Leigh Howard sprints to Clasica Almeria Victory

James Finch-Penninger

BrakeDown Podcast founder

brakedownpodcast.weebly.com

Leigh Howard took his first win of the season in odd circumstances as he sprinted to the win in the Clasica Almeria after the race had been shortened due to the hazardous winds. The recently arrived IAM rider has looked revitalised after coming off a few subdued seasons riding for Orica-Greenedge. His 2nd behind Peter Kennaugh in the Cadel Evans Road Race, leading home the bunch sprint, showed that he is in good form and he confirmed that in the shortened version of the Spanish race.

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With the race scheduled to be run over 184 kilometres, strong winds saw the peloton make a joint decision to call a halt to the race as 70 km/hr gusts buffeted the riders. Race officials took 45 minutes to come up with an alternative, with the race shortened to six laps of the 3.5 kilometre finishing circuit. The race stayed together for an apparent bunch sprint, but when Alexsejs Saramotins (IAM) launched the leadout for Howard with 500 metres to go, only Tcatevich (Katusha) followed. That made it a battle between the Australian and the Russian for the win, with Howard proving the faster after launching his sprint with 150 metres remaining.

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?We planned to ride for Matteo Pelucchi,? explained Leigh Howard. ?After all, he had already won here in 2011. But the day was very strange. Our plans had to change completely. The wind gusts were very impressive. Neutralizing the race proved to be a wise decision. In the final circuit, the wind was a constant. It kept changing directions, and it was very dangerous. It reminded me of the criteriums I raced when I was a younger rider in Australia. I am lucky to have had such a strong team around me. All I had to do was produce my main effort 150 metres from the line. Personally, I was in ideal conditions.?

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The win was Howard?s first in Europe in over three years and his first with IAM. His current form should see him get plenty of opportunities for personal results and not just see him as a leadout man for the team?s star sprinter Matteo Pelucchi.

James Finch-Penninger

BrakeDown Podcast founder

brakedownpodcast.weebly.com