Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) threaded the needle and won the bunch sprint on stage 1 in Meiningen at the Deutschland Tour. Jonathan Milan (Bahrain Victorious) took second place ahead of Max Kanter (Movistar).
In the final kilometre, Ewan was fourth in a long line of contenders, moving past Alexander Kristoff (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux), who was on the outside and struck out early with Milan. Ewan carved his way through the duo and held off other contenders to take his first win since April.
Prologue winner Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) maintained his overall lead, with a slim two-point margin over Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo). With his second place in the stage sprint, Milan vaulted to third overall, three seconds back and tied with Nils Politt (Bora-Hansgrohe).
With maximum points at the finish, Ewan moved into a tie with Ganna in the sprint classification, both with 15 points. Milan, 21, moved into the best young rider jersey.
Thursday began under cloudy conditions with a threat of rain and terrain suited for the sprinters, but without Olav Kooij (Jumbo-Visma) who did not start stage 1 due to a crash in the prologue.
Four riders attacked early on the 171.7km opening road stage, Belgian Abram Stockman (Saris Rouvy Sauerland) joined by a trio of Germans - Team Lotto-Kern Haus duo Joshua Huppertz and Jakob Geßner and Roman Duckert of Team Dauner-Akkon.
With top points at the first two KOM climbs, the Masserberg and Kühndorf, Geßner took the lead in the mountains classification, while Huppertz scored the first intermediate sprint points.
Stockman won the second intermediate sprint in Meiningen, which began a 22km circuit to the finish line. Headed onto the final uncategorised climb with intermediate sprint points at the top at Dreissigacker, Huppertz had lost contact with the lead group and the trio charged on with a 1:23 gap to the peloton.
Duckert took the opportunity to accelerate and drop his companions. Geßner and Stockman were then scooped up with 18km to go by a charging peloton, successive attacks launched by Nils Politt (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Ganna.
The 20-year-old Duckert was caught with 13km to go, the Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux squad leading the peloton with several Lotto Soudal riders on the flat return to Meiningen.
Closing down the final 5km, Greg Van Avermaet (AG2R Citroën) launched an attack that was quickly reeled back by Intermarché, Lotto Soudal and Bahrain Victorious. Missing from the sprint teams was a large group from QuickStep-AlphaVinyl. Florian Sénéchal managed fifth place, while teammates Yves Lampaert and Fabio Jakobsen finished 4:14 back.
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