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After a long break due to injury, Bennati bounced back by taking his second win of the season on the first stage of the Tour of Denmark, beating Würtz in a two-rider sprint; Hofland won the sprint for third

Photo: Sirotti








27.07.2016 @ 18:02 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Having missed most of the season due to injury, Daniele Bennati (Tinkoff) bounced back in the most beautiful fashion by winning the first stage of the Tour of Denmark in a 2-rider sprint. After the race had split due to a crash on a narrow bridge, the Italian attacked with Mads Würtz Schmidt (Virtu Pro) whom he easily beat in the sprint before Moreno Hofland (LottoNL-Jumbo) sprinted to third place. Bennati is also the first leader of the race.


Daniele Bennati was once tipped to become of the greatest sprinters and in the early part of his career he delivered on his promises. With stage wins in all three grand tours, including a big win on the Champs-Elysees, the future looked bright for the Italian fastman.


However, a number of years with health issues ended his time as a top sprinter and instead he settled into a role as key domestique for Alberto Contador in the grand tours. In fact, his win at last year’s GP di Pato was his first since 2012 and the Italian is very rarely taking his own chances.


This year he finally took his first win in Tinkoff colours when he accidentally won the first stage of the Ruta del Sol while working for Oscar Gatto. However, his season was completely ruined when he crashed at Milan-Sanremo and so missed all the classics and the Tour due to two broken vertebrae.


Bennati made his comeback at the Tour de Pologne and by finishing in the top 10 in the final time trial, he showed that his form was getting better. Today he proved that he is ready for the Vuelta by taking a surprise win in the first stage of the Tour of Denmark.


Bennati and the Tinkoff team were very active in splitting the field when the peloton passed a narrow bridge with 40km to go. That created a small 24-rider front group and when the move seemed to lose its momentum, he attacked together with Mads Würtz Schmidt whom he easily beat in a two-rider sprint.


The 2016 edition kicked off with an almost completely flat 198.2km that brought the riders from Herning to Esbjerg. There was a single climb on the menu but the main challenges were the narrow, twisting roads and the danger of crosswinds as some of the areas were very exposed. With 45km to go, the riders passed a narrow dyke where the race split a few years ago and then they headed to the finish where the stage ended with 3 laps of 3.7km circuit. It includes a very small climb just before the finish.


Unsurprisingly, the flag had barely been dropped before the first attacks were launched and it was a Riwal rider who tried right from the start. ONE, Novo Nordisk, the Danish national team, Bardiani and all the continental teams were all active but it took some time before anyone could build a substantial advantage.


After 13km of aggressive riding, four riders finally managed to surge clear when Nicklas Pedersen (Denmark), Jonas Aaen (Riwal), Rune Almindsøe (Coloquick) and Mike Teunissen (LottoNL-Jumbo) rode away. The peloton slowed down and during the next five kilometres, the gap went out to 2 minutes.


ONE were not content with the situation so they tried to ignite the race again by restarting the attacking. However, they were closely marked and so the peloton slowed down again. After 22km of racing, the gap had reached 3.30 and it went out to 4.45 before the Tinkoff team decided to up the pace. Pavel Brutt did a great job to shave one minute off the lead during the next 10km and then Artyom Zakharov (Astana) came to the fore to share the pace-setting duties with the Russian.


Brutt and Zakharov quickly brought the gap down to around 3 minutes and then kept it stable at that mark for a long time. Meanwhile, rain started to fall and there were numerous mechanicals but everybody easily got back as the race settled into a steady rhythm.


The peloton gradually upped the pace and as they hit the final 125km, the gap had already been reduced to just 2.25. It briefly went out to 3 minutes again but at the entrance of the final 100km, it was again down to 2.20.


With 85km to go, the escapees contested the only KOM sprint which Teunissen easily won ahead of Almindsøe, Aaen and Pedersen. The tactical battle cost them 40 seconds of their advantage but the gap was out to 2 minutes again when Teunissen beat Alminsøe and Aaen in the first intermediate sprint with 70km to go.


Zakharov and Brutt kept the gap stable at two minutes for few kilometres before the action heated up with a little less than 60km to go. Tinkoff hit the front with Nikolay Trusov and Manuele Boaro as the fight for position for the small bridge started. As a consequence, the gap melted away and it was down to just 30 seconds with 50km to go.


Tinkoff lined out their entire team on the front and even though the escapees did their best to stay away, it was impossible. Alminsøe gave it a final go and then Aaen countered but with 45km to go, it was all back together.


Tinkoff and LottoNL-Jumbo battled hard for position as they hit the bridge and their efforts paid off as they were near the front when Alex Rasmussen (ColoQuick) hit the deck on the narrow road. As a consequence, a 27-rider group with most of the Tinkoff and LottoNL-Jumbo teams had gathered.


Tinkoff and LottoNL-Jumbo were very active in driving the pace, with Michael Valgren, Boaro, Michael Gogl, Bennati, Trusov, Martijn Keizer, Tom Leezer, Jos van Emden and Tom Van Asbroeck among the riders to take huge turns on the front. Sprinters Roy Jans (Wanty), Andrea Guardini (Astana), Moreno Hofland, Erik Baska (Tinkoff), Rudiger Selig (Bora-Argon 18), Magus Cort, Søren and Asbjørn Kragh (Denmark) had also made the selection.


Behind the peloton had split into several groups and it took some time for a regrouping to take place. Hence, the front group had an advantage if 45 seconds with 35km to go and it had gone out to 1.00 as they entered the final 30km.


The group gradually lost some momentum and Bennati even got a small gap when no one wanted to follow. Further back, the chase was getting organized as Bora, Wanty, Stölting, Bardiani, Topssport and Astana were now all working on the front.


As they approached the final intermediate sprint, Gogl attacked to take away the bonus seconds and then Bennati and Valgren made it a clean sweep for Tinkoff. Then Gogl fell back to the group and again took big turns on the front.


Only Tinkoff seemed to be really committed in the front group and as the chase group really got organized, the gap was coming down fast. It was 30 seconds when they entered the final 15km, with Wanty, Bardiani, Bora, Topsport and Stölting all working hard.


Tom Van Asbroeck was inattentive and so crashed back to the peloton before Manuele Boaro (Tinkoff) tried a small attack as they hit the finishing circuit. That set the scene for the big move from Valgren who hit out on the small climb on the circuit. Mads Würtz followed the move and he was again attentive when Daniele Bennati countered.


Bennati and Würtz got a small advantage and as the peloton slowed down, they got a small advantage. With little cooperation in the peloton, they had pushed the gap out to 17 seconds when they crossed the finish line for the first time.


It took some time for the chase group to get organized and so the gap went out to 30 seconds before LottoNL-Jumbo gathered their troops on the front. Hence, the gap had gone down to 25 seconds when Tom Leezer led the group across the line but with just 3.4km to go, it was evident that it was too late.


Bennati and Würtz were working well together and shared the workload evenly as they tackled the final lap. Würtz took a huge turn as they went up the small climb for the final time, clearly riding for GC. He had no response when Bennati launched his sprint and the Italian easily held the Dane off by 3 seconds to take the win. Sixteen seconds later Moreno Hofland beat Baska and Guardni in the sprint for third.


With the win, Bennati now leads the race with a 9-second advantage over Würtz. He will try to defend his position in tomorrow’s second stage which should be one for the puncheurs and strong sprinters.  Again there won’t be many challenges when it comes to the terrain as there will just be one small climb on the menu before the riders get to the finish. Here they will end the race by doing 3 laps of a 6.7km circuit where cobbles and an uphill finish will add to the complexity of the race and should suit the puncheurs.



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