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Iuri Leitao reloaded in the first stage of the ΔΕΗ International Tour of Hellas 2024

Iuri Leitao reloaded in the first stage of the ΔΕΗ International Tour of Hellas 2024

The ΔΕΗ International Tour of Hellas 2024 opening act began with the same protagonist in the leading role as in 2023: Caja Rural’s rider Iuri Leitao.

The 26-year-old Portuguese emerged victorious in the first leg of the opening stage (1a) in the city of Thessaloniki and by finishing second in the second leg (1b) in Paralia Katerinis, he earned the right to start on Thursday (16/5) on the way to Karditsa, wearing the cyan jersey, while he also maintained the lead in the points classification.

Stage 1b was won by Italian Jakub Mareczko of Team Corratec – Vini Fantini after an impressive sprint on the long straight of Paralia Katerinis, while Australian Blake Agnoletto of ARA Skip Capital ranked third.

The race

The 2023 Omnium world champion from Portugal, was the last to start the first part of the opening stage, which included an individual time trial within the city of Thessaloniki, on a beautiful route along the seaside road, starting at the White Tower and finishing next to the statue of Alexander the Great.

The time 26-year-old Leitao had to beat was Aaron Gate’s, 6.47.49. The winner of the 2022 Tour of Hellas, who now competes for Spain's Burgos-Bh and a time trial specialist set an early pace and held the lead until Leitao ‘s performance who finished in 6.43.36.

“It was a really short time trial, it was a hard effort for everyone because you have to put full strength and it’s really painful for the body.

The race suits me very well, I knew if I had good legs, I’d do top three today or even win so I’m happy”, said Leitao who also explained what he aims for in this year’s Tour:

“It’s an honour to wear the cyan jersey here like I did last year. I’ll do the best for me and my team and I’ll try to win stages.

“The waterfront scenery was amazing, different than any other in the world I’ve competed. A new very good experience”, added Leitao.

Czech Republic’s time trial champion Jakub Otruba of ATT Investments trailed in third place eight seconds behind the winner, while, after stage 1a, the white jersey for the best young (U23) rider went to Cypriot Bogdan Zabelinskiy, fifth in the overall ranking.

A jubilant Zabelinskiy said after wearing the white jersey:

“I came here with no high expectations, it was a big surprise to get the fifth place. I hope I’ll keep the jersey until the 3rd stage and keep my hopes alive until the end.

“It was a short individual time trial but I think it is my specialty, it suits me well and I’m happy with the result.

“I’m ready to face the challenges except the 3rd stage of course. It’s going to be a real hard stage indeed! But I’ll do my best and I hope my team will help me with that”.

On the road from Thessaloniki to Katerini for the second leg of the stage, it didn't take long to three cyclists, Filipino Marcelo Felipe of Victoria Sports Pro Cycling Team, Felix Ritzinger of Team Felt Felbermayr and Christoph Janssen of XSpeed United Continental to form a breakaway group.

Ritzinger won the stage’s only intermediate sprint in Alexandria, while Felipe, victor of the only KoM sprint in Paleo Eleftherochori, grabbed the red jersey.

The peloton gradually swallowed the breakaway group and victory was decided after a bunch sprint at the long straight of Paralia Katerinis.

The stage was eventually won by the powerful Jakub Maretzko of Team Corratec – Vini Fantini with a time of 1:57.14, but the cyan jersey remained in the hands of Iuri Leitao, who finished second in the 1b stage.

“We worked a lot today to arrive in this bunch sprint, be in the front and catch the breakaway and in the end, we were in the bunch sprint so we took a good result.

We are happy about that and look forward for the next day. For sure we’ll try to survive the next day. We’ll see if there will be another bunch sprint in the finish line” said the winner of stage 1b, while Leitao noted:

“The first part was really hard for us because we didn’t want to have a big group on the breakaway so we had to work a lot. Then we had two guys working all the day.

We wanted to win but it was not possible. Tomorrow, we will go for it again, we are here to fight. Everybody wants to win so tomorrow we’ll try again”.

Commenting on his race which brought him in the first place of the KoM classification, Felipe commented:

“It was hard to be in the break because this my first time in a race in Europe but our director said we need to go in the break so I tried to do it and I sustained till the KOM.

After that, I tried to keep going till the finish but the peloton passed and caught us so I dropped in the last 10km.

For tomorrow I’ll try to keep the jersey and try to go again in the break to get some points for the KOM”.

Zabelinskiy was unlucky to fall a few metres before crossing the finish line, but retained the white jersey.

For full results click here: