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Chris Harper has started the Ruta del Sol with a seventh place. In the tough stage to Grazalema, the Australian climbed along with the best for a long time. Antwan Tolhoek was the second rider of Team Jumbo-Visma in the top fifteen. He finished in fourteenth place.
In the 174-kilometre stage from Alhaurin de la Torre, a leading group of eleven got a maximum lead of three minutes. On the last climb of the day, the Puerto de las Palomas, the leading group got reeled in, after which Mikel Landa and the later winner Jakob Fuglsang made their decisive move.
In the first chasing group, both Harper and Tolhoek left a strong impression. Harper accelerated a few times and was leading the chasing group a few times. Just before the summit of the final climb, Harper had to let his companions go, after which he crossed the line in seventh place, 54 seconds behind Fuglsang.
“I felt really good, especially on the climbs”, Harper explained. “I tried to accelerate a number of times, but I couldn’t get away. Just before the summit of the final climb I couldn’t follow, after which I could not close the gap anymore in the descent. That’s a bit of a pity because I think I could have gone a bit better. The team did a good job supporting Antwan and me until the final climb. It also gives me confidence, as I personally expected more from the Tour de la Provence last week. Then it is good to see that things are going in the right direction again. The coming days are going to be tough, but I hope to maintain my position in the GC.”
Sports director Arthur van Dongen talked about a good start. “We cannot be dissatisfied with two riders in the top fifteen. It was a very difficult stage with the necessary altitude metres. Chris manifested himself well on the last climb, but got a bit surprised just before the top, so he just wasn’t able to get along with the first chasing group. Antwan also climbed along with the best for a long time. The other guys finished the stage without any problems and supported our two climbers very well all day. It was a fair stage and everyone finished where he belongs today. This result gives us good prospects for the remaining stages.”