The opening stage of the Tour of Croatia came down to a bunch sprint with Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo) taking the win ahead of our Mark Cavendish. Timothy Dupont (Verandas Willems) was the rider who finished in 3rd place.
The days 235km stage was characterised by a 4 rider break that got away just as the flag dropped. The peloton was happy to allow the quartet to ride 11 minutes ahead, as there was a fair way to go until the finish was reached in Varazdin. Although it was a very long stage, there were no real climbs to deal with and a bunch sprint was always on the cards. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka placed Jay Thomson at the head of the race for the majority of day, controlling the break with riders from Trek-Segafredo, Astana, IAM Cycling and Tinkoff.
Guillaume Boivin (Cycling Academy) showed he was the strongest from the breakaway as he jumped clear of the 3 other riders with 30km to go. The gap back to the peloton at that stage was still 3’30” but the peloton had yet to really turn up the heat with regard to the chase.
Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka and Trek-Segafredo would be the two teams who took responsibility to ensure Boivin was caught. After a good effort by the Canadian champion, he was reeled in with 3km to go. The final then saw a number of riders taking a few risks to get to the front of the peloton and our African Team had to fend off a number of pushes and shoves to keep Cavendish positioned up front for the sprint.
Coming into the final kilometer, Mark Renshaw dropped Cavendish off on the wheel of Nizzolo as the race charged toward the finishing banner. Two 90-degree bends and a narrow cobbled street made it a technical finish and our Manxman was never really able to get out of the saddle to come around Nizzolo before the line. It would be 2nd place for our African Team at the end of the stage with Nizzolo taking the stage win and also the first leaders jersey of the race.
Alex Sans Vega – Sport Director
It was a long flat stage with a headwind for most of the day. 4 riders got into the break of the day from kilometre 0 and so all the World Tour teams put 1 rider forward each to control gap. Later, only 1 rider remained but he was caught too. It was difficult to see what exactly happened in the final but it was quite a technical finish so we will debrief now after the stage. Today was a good opportunity for us, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out. We will have more chances this week and we want to make the most of our opportunities here in Croatia.