Welcome to live coverage of stage 1 of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana from Oropesa del Mar to Peñiscola.
Good afternoon and welcome to the opening day of action at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana. The racing is well underway and the riders are over a quarter of the way through this 191km stage.
A break formed early in the day's racing and four men make up the group out front. They are Francisco Mancebo (remember him? He now riders for Inteja DCT), Jose Manuel Diaz (Israel Cycling Academy), Ibai Salas (Burgos BH) and Paul Ourselin (Direct Energie).
128km remaining from 191km
63 kilometres into this stage, the quartet has a gap of 4:50 over the peloton.
The Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana is older then the Vuelta a Espana but it has suffered from financial issues in its past. This is the third edition since it was revived in 2016. Read up on what to expect in this year's race with our preview.
It really is a fine day out there. Here is the breakaway working smoothly together for now.
The Valencia region is known for its beautiful beaches and coastline. Today's stage will finish out by the sea at the fortified seaport of Peñiscola. The town has previously featured in the Vuelta a Espana, as a stage finish and start in the 1981 race.
The peloton has upped the pace and brought the gap down to 3:25 as the rider approach the one and only classified climb of the day La Bandereta. It's 'only' a second category ascent but it has some steep gradients and the sprinters will have to dig deep.
Today is expected to finish in a bunch sprint and the big teams are going to do their best to keep this under tight control but that climb could be an opportunity for someone daring to have a go. I'm not saying that they really have a chance but you can only try.
There is plenty of other racing going on today across the world. Etoile de Besseges has got underway in France today and the first stage of the Herald Sun Tour also took place a little earlier with Ed Clancy taking his first professional win on the road. The inaugural Women's Herald Sun Tour finished with world champion Annemiek van Vleuten victorious in the time trial while Brodie Chapman held onto her race lead to win the overall classification.
Bit by bit, the peloton is chipping away at the advantage of the four leaders. 3:14 is the latest time check as the riders begin La Bandereta.
Many of the big name sprinters are racing elsewhere this month but there are still some seriously fast men in the bunch that could take home the victory today. Michael Albasini, Luka Mezgec, Dan McLay, Scott Thwaites, Danny van Poppel and Sondre Holst Enger are a few of the potential contenders today.
Sala led the breakaway over the top of the climb, earning him a day in the jersey of the mountains classification tomorrow. The gap has dropped just a little bit more to 3:10 as they it the descent.
Most of the riders racing today have already got a bit of racing under their belts at Challenge Mallorca earlier this month. One of those is Alejandro Valverde, who is leading Movistar here while defending champ Nairo Quintana is in Colombia. Valverde is still finding his feet after missing the second half of last year due to a horrible crash at the Tour de France, but the results have been promising. He admitted to being nervous ahead of his first race.
Another rider who was in Mallorca was, one of today's contenders, Sondre Holst Enger. The Norwegian got off to a solid start with second place in the opening race but struggled in the Trofeo Palma. It will be interesting to see how he fares today.
100km remaining from 191km
100 kilometres remaining and the gap has dropped dramatically to 2:37. The peloton is stepping things up.
Elsewhere, Jan Bakelants has been for a bit fit as he works to get back into training. He's discovered that he's lost a centimetre in height after his crash at Il Lombardia last October. Read about it here.
Another drop in the gap between the two groups on the road. It now stands at 2:30. It's not a massive reduction but the peloton is very much keeping these four in check. They will be happy to have got over the climb without any surprises along the way.
The Classics will be getting underway very soon and the Tour of Flanders organisers have announced their wild cards. Some surprises in there. To find out who got in and who missed out, click here.
76km remaining from 191km
Cautious of bringing back the escapees too early, the peloton has given them a touch more room. 3:02 is the latest time gap for the four out front.
Francisco 'Paco' Mancebo is definitely the best known of the four in the breakaway. The 41-year-old has been a feature in the peloton since 1998 when he joined Banesto. He has ridden for a number of teams since and joined Inteja Dominican Cycling Team this season. He is a former Spanish national time trial champion and has won a stage of the Vuelta a Espana. He has become something of a breakaway specialist in his later career.
Jose Manuel Diaz is much closer to the start of his career. The 23-year-old turned professional with the Israel Cycling Academy last season and is still very much learning the ropes. This sort of terrain is not his favourite, with mountains more his forte.
@MitcheltonSCOTT Wed, 31st Jan 2018 13:46:43
Ibai Salas is competing in his first season as a professional rider. He has been riding with Burgos BH since 2014, following them into the professional ranks as they stepped up to Pro Continental level for the 2018 season. Last year, he took a top-10 finish at the Klasika Primavera.
The last of our breakaway riders is Direct Energie's Paul Ourselin, the only Frenchman in this move. He too is a youngster in the pack at 23 and is starting only his second season as a professional. He is a former under 23 French national champion.
@Cyclingnewsfeed Wed, 31st Jan 2018 13:48:59
The gap has been heading back in the favour of the breakaway. It is approaching just 1:30 for the four out front and a sprint finish looks almost certain for now.
The Euskadi Murias team has been doing a lot of work on the front today. They've got Enrique Sanz in their line-up, who could be a contender in the sprint at the finish today. They're another team that has moved up to Pro Continental level for 2018.
42km remaining from 191km
Just 42 kilometres remaining of today's stage and the breakaway is having to work hard to stay out front. The gap has come down to just 1:14 and trickling down.
A bright mixture of colours on the front of the peloton. LottoNL-Jumbo is up there working for Van Poppel while EF Education First is represented up there as they hope to deliver either McLay or Modolo to victory. The bright green of Euskadi-Murias is also heavily present.
With a new sponsor for 2018, FDJ has unveiled its new team kit. Want to know what it looks like? Then click here.
It is Koen Bouwman doing the effort on the front for LottoNL-Jumbo. He looks relaxed as he puts the pressure on with his forearms resting on his handlbars. He casually glances over his shoulder to make sure everyone is keeping up with him.
Movistar are keeping a watchful eye on the front of the peloton. They're keeping their noses out of the wind but their new sky blue look is ever present. They'll be primarily concerned with keeping Alejandro Valverde safe but they might just put Jose Joaquin Rojas into the sprint too.
27km remaining from 191km
As the advantage of the escapees began to grow again, Pierre Rolland takes over the pace setting for EF Education First. He immediately puts a dent in the gap and brings it to under a minute. LottoNL-Jumbo then takes over again.
Team Euskadi is also moving up the peloton. The Pro Continental team has been taken over by Mikel Landa and is supported by the Fundacion Euskadi. It is not related to Euskadi-Murias.
Just 27 seconds for the escapees now. They're still working together. It remains to be seen if they will accept their fate or go down fighting.
21km remaining from 191km
Rolland back on the front and the four out front are going to need some ointment for the burn they feel right now. 20 seconds with 21km to go. How much longer can they hold out?
The roads at the moment are wide and open, so the peloton can see their victims just ahead. Terrain like this can be prime for crosswinds but there is hardly a lick of wind at the moment.
Mancebo looks like he's keen to keep this move going as long as he can. He's digging in hard on the front before flicking his elbow at Diaz. As he moves back, he can see the peloton right behind them.
Mancebo can sit up now, though as the peloton hoovers up the escapees. With 17km to go, it is full steam ahead.
Pierre Rolland has disappeared from the front as we see a number of different teams moving up the side of the bunch. LottoNL is still there but Astana, Mitchelton-Scott and Israel Cycling Academy are on their way up.
Israel Cycling Academy have played a good game so far today. By putting Diaz in the break they haven't had to do very much work today.
Mitchelton-Scott is doing the work for Luka Mezgec. Matteo Trentin would ordinarily be a contender but he has said that he's gong to take it a bit easy today as he recovers from his early-season training crash.
The pace is only getting faster as teams jostle for position. Rally Cycling is now up there with Burgos BH. This is a painfully colourful peloton right now.
10km remaining from 191km
Just 10km to go and the finish town is almost in sight. The peloton using the whole road right now.
Team Sky has moved up towards the finish. They don't really have anyone for the finish today but they have several overall contenders, such as Wout Poels and Michael Kwiatkowski. They will want to keep them out of trouble if they can.
Kiryienka moves to the front. Feels like a sign of things to come this season. He begins to string the peloton out with just eight kilometres left. A bit of a headwind for the peloton at the moment.
LottoNL-Jumbo muscle Sky off the front. They don't want the GC teams interfering with their sprint. They've put in a lot of effort today and Van Poppel will have to convert it. No pressure, Danny.
5km remaining from 191km
This pace is tough and there are riders being shown out the back door at some speed. They'll just have to make their own way to the finish now. It's just 5km to go for them though.
Teams are having to do a mini sprint just to make their way up the peloton. This is hard going and there are a number of roundabouts to navigate in the next few kilometres.
There is a small crash at the exit of one of those roundabouts and it's one of the Rally riders.
2km remaining from 191km
As I write, Gianni Moscon attacks and behind him some of the EF Education First riders hit the deck. Not sure who they are just yet.
That crash has disrupted the peloton and Moscon gets a gap.
The peloton is closing on Moscon into the final kilometre but the Italian still has a gap.
Moscon is caught by the LottoNL led peloton.
Van Poppel leads the sprint
Van Poppel wins
Van Poppel went from a long way out. Mezgec did his best to overhaul him but the Dutchman just had too much space.
That was Van Poppel's first race day of the year so that's a 100 per cent record for him thus far. He will take the leader's jersey but it's going to be a tough ask to keep it tomorrow.
It looked like a close finish between Jurgen Roelandts and Dan McLay for the third place. We await official confirmation of the results.
This was the moment that Van Poppel took the victory.
@Cyclingnewsfeed Wed, 31st Jan 2018 15:12:09
Van Poppel was happy with his result today and he had this to say at the finish.
"First race, first win so pretty nice. The team did a great job, they pulled all day and the lead-out was perfect. I was pretty nervous because it was a new race and a new team but I am happy that I could take the win here.
"It was really good. It is a bit of a process with a lead-out train. You need to know each other but I think that we didn’t expect the win today."
The top 10 has been finalised with Roelandts beating McLay into that podium spot.
1 Danny van Poppel (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo
2 Luka Mezgec (Slo) Mitchelton-Scott
3 Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) BMC Racing Team
4 Daniel McLay (GBr) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale
5 Clement Venturini (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
6 Hugo Hofstetter (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
7 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky
8 Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale
9 Marco Canola (Ita) Nippo-Vini Fantini-Europa Ovini
10 Angelo Tulik (Fra) Direct Energie
Over in France, Etoile de Besseges has finished. I won't spoil it for you, but you can read about it right here.
A better shot of Van Poppel celebrating his victory. He will be hoping it is the first of many in 2018.
@Cyclingnewsfeed Wed, 31st Jan 2018 15:35:09
Tomorrow will be a very different sage for the riders. There will be plenty of climbing and it is perhaps an opportunity for a breakaway to do something. The general classification riders also be looking to get something out of it ahead of the team time trial on Friday.
@Ride_Argyle Wed, 31st Jan 2018 15:18:29
@procycletrumps Wed, 31st Jan 2018 15:47:54
That is it from us today for stage 1 of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana. Our full report is in, we have pictures and full results will be in as soon as we can get our hands on them. You can take a look at all of that, here.
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