Orica-GreenEdge stated its objective for the 2016 Tour de Slovenia was to chase stage wins and immediately met its aims as Belgian Jens Keukeleire sprinted to the victory in Koper ahead of Lampre-Merida's Diego Ulissi. Jack Haig then won the bunch sprint, three seconds behind Keukeleire as the peloton split on the finishing circuit.
Keukeleire's win sees the Belgian assume overall race leadership as well as the lead in the points classification.
"It was a hard stage today," said Keukeleire. "There were a few teams trying to control the race but it was a good course for me, I'm pretty fast on that kind of finish.
"I have to thank the whole team but especially Jack (Haig). His attack on the final climb got rid of a lot of the faster guys and then he committed fully to set me up perfectly for the finish."
The win was Keukeleire's first since back-to-back stages at the 2013 Vuelta a Burgos with the 27-year-old adding he was pleased to repay the hard work of his teammates.
"We raced very intelligently today and also with some luck. I am really happy with how we raced as a team, the way we attacked in the final and I'm thankful that I had the strength to finish it off," he added.
Sports director Matt Wilson added the commitment by his riders to ensure the win takes all pressure off for the remaining three stages. However, Wilson explained Orica-GreenEdge will look to defend the jersey on the 217.2km queen stage from Nova Gorica to Golte.
"A really great performance from the team today. The course was tougher than we anticipated and in the end that worked out well for us," said Wilson. "Jack buried himself in the finale after a superb attack on the last climb and Jens (Keukeleire) was very strong in the sprint to the line. It couldn’t have gone any better for a five-man team today.
"We came here with the objective of winning stages. We have achieved that on the first day and also taken the race lead. There is no pressure on us but we are happy with our position and will do everything we can to defend the leader's jersey."