Max Richeze wins epic stage in San Juan
The 33-year-old Argentinean made it four victories in six stages for Quick-Step Floors at the South American race.
Crazy, spectacular and epic! Three words which fittingly describe the sixth and penultimate stage of Vuelta a San Juan, Argentina's oldest and most important cycling race. Saturday, extreme temperatures awaited the riders right from the start of the stage which passed not far off the Difunta Correa shrine, which is visited by thousands and thousands of people every year, as miracles are said to have occurred there since the first half of the 19th century.
The out-and-back course in Pocito was initially 185.7km-long, but it was cut by 17 kilometers due to the hot weather. At the moment the decision was taken, a huge break was at the front, with a 6-minute gap over the peloton. Among the riders to get involved in the day's move was also Quick-Step Floors' Maximiliano Richeze, a stage winner at Vuelta a San Juan in 2005 and 2007.
Richeze, who on the previous stages brought his contribution to the wins of Fernando Gaviria and Tom Boonen, was the heart of the escape, and at the same time the man who split the group inside the final 60 kilometers, with a savvy attack which saw just two riders respond: German Nicolas Tivani (Unieuro Trevigiani) and Oliviero Troia (UAE Abu Dhabi). The trio took one minute on the former breakaway companions and with every pedal continued to extend that advantage, to the point it became obvious the stage win will be played between them.
Tivani tried to surprise the others with three kilometers left, but Max quickly responded, and soon it all turned into a cat and mouse game as the finish line approached. Same Tivani was the one to open the sprint, but "El Atomico" Richeze was attentive and patiently bided his time before accelerating and taking a hard-fought win (number 125 for the home nation at the Argentinean race which this year celebrates its 35th edition) ahead of Troia and his countryman.
It was the team's fourth victory at the South American race, which ensured Quick-Step Floors' moveable feast continues in San Juan, and Max's first on home turf since 2008: "This morning, at the team briefing, we decided to go for a bunch sprint, but Brama told me that if more than eight riders make it into the break, then I am to join them and give the team an easy day after what has been a hard week. It was a tough and terrible stage because of the heat, and I arrived at the finish in Pocito completely drained, but with a big smile on my face."
"Winning here gives me huge joy, one year after wearing the leader's jersey at the Tour de San Luis. I love the trust of the team and I want to thank them for believing in me. My job was to work for Fernando and Tom, and to get such an opportunity really meant a lot for me. It's a great day not only because it was the Difunta Correa stage – which is very important for the Argentinean people – but also because my brothers are here in the race, while my mother and father came at the finish, and to share this victory with them is something very special", concluded Max Richeze, the fourth Quick-Step Floors Team rider to get a win in 2017.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele