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After a splendid lead-out from the Lotto Soudal train, Greipel was in a class of his own on the first stage of the Tour of Britain; Ewan was second and Sinkeldam third

Photo: A.S.O.








04.09.2016 @ 19:13 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Less than an hour after Marcel Kittel’s win in Fourmies, André Greipel (Lotto Soudal) proved that he is ready to lead Germany at the World Championships when he took a dominant win on the first stage of the Tour of Britain. After a splendid lead-out from Lotto Soudal, he easily beat Caleb Ewan (Orica-BikeExchange) and Ramon Sinkeldam (Giant-Alpecin) to take his first win since the Tour de France and move into the overall lead.


This autumn is one of the most important in André Greipel’s career. The German has what could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to win the World Championships but he finds himself in a hard fight with Marcel Kittel in his quest to lead the German team.


Greipel needs to make the most of the next month to prove his form and after having missed out at EuroEyes Cyclassics, the Tour of Britain marks the start to his Worlds campaign. While he was riding the opening stage, he even came under more pressure as Kittel sprinted to victory in the GP de Fourmies.


However, Greipel responded I the best possible way as he turned out to be in a class of his own when the first leg came down to the expected bunch kick. Benefiting from a textbook lead-out, he avoided the carnage when a late crash took out Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) and no one was even close to matching the powerful German in the sprint.


The 2016 edition of the Tour of Britain kicked off with a 161.6kmstage from Glasgow to Castle Douglas which was mainly flat. The middle section was a bit more undulating with three category 3 climbs but the final challenge was located with 53km to go. From there it was a downhill and flat run to the finish. The final three kilometres were flat and followed a straight road until the riders took a sharp turn with 400m to go.


The riders had unusually nice conditions when they gathered for the start but they were not content on enjoying the weather. After a hectic start, Jasper Bovenhuis, Emiel Wastyn (both An Post), Jonathan McEvoy (NFTO) and Peter Williams (ONE) escaped but as JLT had missed the move, it turned into a furious chase.


Thomas Moses (JLT) managed to bridge the gap and when he had made the junction, the peloton slowed down. Hence, the gap had gone out to 1.40 when Bovenhuis beat Williams and Moses in the first intermediate sprint.


The escapees had already opened an advantage of 3.45 after 14km of racing and as rain started to fall, they pushed it out to 4 minutes. Here the sprint teams started to chase as a big alliance between the major teams formed. Ian Stannard (Sky), Paul Martens (LottoNL-Jumbo), Jay Thomson (Dimension Data), James Shaw (Lotto Soudal) and Carlos Verona (Orica-BikeExchange) all hit the front and after 25.6km of racing, they had already shaved 20 seconds off the lead.


While the riders covered 38.4km during the first hour, the gap stabilized between the 3- and 4-minute marks. Moments later, Bovenhuis beat Willam and McEvoy in a hotly contested second intermediate sprint.


After 57km of racing, the gap had dropped to less than 3 minutes and seven kilometres later it was only 2.25. However, as they hit the first climb, the escapees managed to increase their advantage to 3.15 before they battled for the points. Moses turned out to be the fastest as he beat Williams, Wastyn and McEvoy.


On the second climb, Williams got his revenge by attacking from far out, winning the sprint ahead of McEvoy, Wastyn and Moses. The group came back together but McEvoy had to spend precious energy to get back following a puncture.


Bovenhuis beat Williams and McEvoy in the final intermediate sprint before they hit the final climb. Here Moses launched a bit attack but Williams slowly made it back and after a hard battle between the pair, the ONE rider took maximum points. Wastyn was third and McEvoy fourth.


The five big sprint teams were still sharing the workload evenly, keeping the gap between the 2- and 3-minute marks. As they hit the final 50km, they accelerated hard and so the gap was only 1.35 with 40km to go.


The gap stabilized around the one-minute mark before Wastyn took off in a solo move with 32km to go. However, it was a short-lived effort and the group was back together as they hit the final 25km with an advantage of 30 seconds.


Lotto Soudal had stopped their work but Thomson, Martens, Stannard and Verona still worked to keep the gap at 30 seconds. At the same time, Wastyn attacked again but this time he had no luck either and the group was back together when they hit the final 15km with an advantage of 27 seconds.


With 12km to go, the gap was down to 10 seconds and Bovenhuis attacked, digging deep to maintain a small advantage. However, it was impossible to keep the peloton at bay and with 10km to go, it was all back together.


Thomson finally swung off after a day of hard work and it was Lotto Soudal and Trek that lined out their troops on the front. ONE also came to the fore but it was a long waiting game for the sprint trains.


With 5km to go, Lotto Soudal, Trek, ONE, LottoNL-Jumbo and Cannondale were riding on the front. Sky briefly moved to the front with a single rider but with 2km to go, it was again the sprint trains all waiting to kick into action.


A Bardiani rider came to the fore but it was Orica-BikeExchange that launched the lead-out. They briefly led Ben Swift (Sky) hit the front and he was the first rider under the flamme rouge


Just after the flamme rouge, Lotto Soudal won the battle and it was Marcel Sieberg who led Jens Debusschere and Greipel through the final turn. The Belgian did the final lead-out and the German champion could start his sprint from the perfect position. Caleb Ewan and Ramon Sinkeldam were on his wheel but they could do nothing to come around, with the trio crossing the line in that order. A late crash involving Danny Van Poppel (Sky), took Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) out of contention.


With the win, Greipel takes the overall lead with a 1-second advantage over Bovenhuis. However, he is unlikely to defend his position in the second stage. The first half is lumpy but doesn’t have any categorized climbs. However, in the second half, the riders will first tackle two category 2 climbs in quick succession before they get to the key challenge, the category 1 climb of the Struggle. The top comes with 27.7km to go and is followed by a descent and rolling roads to the finish. It’s a flat run to the line until the riders get to the final 300m which are uphill, making it a finish for puncheurs.



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