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Vuelta Ciclista a Murcia. Astana Pro Team dominates the first stage: Bilbao wins, Fraile is second, Sanchez is third

Great start for Astana Pro Team at the Vuelta Ciclista a la Región de Murcia Costa Cálida: the riders of the Kazakh team completed the whole podium of the first stage! Pello Bilbao became the stage winner after his attack inside the final kilometer as Omar Fraile and Luis Leon Sanchez took second and third podium places.

- It is a very nice victory for me! Honestly, it was not easy to do the decisive move today, because it was supposed a day for sprinters. We have fast guys in the team, but maybe not for the pure sprint. So, this was the reason we decided to do the last climb really hard to try to reduce the group to have more opportunities in the final. The team did an impressive work on the climb and we did not expect to create such a small leading group. Anyway, we decided to continue going 100% until the finish line. In the end, when we realized we arrive in this group, we started to attack thinking on stage victory. Luis Leon did a very strong attack, hard to follow, but Alejandro Valverde could close the gap. Immediately, Jakob made his attack, but he also was caught. My attack was the third one and I could get a small gap, which made me possible to arrive alone at the finish. So, for sure, it was an impressive team work and amazing team strategy at today’s stage. We can be proud with the result, - said Pello Bilbao.

The first stage of the Vuelta Ciclista a Murcia of 188,8 km started in Yecla and finished in San Javier. A group of 7 riders attacked from the peloton and went away on the only climb of the day Alto Cabeza de la Plata (4.2 km long, 4.9% average gradient) with four riders of Astana Pro Team inside this group: Pello Bilbao, Jakob Fuglsang, Luis Leon Sanchez and Omar Fraile.

This group worked very well during the final part of the race, holding an advantage of 15-20 seconds over the main peloton. With 2 km to go Luis Leon Sanchez tried to attack, but was caught by the reigned world champion Alejandro Valverde. The new attack from the side of Pello Bilbao became the decisive one: the Astana rider was able to get a small gap, enough to take the win.

In the sprint, Omar Fraile and Luis Leon Sanchez completed the podium with 2nd and 3rd places, while Jakob Fuglsang finished 6th.

- Of course, I am happy with this team success! That’s something great! The first half of the race was quite calm, while we increased the pace on the climb. The group split in parts and we could go away. We all worked really hard in our leading group to keep the advantage. In the final Luis Leon attacked first, but later Pello counterattacked and very fast got a few meters of advantage. It was a nice move, which brought him a stage victory. And, in the sprint we just did our best. The main thing is that our team is looking very solid, we are in good form and happy with the way the race started for us. Tomorrow will be a hard day, so, we will keep on fighting, - said Omar Fraile.

- This is a good start of the race for us. Actually, it was our plan to attack on the climb, because with no bonus seconds at the finish we had to avoid sprint to have a possibility to fight for the general classification. Today’s last climb was quite hard, but in the same time after we crossed the top there was still a long way to the finish. We have a strong team here and for sure, we had to try something. Yuriy Natarov started pulling hard at the bottom of the climb and later it was Dario Cataldo, who pulled strong, forcing many riders to drop. Finally, at the top a small group of leaders has been created with four guys from our team. Yeah, despite a hard chase behind us, we managed to stay away until the finish line. In the end we tried to play our cards not only to gain seconds to the main group but also to win the stage. So, Pello won and we took also second and third places. It was a perfect day for us, but the most important thing we showed we have a strong team. Tomorrow’s stage is a bit similar to the stage we had today. The last climb will be closer to the finish, but, maybe, a bit easier than today. So, we hope to maintain our lead, but anyway we are ready to fight, - added Jakob Fuglsang.

Stage 2 of the race will be held tomorrow: 180.3 km from Beniel to Murcia.

Photo credit: © Getty Images

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