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Andre Greipel wins Tour of Britain opening stage in sprint finish

Martin James
2 Sep 2018

Greipel beats Caleb Ewen on the line, Gaviria goes early but can't hold on

Lotto Soudal’s Andre Greipel sprinted to victory on the opening stage of the Ovo Energy Tour of Britain in Newport, outsprinting Caleb Ewen (Mitchelton-Scott) in a one-on-one race for the line.

Quick-Step Floors sprinter Fernando Gaviria looked to have the stage won after leading out the sprint and opening a clear gap, but he made his move too early and couldn’t hold on over the final 150m to the line.

Stage 1 of the Ovo Energy Tour of Britain was a lengthy ride of 175km taking the riders from Pembrey Country Park on the west Welsh coast to Newport.

With ups and downs peppered throughout the stage it was the kind of day with plenty to offer the breakaway attempt.

Yet with everyone starting with fresh legs and the race lead awaiting the stage winner, it was hard to see beyond a sprint finish deciding the ultimate outcome.

Team Sky held the biggest draws from the WorldTour in the form of Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas, four-time Tour champ Chris Froome and Dutchman Wout Poels – perhaps the smart bet for honours within the Sky ranks.

But no Sky troops were among the six breakaway riders who came together relatively quickly off the front of the race.

Instead it was Mathew Bostock (Team GB), Nic Dlamini (Team Dimension Data), Mark Downery (Team Wiggins), Tom Moses (JLT-Condor), Rory Townsend (Canyon-Eisberg) and Richard Handley (Madison-Genesis) pushing clear, and relatively quickly building a substantial gap.

Bostock took the first intermediate sprint of the day to pick up a small time advantage. By now the break was around 2 minutes clear, and the gap was largely pegged there, the six out front able to fight out the remaining small classified climbs and the final intermediate sprint but not allowed to stay clear as the finish line neared.

As the race entered Newport the race was almost all back together, but still there was the final second category climb of Belmont Hill (800m long, 9% average) to be negotiated.

Leading the peloton through the city streets leading onto the climb was Team Sky, then just as the final remnants of the break were swept up Thomas himself had a go, the Welsh Tour winner clearly intent on more than just making up the numbers on home soil.

Then Quick-Step Floors duo Julian Alaphilippe and Bob Jungels took over, and the pair pushed on over the top of the climb, looking to build on their advantage over the busy technical last 7km to the line.

They were joined by Direct Energie’s Jonothan Hivert and Katusha-Alpecin’s Mads Wurst Schmidt, then after a brief period of stalemate Jungels looked to cash in on Quick-Step’s numbers advantage by going clear.

With Alaphilippe sitting on behind the gap quickly grew, with the peloton still struggling to get on terms.

Finally they were reeled in 3.4km from the line, leaving Jungels pushing on alone about a dozen seconds clear. The Luxembourg champion did his best on roads that suited a solo time-trial effort, but the main field proved too fast with the finish line in sight.

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