Volta a Catalunya: Bouhanni wins stage 1 in Calella

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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Full Results

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#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits4:28:51
2Ben Swift (GBr) Team SkyRow 1 - Cell 2
3Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica-GreenEdgeRow 2 - Cell 2
4Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Wanty - Groupe GobertRow 3 - Cell 2
5Aleksei Tcatevich (Rus) Team KatushaRow 4 - Cell 2
6Carlos Barbero Cuesta (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGARow 5 - Cell 2
7Jordi Simon Casulleras (Spa) Verva ActiveJet Pro Cycling TeamRow 6 - Cell 2
8Kévin Reza (Fra) FDJRow 7 - Cell 2
9Eduard Prades Reverte (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGARow 8 - Cell 2
10Georg Preidler (Aut) Team Giant-AlpecinRow 9 - Cell 2
11Kiel Reijnen (USA) Trek-SegafredoRow 10 - Cell 2
12Jarlinson Pantano Gomez (Col) IAM CyclingRow 11 - Cell 2
13Tobias Ludvigsson (Swe) Team Giant-AlpecinRow 12 - Cell 2
14Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing TeamRow 13 - Cell 2
15Nick Van Der Lijke (Ned) Roompot - Oranje PelotonRow 14 - Cell 2
16Ivan Rovny (Rus) Tinkoff TeamRow 15 - Cell 2
17Daniel Martin (Irl) Etixx - Quick-StepRow 16 - Cell 2
18Davide Rebellin (Ita) CCC Sprandi PolkowiceRow 17 - Cell 2
19Lawrence Warbasse (USA) IAM CyclingRow 18 - Cell 2
20Petr Vakoc (Cze) Etixx - Quick-StepRow 19 - Cell 2
21Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 20 - Cell 2
22Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Giant-AlpecinRow 21 - Cell 2
23Alex Howes (USA) Cannondale Pro CyclingRow 22 - Cell 2
24Ruben Fernandez (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 23 - Cell 2
25Ben Hermans (Bel) BMC Racing TeamRow 24 - Cell 2
26Kanstantsin Siutsou (Blr) Dimension DataRow 25 - Cell 2
27Maurits Lammertink (Ned) Roompot - Oranje PelotonRow 26 - Cell 2
28Mathias Frank (Swi) IAM CyclingRow 27 - Cell 2
29Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team SkyRow 28 - Cell 2
30Martijn Keizer (Ned) Team LottoNl-JumboRow 29 - Cell 2
31Felix Grossschartner (Aut) CCC Sprandi PolkowiceRow 30 - Cell 2
32Laurens De Plus (Bel) Etixx - Quick-StepRow 31 - Cell 2
33Christopher Froome (GBr) Team SkyRow 32 - Cell 2
34Gaetan Bille (Bel) Wanty - Groupe GobertRow 33 - Cell 2
35Wouter Poels (Ned) Team SkyRow 34 - Cell 2
36David De La Cruz Melgarejo (Spa) Etixx - Quick-StepRow 35 - Cell 2
37Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Astana Pro TeamRow 36 - Cell 2
38Robert Gesink (Ned) Team LottoNl-JumboRow 37 - Cell 2
39Stef Clement (Ned) IAM CyclingRow 38 - Cell 2
40Dario Cataldo (Ita) Astana Pro TeamRow 39 - Cell 2
41Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) Trek-SegafredoRow 40 - Cell 2
42Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica-GreenEdgeRow 41 - Cell 2
43Mikael Cherel (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 42 - Cell 2
44Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Tinkoff TeamRow 43 - Cell 2
45Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx - Quick-StepRow 44 - Cell 2
46Hugh Carthy (GBr) Caja Rural-Seguros RGARow 45 - Cell 2
47Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Team KatushaRow 46 - Cell 2
48Javier Moreno Bazan (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 47 - Cell 2
49Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing TeamRow 48 - Cell 2
50Matteo Bono (Ita) Lampre - MeridaRow 49 - Cell 2
51Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing TeamRow 50 - Cell 2
52Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Cannondale Pro CyclingRow 51 - Cell 2
53Davide