Stage 1 of the Criterium du Dauphine ended in a mass sprint and Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) was the victor. Jens Debusschere (Lotto-Soudal) was 2nd and Sam Bennett (Bora-Argon 18) rounded out the podium in 3rd. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka had Edvald Boasson Hagen place 4th on the stage.
The stage began in Cluses and riders had to complete 186km before reaching the finish in Saint-Vulbas. There were 2 early protagonists in the form of Mitchell Docker (Orica-Greenedge) and Frederik Backaert (Wanty-Groupe Gobert). The duo broke away in the opening kilometer of the stage and were able to put 5’30” into the peloton before the chase began from the main group.
As one of the few stage opportunities for the sprinters at this years Dauphine, Cofidis began assisting Team Tinkoff with the pace setting early on as they had their hopes placed on Bouhanni. Giant-Alpecin and Katusha also began contributing with around 40km to go and this pretty much ended any chance the break had of surviving. Backaert went solo with 23km to go but his bid for glory only lasted up until 13km to go.
It was big battle for position over the final 10km and Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka had Nathan Haas and Youcef Reguigui looking after Boasson Hagen for the finale. Our Norwegian champion would end up on the wheel of countryman Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) with 2km to go. The Cofidis and Katusha trains made shoulder contact on a number of occasions leading into the final kilometer which made for a very nervy sprint. Boasson Hagen tried to find some clear road next to the left barrier to begin his sprint but the physical nature of the sprint made it difficult to get out of the saddle.
In the end it was a blanket finish with Bouhanni taking a hard fought win. Boasson Hagen crossed the line 4th for our African Team while the rest of our riders all finished comfortably in the main peloton.
Jean-Pierre Heynderickx – Sport Director
Today was a typical sprint stage with only 2 riders going in the break. Our boys rode really well all day to look after Edvald for the sprint. It was a bit of a strange sprint as Edvald couldn’t really get going properly because there was a lot of pushing and stop-start. Honestly we wanted more from the stage but it was a strange sprint. Also, it is a World Tour race and the level is very high so 4th is not bad but we will aim higher in the next stages.