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By Jason Sumner
Spaniard Javier Benitez burst from the bunch in the final 100 meters to take the stage 1 sprint at the Vuelta Chihuahua on Monday.
The Benfica rider stopped the clock in 3:19:30, with Steffen Radochla (Elk Haus-Simplon) and Juan Magallanes (Tecos-Trek) completing the podium at the end of the 147.8km ride from Chihuahua to Camargo. Benitez won by more than a bike length.
Frenchman Christophe Laurent was the topped placed Garmin-Chipotle rider, coasting home in 28th while being credited with the same finishing time as the winner. Laurent’s four Garmin teammates also finished safely in the bunch.
“Overall it was a pretty chill day,” said American Patrick McCarty (Garmin-Chipotle), about a stage contested largely on a straight, mostly-flat highway road. “There were a lot of attacks at the beginning, but then there was a crash and it came back together. It was like that all day. People would attack, something would go but it would pretty easily get disrupted. The hardest part was at the end. That’s when the top guys started racing hard.”
Also finishing safely in the bunch was 44-year-old Raúl Alcalá, who crossed the line 52nd in what was his first pro race in nearly a decade. Alcalá, the first Mexican to ride the Tour de France and a two-time Tour stage winner, retired from the pro peloton in 1994. But a day ahead of this seven-stage tour around Mexico’s largest state, Alcalá told VeloNews that he’s caught the cycling bug once more and has dreams of returning to the sport’s biggest races.
A day later he appeared strained after the three-plus-hour affair, but was hopeful his legs would come around as the race headed into the mountains for stages 2 and 3.
“It was hard and fast,” admitted Alcalá, who finished top 10 in the Tour de France three times during the late 1980s and early ’90s. “At the beginning my legs were a little heavy but I felt better at the end. I hope tomorrow I feel even better. Right now I’m tired but less than what I was thinking it would be.”
Canada’s Team RACE Pro was led by Mark Walters, who was 4th among the 117-rider field that includes 17 teams from eight countries.
Next up in north central Mexico is the longest stage of this third-year event, a 188.7km grind from Parral to Guachochi. The stage includes five categorized climbs, as it crosses the jagged Sierra Tarahumara mountain range. Stage 3 brings more of the same, as the field faces a 155.9km trip from Guachochi to Creel that includes seven rated climbs and finishes 8173 feet above sea level.
Stage 1 Results:
1 BENITEZ, Javier BENFICA 3:19:30
2 RADOCHLA, Steffen ELKHAUS-SIMPLON at s.t
3 MAGALLANES, Juan P. TECOS-TREK at s.t
4 WALTERS, Mark RACE PRO at s.t
5 GRECIANO, Eduardo ORVEN NUEVIO LEON at s.t
6 CAMA—O, Iker SCOTT-AMERICAN BEEF at s.t
7 ZAMPEDRI, Derik NGCMEDICAL at s.t
8 HERRERO, David XACOBEO-GALICIA at s.t
9 MANCEBO, Francisco FERCASE-ROTA DOS MOV at s.t
10 VALDEZ, Jose Carlos CANELS at s.t
GC Standings after stage 1
1 BENITEZ, Javier BENFICA 03:19:30
2 RADOCHLA, Steffen ELK HAUS-SIMPLON st.
3 MAGALLANES, Juan P. TECOS-TREK st.
4 WALTERS, Mark RACE PRO st.
5 GRECIANO, Eduardo ORVEN NUEVIO LEON st.
6 CAMA—O, Iker SCOTT-AMERICAN BEEF st.
7 ZAMPEDRI, Derik NGC MEDICAL st.
8 HERRERO, David XACOBEO-GALICIA st.
9 MANCEBO, Francisco FERCASE-ROTA DOS MOV st.
10 VALDEZ, Jose Carlos CANELS st.