Kaden Hopkins off to promising start in Spanish Cup campaign
Kaden Hopkins was left content after getting his Spanish Cup campaign off to an encouraging start.
In the first major test of the new season, the 21-year-old executed an astute ride, completing the 171.4 kilometre course – from the Guadiana river, to the streets of the Extremaduran town of Don Benito – in 3hr 56min 59sec for 17th place from a highly competitive field, in which 133 crossed the line and 41 failed to finish.
Gleb Syritsa, of Russia, pipped Italian Andre Pietobon to victory in a winning time of 3:56:43, with Britain’s Charles Beake completing the podium places.
Having found himself in contention for a fourth-place finish among a large pack to the line, Hopkins was happy with his endeavours, which saw him as the highest placed within his Equipo Essax team. He also claimed eight place in the Under-23 Division standings.
“I was really satisfied with the race this weekend. It was the first real test of the year and I felt I could be in good form to get a solid result there.
“It was the first Spanish Cup race of the season and, as this calendar is the most prestigious in Spain, I knew teams were going to be coming to the race with the intent of being the first to hold the Overall Classifications Jersey.
“The race went smoothly for me, luckily. There were many crashes and mechanicals throughout the race, as is always the case with cycling, but I was lucky to avoid any misfortune in that regard.
“It was a positive first showing for me in this level of competition and still this early in the season.”
Reflecting on the race itself, Hopkins believes his team managed to execute their plan of attack strongly until the decisive climb in Magacela, which ultimately split the leading pack heading to the final sprint to the finish line.
“The plan was to ensure we were in the top 20 riders onto the climb on every lap as it greatly reduces the risk of crashes and hold ups which, with the gradients the climb contains, can quickly put you out of contention,” he added.
“We were able to do this on all four passes of the climb meaning it was just a case of having the legs to follow the ever-increasing pace on each ascent.
“The decisive part of the race was on the Magacela climb, a narrow 1km climb in the town of Don Benito, with an average gradient of 12 per cent and sections up to 20 per cent at their steepest.
“Positioning into the pinch point at the bottom of the climb is highly contested and very aggressive which, with 180 riders, becomes a very difficult task on the already narrow run into the town.
“Despite a split on the climb during the final pass, myself and two teammates were able to make the select front group of riders who were in pursuit of the breakaway with 20km to go.
“With a gap of around three minutes to close in less than 20km, it was an incredibly fast run into the line with an average speed of 54 kmph from the top of the climb to the finish.
“Despite the efforts of the teams in the front group, with about 2km to go, it was clear we would not catch the breakaway in time resulting in an incredibly hectic finish with every rider battling for the highest positions possible in the race.”
As well at being delighted with his efforts, the most satisfying aspect of the race for Hopkins was the evidence of his continual encouraging signs of improvement and development since relocating to Spain to sign with Equipo Essax, the elite under-23 team of the illustrious Spanish Sax Cycling Club, at the end of 2020.
“I can say I am definitely satisfied with my form and the result, as in this same race last year I finished 79th and over four minutes down on the front group,” he said,
“Obviously I will be looking to improve these results in the coming races, but I believe last weekend was a sign that I am on the right path to continue that progression.”