Charleville-Mézières, France - Ivo Oliveira captured his first ever win in a Hagens Berman Axeon Cycling Team jersey at the final stage of Circuit des Ardennes, the three-day stage race held in Northeastern France near the border of Belgium, beating Karol Domagalski (One Pro Cycling) and Gianni Marchand (Cibel-Cebon) to the finish line. Ivo was also awarded “most aggressive rider.”
The team captured its second team title of the season just a week after earning the top honors at Le Triptyque des Monts et Châteaux.
The finale for Circuit des Ardennes was two difficult stages, one in the morning, and one in the afternoon. It was Ivo’s twin brother, Rui Oliveira, that led the team on the 78 km morning stage, finishing in 5th after a bunch sprint.
Will Barta set the stage for the team to give Rui a chance in Sunday’s morning stage after escaping the peloton with 10 km left to go.
“I had picked out this stage to have a go for it,” said Barta. “On the last categorized climb, I hit it from the bottom. When we went over the top, I went again and three riders bridged up to me. We worked really well together and I had a lot of hope it would make it to the line, but unfortunately the teams chasing behind were too organized.”
Barta’s break was caught 4 km from the finish. The team quickly organized for the impending sprint and Michael Rice led Rui into the last 1 km.
“This morning was really good,” said Rui. “I felt really good on the steep and hard finish. The team did a fantastic job of getting me into position for the sprint, especially Ricey near the end.”
Heading into Sunday’s 106 km afternoon stage, the efforts by Barta and Rui earned them valuable time in the GC; both were just 10 seconds behind race leader Anthony Maldonado (St-Michel-Auber 93).
After witnessing another stage with a lot of attacking, but still overall controlled, sport director Koos Moerenhout explained, “we raced well this morning and are in a good place, but it’s still a hard stage to come where anything can happen, from controlled racing to total explosion.”
After 40 km, Ivo and Julien Antomarchi (Roubaix-Lille Métropole) attacked. The two worked together for the middle portion of the race when another four riders joined the breakaway.
“We worked very hard to keep the gap,” said Ivo. “We were caught by a few riders from the peloton with 1 km remaining, but I was able to stay with them and at 500 m to go, I attacked solo and got the win! I’m really, really happy to take my first win with the team. My teammates were controlling really well in the peloton and I knew if I was caught that we still had more options, so it was a really good day!”
Fresh off his 5th place finish in the morning, Rui finished the afternoon stage in 12th, an impressive feat to end the race in 17th place in the general classification, the highest placement for the team. Barta was three spots behind him in 20th.
Ivo’s stage win vaulted him to 25th place in the GC, Jonny Brown was 54th, Joao Almeida 70th, and Michael Rice 73rd.
Next up for the Hagens Berman Axeon Cycling Team, U23 Liege-Bastogne-Liege on April 14, 2018.
(Header photo of Ivo Oliveira via DirectVelo.com)