Following the controversial omission of Mark Cavendish from Dimension Data's eight-man squad for this year's Tour de France, teammate Giacomo Nizzolo has taken on the role as the team's main sprinter, and took fourth place in the sprint finish to stage 1 in Brussels on Saturday.
Nizzolo was well beaten by surprise winner Mike Teunissen (Jumbo-Visma), Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Lotto Soudal's Caleb Ewan, but resolved to try again on the flatter stages to come next week, following Sunday's team time trial.
Teammates Edvald Boasson Hagen and Reinardt Janse van Rensburg had been able to position Nizzolo close enough to the front of the bunch coming into the final kilometre of the race to avoid the crash that took down Teunissen's teammate and main sprinter Dylan Groenewegen.
"It was a strange sprint, because it went slightly uphill, and the speed dropped down at 300 metres to go," said Nizzolo, riding his first Tour de France, in a video on his team's website. "So things changed a little bit, but, OK, in the end I got fourth place, with good feelings, so let's hope to do better in the next days.
"The first part of the stage was harder than I thought [it would be], with some cobbled climbs. I wasn't feeling super, but then in the last 30km, I started to feel much better," he explained.
The Italian will now grab the opportunity to try again in the next bunch sprint with both hands after Cavendish was left off the team for the Tour, with team principal Doug Ryder having overruled the team's head of performance Rolf Aldag's recommendation that the British sprinter should have been part of the squad.
Instead, the team will now back Nizzolo in the sprints, with the likes of Boasson Hagen and Michael Valgren able to hunt stage wins on the slightly hillier stages.
"Giacomo is really good at finding his way, and we are happy everyone got up and kept riding," Aldag said on *Eurosport, referring to the crash that brought down Groenewegen. "That was the best result we could hope for."
Keen to put Cavendish's non-selection behind him, Aldag added: "I already said it this morning, and I think everything has been said about Mark. We're supporting the eight guys that are here, and that's it.
"It's not relevant [if I wanted Cavendish to race]. The decision has been taken, and the first stage has been written, so of course that is what I said and you can read it everywhere, but it's not relevant anymore. Our guys deserve our full support," he said.
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