The German national champion timed his sprint perfectly, coming off Mezgec's wheel with just over 125m to the line and powering clear of the opposition. Kittel came from further back but gave himself too much to do. In the end, the Katusha rider narrowly missed out on the win, with Ackermann taking his first win of the 2019 season.
Mitchelton-Scott had done the majority of the pace setting throughout the day and many predicted that Mezgec would lead out European Champion Matteo Trentin. However, it was the Italian who hit the front with just over 200m to go with Mezgec tucked in on his wheel. However, the Mitchelton pair had no answer when Ackermann opened his sprint. The 25-year-old German has already picked up from where he left off in 2018.
Ackermann and his teammates were patient in the finale, watching on as Mitchelton controlled the field. The German team moved up inside 1.8km to as the race tackled the final circuit, while Kittel sat deeper in the field before his lead-out train brought him up with just under 1,000m to the line.
"It was a really hard race," Ackermann said in a post-race flash interview. "Actually 100km before the finish there was a split in the peloton. Mitchelton did it and then we came to the finish line and the sprint was a hard one.
Asked if he was surprised that Trentin didn't sprint, Ackermann said, "No, I saw it in the race that Trentin was going to the front and the other one was in the pack and I knew that Mezgec was going for the sprint.
"It's good for the head to win really early in the season," he added "I'm very happy for the victory and we can look forward to Algarve next week."
How it unfolded
The early kilometres of the Spanish one-day race saw Carlos Verona (Movistar), Juan Antonio López-Cózar (Euskadi-Murias), Axel Journiaux (Direct Énergie), Justin Timmermans (Roompot-Charles), Petr Rikunov (Gazprom-Rusvelo), Jetse Bol (Burgos-BH) and Emerson Oronte (Rally UHC) break away and establish a healthy lead of over four minutes.
With the majority of the climbing coming inside the first half of the race it was up to the break to establish their lead on the climbs. They held four mins on the climb of the Tabernas, before pushing across the Alto de Cuesta and then the Alto de Lucainena.
Timmermans was the first from the break to be caught, with Verona leading the rest of the break over the Alto de Turrillas. The Movistar rider was active in the early Spanish races last year, although in Mitchelton colours back then, but he looked the strongest from today's break as he went clear inside the final 100km of racing. However, with most of the climbing over and long descent towards the finish the lone leader was eventually caught with 80km to go.
Back in the field, Mitchelton had helped cause a significant split with 35 riders forging clear. The front group contained several riders from the Australian team, including Edoardo Affini, Jack Bauer, Luka Mezgec, Callum Scotson, and Dion Smith, while Katusha had Marco Haller and Simon Špilak working for Kittel.
Bora-Hansgrohe, meanwhile, had Maciej Bodnar, Jempy Drucker, Patrick Konrad along with their fastman Ackermann and with the chase group unable to reel in the leaders the race was set for a sprint finish between the fastmen.
Ackermann, who will lead Bora-Hansgrohe at the Giro d'Italia later this spring, had a stellar 2018 that included wins in the Tour of Romandie, two stages in the Tour de Pologne, a stage in the Critérium du Dauphiné and the Brussels Cycling Classic. He will have another chance to show his form at next week's Volta ao Algarve in Portugal.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Pascal Ackermann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe||4:27:58|
|2||Marcel Kittel (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin|
|3||Luka Mezgec (Slo) Mitchelton-Scott|
|4||Carlos Barbero (Spa) Movistar Team|
|5||José Rojas (Spa) Movistar Team|
|6||Thomas Boudat (Fra) Direct Energie|
|7||Edward Planckaert (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|8||Lars Boom (Ned) Roompot-Charles|
|9||Sjoerd van Ginneken (Ned) Roompot-Charles|
|10||Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Bel) Wanty-Gobert|
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