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For the third year in a row, Greipel won the first stage of the Tour de Luxembourg, beating Blythe and Capiot in a bunch sprint; Drucker finished sixth and retained the leader’s jersey

Photo: ANSA - PERI / DI MEO / ZENNARO

ADAM BLYTHE

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ANDRÉ GREIPEL

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JEAN PIERRE DRUCKER

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LOTTO SOUDAL

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02.06.2016 @ 17:59 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

After a short break following the Giro d’Italia, André Greipel (Lotto Soudal) returned to his winning ways immediately as he continued his love affair with the Tour de Luxembourg by winning the first stage for the third year in a row. After his team had controlled most of the stage, he held off Adam Blythe (Tinkoff) and Amaury Capiot (Topsport Vlaanderen) in the bunch kick. Jempy Drucker (BMC) had to settle for sixth but it was enough to retain the lead.

 

In 2012, André Greipel first used the Tour de Luxembourg as a key part of his Tour de France build-up. Back then, he won the first stage of the race and that would signal the start of a love affair for the German with the first bunch kick in the race.

 

Greipel skipped the race in 2013 but was back in 2014. Again he used the race to boost his confidence by winning the opening stage and like he had done two years earlier he would win another stage later in the race, albeit by escaping solo from a breakaway. Last year Greipel repeated the success by winning both the first stage and a stage later in the race to make it three out of three stage 1 wins in the race.

 

This year he is back in the event and again he has arrived in Luxembourg on the back of a very successful Giro d’Italia. His three wins in Italy made him the obvious favourite for the opening road stage which was again one for the sprinters and for the third year in a row he proved his class by riding to victory in the first bunch kick.

 

After the opening prologue, the sprinters were expected to come to the fore in stage 1 which brought the riders over 170.6km from Luxembourg to Hesperange along mainly flat roads. There was a category 2 climb (1.6km, 5.05%)at the 59.1km mark and then the riders got to the 18.5km finishing circuit that was covered thrice. 5.8km from the finish, it had a small climb (900m, 5.81%) that the riders would tackle a total of four times. The finale was completely flat and very technical as it included three turns in quick succession inside the final kilometre.

 

Like yesterday, the riders had rainy conditions when they gathered for the start. All riders were still present as they headed out for their neutral ride.

 

After a fast start with numerous attacks, two riders managed to get clear and they got company from another rider to form the trio that would dominate the stage. Etienne van Empel (Roompot), Brice Feillu (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) and Thomas Deruette (Wallonie) quickly managed to open a 2-minute advantage after less than 30km of racing.

 

The gap went out to 3.15 before BMC started to control things and they quickly brought it down to less than 3 minutes. After 40km of racing, it was already down to 2.20 and for a long time, Drucker’s team kept the gap around that mark. Meanwhile, Deruette won the first KOM sprint.

 

After around 80km of racing, the escapees started to put the peloton under pressure and suddenly they had pushed the gap out to 2.54. That prompted the sprint teams to react and it was André Greipel’s Lotto Soudal team that took over the pace-setting.

 

At the 80km mark, the gap was still 2.50 but Lotto Soudal’s efforts soon paid off. With 77km to, the gap had dropped to 1.51 but as rain again started to fall, the escapees again managed to push it out 2.36. Moments later, Feillu won the first intermediate sprint ahead of van Empel and Deruette.

 

The escapees did surprisingly well and at the 100km mark, they were 3.23 ahead of the peloton. This forced more teams into action and as they hit the Cote de Syren on the finishing circuit for the first time, BMC, Lotto Soudal and Orica-GreenEDGE were cooperating in the peloton. Moments later, Deruette beat van Empel and Feillu in the KOM sprint while the peloton crested the summit 3.54 later.

 

The peloton had now turned on the gas and so the gap had dropped to 2.25 at the first passage of the finish line. BMC soon disappeared from the front but Lotto Soudal and Orica-GreenEDGE were not slowing down, quickly reducing the gap to just 51 seconds as they hit the climb for the second time.

 

The peloton took it easy on the climb and allowed the gap to go out to 1.45 before they again upped the pace when they started the penultimate lap. When van Empel won the final KOM sprint, the peloton had reduced their deficit to 57 seconds and it was just 45 seconds as they entered the final 20km.

 

Feillu also won the final intermediate sprint before a Cofidis rider unsuccessfully tried to bridge across. However, Lotto Soudal and Orica-GreenEDGE were leaving nothing to chance and had the escapees in sight as they headed towards the climb.

 

As the sun came out, the break was brought back and everything was set for a bunch sprint. Inside the final 5km, Lotto Soudal took control and riders started to get dropped while the Belgian team prepared the lead-out.

 

Anthony Turgis (Cofidis) launched a solo attack and he had a small advantage as they entered the final 3km. However, he was soon brought back and from there Lotto Soudal stayed in control. They delivered Greipel in the perfect position and the German easily held off Adam Blythe and Amaury Capiot to take his seventh stage win in the Luxembourg race.

 

Race leader Jempy Drucker could only manage sixth but that was enough to keep his three-second advantage over Maurits Lammertink (Roompot) in the overall standings. He faces a much harder test tomorrow which will be the first chance for the puncheurs to make a difference. After an early category 1 climb (2.1km, 7.97%) at the 29.3km mark, the riders will travel along mainly flat roads to the finishing city where they will pass close by the finish line with 41km to go. Then they will tackle a mainly flat circuit that has a small category 2 climb (1.2km, 6.67%)with 37.7km to go but it is all just a warm-up for the finale. The stage has a nasty sting in its tail as it ends with a short, steep category 1 climb. Just after the flamme rouge, the riders will turn left to power up the 440m ascent that averages a massive 13.16%. The KOM sprint comes with 300m to go and then the road climbs slightly as the riders go through hairpin bends to get to the finish.

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