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Vuelta a Andalucia Ruta Ciclista Del Sol 2018: Stage 1

As we pick up the action after 100 kilometres, a break of five riders has a lead of 4:05 over the peloton. Garikoitz Bravo (Euskadi-Murias), Silvan Dillier (AG2R-La Mondiale), Txomin Juaristi (Fundación Ciclista Euskadi), Romain Sicard (Direct Energie) and Luis Mas (Caja Rural-RGA Seguros) forged clear in the opening kilometres and continue to combine smoothly off the front.

Mas led the break over the first climb, the category 2 Alto de Mijas, while Dillier took the first intermediate sprint after 33km. Bravo claimed the second after 70km. The escapees had a maximum advantage of 4:50, but the gap has since stabilised just above the four-minute mark.

 

Of course, the bike race, today at least, is a mere side show to the circus surrounding Chris Froome's first race since news broke in December of his adverse analytical finding for salbutamol during last year's Vuelta a Espana. Froome spoke briefly at the Sky team bus before the start in Mijas, where he said the word "process" a lot, and complained vaguely of the "misinformation out there." Our man in Andalusia Aladair Fotheringham has the full story here.

 

Team Sky's PR key talking points were equally apparent in manager Dave Brailsford's comments before the start. Brailsford also complained about "misinformation" in the media and was instantly afforded the opportunity by said media to highlight and correct any such misinformation. Spoiler alert: he declined to do so. Why? "Because it could jeopardise the whole process." Sure.

 

Brailsford did acknowledge that Froome's participation in the Ruta del Sol was not welcomed by all and sundry, though he defended his right to compete. "Nobody’s denying it’s a challenging situation but equally I think it’s only fair at this point that everybody abides by the process and the process totally allows him to race in this situation and that’s what we’re doing." Alasdair Fotheringham has more details here.

 

83km remaining from 197km

In the midst of it all, there is a bike race breaking out. Mas, Sicard, Bravo, Dillier and Juaristi have extended their lead to 5 minutes as they begin the category 1 ascent of the Puerto de Zafarraya.

 

The Ruta del Sol is one of just three races taking place today. Nathan Haas (Katusha-Alpecin) has already secured a fine victory on stage 2 of the Tour of Oman, while stage 1 of the Volta ao Algarve is under way. Susan Westemeyer's live coverage is here.

 

It’s a rugged finale to today’s stage. After the Puerto de Zafarya, there are still four more climbs to come: the Alto del Navazo (category 3), the Alto de Alhama (category 3), the Alto del Lucero (category 2) and the Alto de la Malaha (category 3) ahead of the run to the finish on Granada’s strikingly-named Paseo de la Bomba.

 

The escapees are maintaining their five-minute buffer as they continue to climb the Puerto de Zafarya.

 

Today marks the 14th anniversary of the death of Marco Pantani and while the exploits of the rider are still celebrated, cycling's part in the tragic and senseless demise of the man often seems to be airbrushed from history. Stephen Farrand wrote this article for the tenth anniversary of Pantani's death in 2014, and it remains relevant today.

 

79km remaining from 197km

Dillier leads the break over the summit of the Puerto de Zafarya. Mas was second to the top ahead of Bravo.

 

73km remaining from 197km

Next on the agenda for the five leaders in the category 3 climb of the Alto del Navazo. They still maintain a lead just shy of five minutes over the bunch.

 

Chris Froome was not, of course, among the riders who participated in Tuesday's pre-Ruta del Sol press event, but his former teammate Mikel Landa, who is making his debut for Movistar, was unconcerned by his presence on the race. "Froome has followed all the rules, so he can compete," Landa said. "He's welcome here." Read the full story here.

 

Our man in Granada Alasdair Fotheringham tells us that conditions at the finish are cool but dry, and there is little by way of wind to report of.

 

57km remaining from 197km

The five leaders are over the Alto del Navazo and now onto the lower slopes of the Alto de Alhama still with a lead of 4:50 over the bunch.

 

A reminder once more of the names in this break: Luis Mas (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Silvan Dillier (AG2R La Mondiale), Txomin Juaristi (Team Euskadi), Romain Sicard (Direct Energie) and Garikoitz Bravo (Euskadi-Murias). EF Education First-Drapac are leading the peloton in support of Sacha Modolo, who they hope can hang tough on the run-in and contest an eventual sprint.

 

Joe Dombrowski rides on the front of the peloton for Education First-Drapac, while Philip Deignan (Team Sky) moves up in support of Chris Froome.

 

54km remaining from 197km

Team Sky have taken over the reins at the front of the peloton on the Alto de Alhama. The break's lead remains at 4:50.

 

52km remaining from 197km

Luis Mas leads the escapees over the summit of the Alto de Alhama. Sky's pace-making is steady rather than brisk for the time being.

 

48km remaining from 197km

The peloton is now on the sweeping descent off the Alto de Alhama, and there is no particular alarm at the break's advantage just yet. There are two more climbs still to come, the Alto del Lucero (category 2) and the Alto de la Malaha (category 3).

 

45km remaining from 197km

The five leaders are sticking gamely to their task, and they will be buoyed by the fact that their advantage remains at a healthy 4:50 at this juncture.

 

43km remaining from 197km

Mas, Bravo, Dillier, Juaristi and Sicard hit the lower slopes of the the Alto del Lucero with a lead of 4:30 over the peloton. Astana have joined the pace-making effort at the head of the bunch.

 

41km remaining from 197km

Astana's show of force at the head of the peloton has had a significant impact on the break's lead. The gap has dropped to 3:20 on the Alto del Lucero as Michael Valgren sets the tempo on behalf of Jakob Fuglsang. 

 

40km remaining from 197km

Mas leads the break over the top of the Alto del Lucero, as Astana continue to shave seconds off the peloton's deficit. 

 

There are only four riders left in this escape, incidentally. Juaristi sat up on the approach to the summit of the Lucero, and the young Basque has already been swept up by the bunch.

 

Valgren and Astana lead the peloton over the top of the Lucero with a deficit of 2:50 to the four remaining escapees: Mas, Dillier, Bravo and Sicard.

 

36km remaining from 197km

Astana have not relented on the long drop from the summit of the Lucero and they continue to reduce the break's lead. It's all downhill for the next 10 kilometres or so until the base of the final climb, the category 3 Alto de la Malaha.

 

33km remaining from 197km

Bravo, Dillier, Mas and Sicard remain fully committed to their effort off the front and continue to exchange turns, but their lead has been pared down to 2:30 as Astana still chase.

 

31km remaining from 197km

Astana's pursuit is relentless. The gap is down to 2:11 and falling steadily.

 

30km remaining from 197km

Mas leads the break into the final 30 kilometres. The quartet are spinning out on a flat and straight downhill section, but their advantage has dropped to just over two minutes.

 

27km remaining from 197km

The break's fate seems sealed even at this early juncture. Astana's onslaught has reduced the gap to 1:34 and the race still hasn't reached the final ascent of Alto de la Malaha.

 

25km remaining from 197km

This has been an impressive effort from Astana, who count at least three on-form riders in their ranks at the Ruta del Sol. Fuglsang and Luis Leon Sanchez already shone at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, while Moreno Moser won the Trofeo Laigueglia at the weekend in the colours of the Italian national team.

 

23km remaining from 197km

The Swiss champion Dillier tries to breathe some life into the break's adventure off the front, but it seems a forlorn effort as the gap drops inside of one minute.

 

22km remaining from 197km

Mas, Dillier, Sicard and Bravo hit the lower slopes of the Alto de la Malaha with a lead of 50 seconds over a speeding peloton.

 

21km remaining from 197km

Astana remain in command as the peloton hits the final climb at a considerable rate of knots. 25 seconds the gap to the four leaders.

 

20km remaining from 197km

Dillier leads the break towards the summit of the Alto de la Malaha, but Mas nips past to claim the king of the mountains points on offer at the top. The peloton is almost upon them, however.

 

Only three riders remain in front over the top: Dillier, Mas and Bravo. Sicard has been caught by the peloton.

 

18km remaining from 197km

Dillier has decided to press on alone, and opened a gap on the descent over Bravo and Mas, who are waiting to be swarmed by the peloton.

 

17km remaining from 197km

Dillier's act of defiance is surely a forlorn one, but he no less committed for it. He maintains a lead of around 15 seconds over the bunch, though he won't last too much longer.

 

14km remaining from 197km

Dillier has managed to stave off the peloton on the descent of the Alto de la Malaha, but as the road flattens out, he finds they are almost upon him.

 

12km remaining from 197km

Dillier is caught by the Astana-led peloton. Gruppo compatto.

 

12km remaining from 197km

Astana maintain their fierce pace at the front on the run-in to Granada. It looks like a sizeable peloton has survived over those final climbs, and the sprinters will expect to battle for stage honours here.

 

10km remaining from 197km

The peloton is strung into one long line as the road snakes towards Granada, with Astana still forcing the issue on the front.

 

Jon Ander Insausti (Team Euskadi) has managed to slip clear of the bunch and open a small gap, but the Basque won't last long at this pace.

 

8km remaining from 197km

Insausti is battling off the front of the bunch, but his advantage is minimal. The sprinters' teams are beginning to join Astana at the head of the peloton.

 

7km remaining from 197km

Insausti's adventure comes to an end. The peloton is fanned across the road, with a number of teams vying for supremacy on the front.

 

6km remaining from 197km

Pablo Torres (Burgos-BH) attacks with intent off the front of the peloton and manages to open a small gap.

 

5km remaining from 197km

It's a decent effort from Torres, but he knows he won't get far as he glances over his shoulder and sees the peloton bearing down upon him. EF-Drapac are well positioned in support of Sacha Modolo. Delko-Marseille Provence are also prominent.

 

4km remaining from 197km

Movistar, Sky and Astana are all posted towards the front, too, to keep their GC men out of harm's way. The race is on a section of highway on the outskirts of Granada, but the road will narrow ahead of the finish and positioning is crucial.

 

3km remaining from 197km

Pablo Torres is brought back and the speed ratchets up further in the main peloton.

 

3km remaining from 197km

The race turns into a gentle headwind in the final 3km. Timing will be of paramount importance in the forthcoming sprint finish.

 

2km remaining from 197km

The bunch emerges from a seemingly interminable tunnel and into the narrower roads in the finale. Lotto Soudal lead the way.

 

1km remaining from 197km

Modolo is well placed behind a platoon of EF-Drapac riders as the bunch speeds towards the flamme rouge.

 

1km remaining from 197km

EF-Drapac lead into the final kilkometre. AG2R La Mondiale also move up.

 

Oliver Naesen (AG2R) leads the bunch into  the finishing straight.

 

Sacha Modolo opens his sprint and hits the front...

 

Sacha Modolo (EF Education First-Drapac) races his arms as he crosses the line, but Thomas Boudat (Direct Energie) was very close...

 

Modolo believes he won the stage, Boudat thinks he might have won it. We await formal confirmation...

 

Thomas Boudat (Direct Energie) wins stage 1 of the Ruta del Sol.

 

Shades of Erik Zabel, Oscar Freire and the 2004 Milan-San Remo as Modolo celebrated too soon. Boudat was by some distance the quickest rider over the final 50 metres, and he stole in to take the win.

 

The initial shot from the television cameras was focused on Modolo and didn't show Boudat haring past just right of the picture to win the stage. Clement Venturini (AG2R La Mondiale) took third, ahead of Andrea Pasqualon (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), while Tosh Van der Sande (Lotto Soudal) placed fifth.

 

Result:

 

1 Thomas Boudat (Fra) Direct Energie 5:21:39
2 Sacha Modolo (Ita) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale
3 Clement Venturini (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
4 Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
5 Tosh Van Der Sande (Bel) Lotto Soudal
6 Carlos Barbero (Spa) Movistar Team
7 Jonas Koch (Ger) CCC Sprandi Polkowice
8 Moreno Hofland (Ned) Lotto Soudal
9 Enrico Battaglin (Ita) LottoNL-Jumbo
10 Jan Tratnik (Slo) CCC Sprandi Polkowice

 

That's the first win of the season for Boudat, who used his track speed to claim his first win of the season and the overall leader's jersey at the Ruta del Sol. Boudat was world omnium champion in 2014, and turned professional the following season. Still only 23 years of age, he won two races in 2017, but will enjoy greater freedom to sprint for himself in 2018 following Bryan Coquard's departure to Vital Concept.

 

There are no time bonuses at the Ruta del Sol, so the general classification is identical to the stage standings:

 

1 Thomas Boudat (Fra) Direct Energie 5:21:39
2 Sacha Modolo (Ita) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale
3 Clement Venturini (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
4 Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
5 Tosh Van Der Sande (Bel) Lotto Soudal
6 Carlos Barbero (Spa) Movistar Team
7 Jonas Koch (Ger) CCC Sprandi Polkowice
8 Moreno Hofland (Ned) Lotto Soudal
9 Enrico Battaglin (Ita) LottoNL-Jumbo
10 Jan Tratnik (Slo) CCC Sprandi Polkowice

 

As far as we can decipher, Chris Froome and the GC contenders all finished safely in the main peloton.

 

A disappointed Modolo points out that he only raised his arms after he crossed the line, and so was not guilty of complacency. "Before writing about it, watch the sprint from overhead," he says. 

 

A reminder that stage 1 of the Volta ao Algarve is entering its closing phase, and Susan Westemeyer is keeping tabs on the action here.

 

A full report, results and pictures from today's stage of the Ruta del Sol will soon be available here. We will also have Chris Froome's thoughts on his first day of racing since news of his adverse analytical finding for salbutamol at last year's Vuelta a Espana. You can read his comments from before the stage here, as well as those of Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford.

 

Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) has claimed the spoils on stage 1 of the Volta ao Algarve, beating Arnaud Demare (FDJ). Full details to follow here.

A reminder of today's result on stage 1 of the Ruta del Sol:

 

1 Thomas Boudat (Fra) Direct Energie 5:21:39
2 Sacha Modolo (Ita) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale
3 Clement Venturini (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
4 Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
5 Tosh Van Der Sande (Bel) Lotto Soudal
6 Carlos Barbero (Spa) Movistar Team
7 Jonas Koch (Ger) CCC Sprandi Polkowice
8 Moreno Hofland (Ned) Lotto Soudal
9 Enrico Battaglin (Ita) LottoNL-Jumbo
10 Jan Tratnik (Slo) CCC Sprandi Polkowice

 

Thanks for following our live coverage of the Ruta del Sol on Cyclingnews this afternoon. We'll be back with more tomorrow from stage 2. In the meantime, you'll find a full report, results and pictures here, and Alasdair Fotheringham will have all the news and reaction from Granada.

 

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