Barely 48 hours after he was hammering the handlebars in understandable frustration at Milan-San Remo, Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) has bounced back to claim the opening stage of the Volta a Catalunya in a convincing bunch sprint.
Bouhanni was apparently initially so outraged by his near-miss in San Remo that he decided not to take part in the Volta a Catalunya and gave instructions that his bikes be sent home. However, he soon relented - and on Monday, the outcome to the race proved very different.
“I saw myself losing Milan-San Remo at 200 metres from the line, my dream was broken. It was a nightmare. I’ve won today but I’ve still got that bad feeling about what happened in San Remo,” Bouhanni said afterwards.
Bouhanni certainly proved he was in stunning form on Catalunya's slightly uphill finishing straight in Calella, easily outpowering Ben Swift (Team Sky), once again second after his runner’s up spot in Italy two days before.
Orica-GreenEdge had surged strongly in the final 500 metres, and the Australian squad’s Daryl Impey went on to place third. But even as Swift was powering past the former Tour de France leader, Bouhanni had shot past the Briton and was more than a bike length clear by the finish. Apart from the stage win, thanks to his third win of the 2016 season, the Frenchman has the overall leader’s jersey of the Volta a Catalunya to boot.
For Bouhanni, though, a rapid return to winning form will go some way to putting the massive disappointment of Milan-San Remo behind him, where arguably only the mechanical incident in the last 200 metres of the Italian Classic - a dropped chain - stood between the Frenchman and a first Monument victory.
Nor did Bouhanni or the other sprinters have it easy on the hilly course of the opening stage of the Volta a Catalunya, which saw the main break of the day go early, as Lluis Mas, (Caja Rural), Boris Dron (Wanty) and Cameron Meyer (Dimensions Data) escaped and built an advantage of over six minutes at one point.
However, Movistar and Cofidis combined forces on the mid-stage first category Coll Formic, where wet weather briefly set in before the race began to curve back towards the Catalan coast and sunnier weather in the start/finish town of Calella. Although Meyer, who took the lead in the King of the Mountains, and Dron managed to stay just ahead of the peloton over the summit of the Coll Formic, on the long, twisting, rain soaked descent, the bunch had the Australian and Belgian comfortably within their sights.
The much shorter, but tougher, second category ascent to the Alt de Monseny that followed immediately afterwards briefly saw the bunch split apart in two main chunks, and as the lanky figure of Belgium’s Louis Vervaecke (Lotto-Soudal) dragged himself clear and a six-man break gave chase, it looked as if the race might just shatter completely.
But hard work by Team Sky, led by time trial world champion Vasil Kiryenka, saw the front end of the race reglue itself together and although Nicolas Roche followed up his team’s effort with a gutsy last minute dash for a solo win in the streets of Calella, Cofidis returned to the fray once again, and Bouhanni quickly gained the upper hand as the finishing gantries loomed.
Amongst the long list of favourites and outsiders for the overall of the Volta a Catalunya, most came through the first stage unscathed, although Ryder Hesjedal (Trek-Segafredo) and Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin), still recovering from illness that knocked him out of participation in Milan-San Remo last week, finished behind the main group, losing six minutes.
Tuesday’s stage 2 could well favour Bouhanni again, with rolling terrain including a first category climb midway culminating in a flat finish at Olot. After that, it’s into the mountains.
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|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits||4:28:51|
|2||Ben Swift (GBr) Team Sky||Row 1 - Cell 2|
|3||Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica-GreenEdge||Row 2 - Cell 2|
|4||Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Wanty - Groupe Gobert||Row 3 - Cell 2|
|5||Aleksei Tcatevich (Rus) Team Katusha||Row 4 - Cell 2|
|6||Carlos Barbero Cuesta (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA||Row 5 - Cell 2|
|7||Jordi Simon Casulleras (Spa) Verva ActiveJet Pro Cycling Team||Row 6 - Cell 2|
|8||Kévin Reza (Fra) FDJ||Row 7 - Cell 2|
|9||Eduard Prades Reverte (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA||Row 8 - Cell 2|
|10||Georg Preidler (Aut) Team Giant-Alpecin||Row 9 - Cell 2|
|11||Kiel Reijnen (USA) Trek-Segafredo||Row 10 - Cell 2|
|12||Jarlinson Pantano Gomez (Col) IAM Cycling||Row 11 - Cell 2|
|13||Tobias Ludvigsson (Swe) Team Giant-Alpecin||Row 12 - Cell 2|
|14||Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team||Row 13 - Cell 2|
|15||Nick Van Der Lijke (Ned) Roompot - Oranje Peloton||Row 14 - Cell 2|
|16||Ivan Rovny (Rus) Tinkoff Team||Row 15 - Cell 2|
|17||Daniel Martin (Irl) Etixx - Quick-Step||Row 16 - Cell 2|
|18||Davide Rebellin (Ita) CCC Sprandi Polkowice||Row 17 - Cell 2|
|19||Lawrence Warbasse (USA) IAM Cycling||Row 18 - Cell 2|
|20||Petr Vakoc (Cze) Etixx - Quick-Step||Row 19 - Cell 2|
|21||Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||Row 20 - Cell 2|
|22||Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Giant-Alpecin||Row 21 - Cell 2|
|23||Alex Howes (USA) Cannondale Pro Cycling||Row 22 - Cell 2|
|24||Ruben Fernandez (Spa) Movistar Team||Row 23 - Cell 2|
|25||Ben Hermans (Bel) BMC Racing Team||Row 24 - Cell 2|
|26||Kanstantsin Siutsou (Blr) Dimension Data||Row 25 - Cell 2|
|27||Maurits Lammertink (Ned) Roompot - Oranje Peloton||Row 26 - Cell 2|
|28||Mathias Frank (Swi) IAM Cycling||Row 27 - Cell 2|
|29||Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky||Row 28 - Cell 2|
|30||Martijn Keizer (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo||Row 29 - Cell 2|
|31||Felix Grossschartner (Aut) CCC Sprandi Polkowice||Row 30 - Cell 2|
|32||Laurens De Plus (Bel) Etixx - Quick-Step||Row 31 - Cell 2|
|33||Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky||Row 32 - Cell 2|
|34||Gaetan Bille (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert||Row 33 - Cell 2|
|35||Wouter Poels (Ned) Team Sky||Row 34 - Cell 2|
|36||David De La Cruz Melgarejo (Spa) Etixx - Quick-Step||Row 35 - Cell 2|
|37||Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Astana Pro Team||Row 36 - Cell 2|
|38||Robert Gesink (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo||Row 37 - Cell 2|
|39||Stef Clement (Ned) IAM Cycling||Row 38 - Cell 2|
|40||Dario Cataldo (Ita) Astana Pro Team||Row 39 - Cell 2|
|41||Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) Trek-Segafredo||Row 40 - Cell 2|
|42||Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge||Row 41 - Cell 2|
|43||Mikael Cherel (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||Row 42 - Cell 2|
|44||Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Tinkoff Team||Row 43 - Cell 2|
|45||Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx - Quick-Step||Row 44 - Cell 2|
|46||Hugh Carthy (GBr) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA||Row 45 - Cell 2|
|47||Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Team Katusha||Row 46 - Cell 2|
|48||Javier Moreno Bazan (Spa) Movistar Team||Row 47 - Cell 2|
|49||Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team||Row 48 - Cell 2|
|50||Matteo Bono (Ita) Lampre - Merida||Row 49 - Cell 2|
|51||Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team||Row 50 - Cell 2|
|52||Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Cannondale Pro Cycling||Row 51 - Cell 2|