro.”
General Manager Claudio Corti also showed his satisfaction with the overall showing in France: “After two tough days at the beginning, the mountain stages showed our guys are on the right way, even if it was just our first race. They have progressed a lot compared to last year: Chaves, Quintero and Pantano all made some good performances, and today’s highlight left a smile on our face while we move on to our next fixture.”
From Thursday, the Team will be racing in Portugal, at the Vuelta ao Algarve: another short stage race for the Escarabajos to keep tuning their early-season condition.