Froome, Bernal, Thomas, camera, TV.
Hello, and welcome to our live coverage from stage 1of the Tour de l'Ain.
We're in France and switch the CN's blimp from one-day racing on Ventoux to stage racing and we're in for a real treat as Ineos and Jumbo Visma go head-to-head for the next three days. It's the first time we'll see Froome, Bernal and Thomas square up against Roglic, Dumoulin and Kruijswijk but with the Tour de France just a few weeks away this is a key marker.
Should be a reduced sprint today with an uphill dash to the line and lumpy finale we could see the GC favourites go up against each other before the real mountain stages at the weekend. Right now, riders are signing on in perfect blue skies, and we're about 45 minutes from the official start. We'll be here all day with live text information from what promises to be another great day of racing.
Our official start list is right here and we'll run down the teams shortly - it's not just Ineos and Jumbo Visma who are here but first an intro into today's stage.
Today's route is 139.5km from Montréal-la-Cluse to Ceyzériat. As Patrick Fletcher wrote in his race preview, "With 2.5km to go, the route tilts uphill on a narrow country lane. With an average gradient of seven per cent over an 800-metre stretch, it could prove a perfect launchpad for a late act of aggression. Before the finale is reached, the riders will have already covered four short climbs in the opening half of the stage on what is the gentlest of the race, but still an undulating and tiring day in the saddle."
Can't believe that it's been this long... but his last race outing was indeed the 2019 Dauphine.
First race in 420 days! I’m very excited to start in Tour de l’Ain today😃 pic.twitter.com/eVfQlvzwyhAugust 7, 2020
Meanwhile, it's full steam ahead on the Team Ineos bus.
Back racing!! It’s been a while... Can you tell I’m happy? pic.twitter.com/9hfuMqeSudAugust 7, 2020
Here's a breakdown on today's climbs. Like we said earlier, it's not an easy day for the sprinters in the race.
Matafelon [Cat 4][1.3Km-6.4%]
Corveissiat [Cat 4][2.9Km-4.1%]
Grand Corent [Cat 4][2Km-5.2%]
Poisoux [Cat 4][2Km-4.8%]
A view from the start line a few minutes ago.
Grand soleil pour le départ du Tour de l'Ain 2020 🔥 pic.twitter.com/aBcZP0ouWTAugust 7, 2020
And we're off and with the climbs stacked at the front of the stage it's Jumbo Visma who put the hammer. This is early, very early, but the Dutch team are trying to send a message, and put their rivals under pressure right from the get-go.
And it's that man Tony Martin who hits the front nice and early and lifts the pace single handedly. The German is set to re-sign with the team after an already impressive two years on the Dutch team.
Here's the full Ineos roster by the way. No weak link in this team.
31Egan Arley Bernal Gomez (Col)
32 Chris Froome (GBr)
33 Geraint Thomas (GBr)
34 Andrey Amador (CRc)
35 Jonathan Castroviejo Nicolas (Spa)
36 Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr)
And the same goes for Jumbo Visma, who are here with 6/8 from their Tour de France squad:
41 Primoz Roglic (Slo)
42 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned)
43 Tom Dumoulin (Ned)
44 George Bennett (NZl)
45 Robert Gesink (Ned)
46 Tony Martin (Ger)
Other riders to watch over the next three days are Fabio Aru, João Almeida, Richie Porte, Bauke Mollema, Guillaume Martin, Daniel Martin, and Nairo Quintana.
The racing comes thick and fast over the next few days with Milan-San Remo taking place tomorrow. We've highlighted ten riders to watch, right here. I definitely didn't compile my list at midnight last night and accidentally miss off Wout van Aert. No way. And I definitely didn't scrub out Demare this morning and replace him with the Belgian.
Demare's going to win now, isn't he?
Race radio crackles through and tell us that Serge Pauwels is in a four-man break. Pretty sure he's sick though and missed the race. Hold on...
According to the race we have Alexis Brunel, Ivan Centrone, Martin Salmone and Serge Pauwels in the break but the last rider isn't correct and is most likely Michal Paluta. Pauwels is sick.
Interesting story, Pauwels and I both have cats of the same breed, British short hair. Thanks for asking. Every time I see him at races I ask him how his cat is...
Not that interesting really. Would you like me to bombard you with cat pictures? Where are you going? Why are you walking away?
And yes that's Paluta on the attack, not Pauwels.
Here's a picture from the break.
#TourdelAin Polish champ @MichalPaluta is in today's four-rider breakaway. They're currently on the third climb of the day, the côte de Grand-Corent. #RideForMore pic.twitter.com/w8NWX55S1PAugust 7, 2020
And the race radio crackles through and confirms the four riders in the break: Centrone, Salmon, Paluta and Brunel. And they have two minutes on the peloton.
If you want to watch Milan-San Remo on Saturday, you can stream the race via our handy 'how to watch' guide.
Onto the third climb of the day - Cote de Grand Corent - and the four leaders are holding their two minute gap on the bunch. It's a 2km ascent at an average gradient of 5.2 per cent.
Alexys Brunel is taking a turn on the front for the break and he's a very promising young pro at FDJ. He's wearing dossard number 1 because Pinot won here last year but isn't defending his title. Brunel won a stage in Besseges earlier this year and won the U23 Paris-Tours las year. Just 21, he's a huge prospect for the future and he came through the FDJ development team.
🇫🇷 #TourdelAinFour riders in the early breakaway. All of our guys are in the peloton 2’ behind.Here are some pre-race shots 📸 pic.twitter.com/UdsqS9PlM3August 7, 2020
Just one more categorized climb to come on the stage - the Coe de Poisoux - at 65km of racing. Right now the break are descending but it's rolling terrain for most of today. The finish will be frantic, with all eyes on Egan Bernal, who comes into the race in flying form.
A bit of a question mark over Nairo Quintana's form at the moment. He was storming through races earlier in the year but was forced off the bike for ten days recently. He wasn't great yesterday on the Mont Ventoux, only able to take eighth on the line. His team are near the front though and he should be okay on today's finish, as long as he can hold his position.
73km to go
The final climb is approaching with Jumbo Visma still contributing to the pace setting on the front of the peloton.
Breaking news and the World Championships have been plunged into more uncertainty due to COVID-19 restrictions around crowds. Cases are on the rise all over mainland Europe and restrictions and guidelines are tightening in several countries. Here's the news.
67km to go and the gap is at 2'11.
Politt hits the front for Israel Start-Up Nation as we climb the final classified ascent of the stage. The German heads to Bora for next year but he's on the front today and pulling for Daniel Martin. 63km to go.
52km to go and the gap is down to 1'59. Over the top of the final climb and it's rolling terrain for most of the stage as we head to that key uphill finish. Who are you tipping? Let me know on Twitter.
48km to go and the pace has increased at the front of the main field. The break are under considerable pressure now as the gap drops to 1'38.
45km to go and the gap is holding at 1'30 as Tony Martin returns to the front and taps out a steady pace as Politt takes the chance to sit up and stretch his back. And now we head through the feedzone.
There's a bit more urgency from the break and they find another 15 seconds on the peloton. 43km to go.
Martin takes his foot off the gas ever so slightly and that has allowed the gap to move out to 1'51 with 43km to go.
ISN come back to the front of the main field and once more it's Politt.
Politt's efforts have reduced the gap once more and with 34km to go it's at 1'17. Gorgeous sunshine today and near perfect race conditions in the race.
Big news in Belgium, just on the eve of Milan-San Remo, with Greg Van Avermaet confirming that he will leave CCC at the end of the year. That's terrible news for CCC, who are still trying to find a new sponsor. Here's the story with quotes from the man himself.
28km to go and the gap is now under one minute for the first time since the four leaders first broke away.
A number of sprinters fancy their chances today, even with that uphill section before the line. We see several leadout trains move up to the front. 25km to go and the gap is at 32 seconds as we see Thomas and Amador close to the front. This is Thomas's first race back since lockdown was eased.
The four leaders hit a small rise with 22km to go and some attacks are going to launched soon enough because the break are about to be caught, as the gap drops down to 19 seconds.
22km to go and the hammer is down, as the peloton raise the pace once more. This is going to be an intense finish, especially for those riders who raced on Mont Ventoux yesterday.
Centrone has sat up, so that leaves us with just three leaders as we move into the final 20km of racing. The gap is holding at 31 seconds but it's only a matter of time before the peloton bring the rest of the break back.
Here we go an Ineos and Jumbo Visma push to the front as Brunel sits up and we have an attack from CCC. Nice little move and the rider has a gap.
Now it's all Ineos as they protect their three potential leaders for the race. 17km to go.
Paluta still leads the race though and is the last man standing from the break. Good ride from the Pole champion.
We could have two CCC riders at the head of the race because the two leaders are about to link up.
15km to go and we have the two CCC riders and Salmon with a lead of seven or eight seconds.
The peloton can see the three leaders in front of them but the gap is slowly going out and it's at about 10 seconds now.
Paluta gives it one last turn and then sits up. Now we're down to just two leaders.
Jumbo Visma return to the front with 10km to go, as the rest of the break has been caught. All together.
Hodeg is here and he's near the front for QuickStep. A very good sprinter, and he might fancy his chances if he can survive the final uphill section before the finish but right now it's Jumbo and Ineos on the front.
Amador hits the front and now the race is really on, with a couple of splits. It should come back together though.
Crash. One rider down and into the verge. Let's hope that he's okay. 6km to and it's all strung out. Amador is putting in a huge effort.
It was a Direct Energie rider who crashed but he's back on his feet. Phew!
ISN move up as well and they're alongside Ineos with UAE trying to get in on the action.
3.5km to go and Amador is still pulling on the front of the peloton.
2.1km to go and Bernal, Thomas and Froome are all near the front.
Surely an attack as that final hill comes into view?
Bennett takes over and now an acceleration from Roglic.
Roglic has Bernal on his wheel. A huge turn of speed. Bernal is there. CCC attack and Roglic goes with the move.
Thomas follows Bernal but no splits. How many sprinters are left?
Roglic on the front once again but the road flattens out.
About 40 riders in contention , 400m to go.
Visma attack but it's caught.
They hit the front again. Is that Gesink ?
Here goes Roglic.
But I think that's Hodeg.
What a bizarre finish. We had Robert Gesink leading out Roglic but it was such a close finish and it's Andrea Bagioli who takes the win, not Hodeg.
Roglic took second and it was Dumoulin leading him out in the end. Andrea Bagioli takes the surprise win though for QuickStep.
First year pro and the Italian takes his first win at this level and the first leader's jersey of this year's race.
Here's our brief report, results and photos from the stage.
According to the results sheet that second place gives Roglic a four second time bonus over his GC rivals. He put in a strong acceleration on the final climb before the finish and Bernal was straight on his wheel, with Thomas comes over as well. We're waiting on full results to see where the Ineos leaders finished on the stage.
Let's hear from today's winner.
"It's incredible. After I'd crossed the line I couldn't believe that I'd won, then I was told I had done. It's a crazy feeling," said Bagioli, whose last victory was in the under-23 Tour of Lombardy last October. "Thanks to my team for this. The victory is dedicated to Fabio. We hope that he recovers quickly and is soon able to return to the group."
Meanwhile over in Pologne, Carapaz has taken the stage win.
Full results are in. One note is that Chris Froome lost close to two minutes at the line. Not sure if he sat up, but we'll look for clarification from the team.
Thanks for joining us today. We'll be back tomorrow with coverage from Tour de l'Ain and Milan-San Remo.
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