Astana claim first and second place on tough opening stage of the Tour of the Alps

Astana claimed first and second place on the opening stage of the 2018 Tour of the Alps, with Pello Bilbao going solo to victory on a tough opening stage to take the overall lead.

Bilbao got away after the descent from the final climb with around 3km to go, and was able to establish around a 10 second gap as pushed on towards the finish.

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As he continued up the final drag to the line within the final kilometre Ivan Ramiro Sosa (Androni-Sidermec) attacked from the bunch behind but was tracked by Luis Leon Sanchez. Sosa couldn’t do enough to catch Bilbao before the line, who claimed the opening victory of the race and was followed in by his team-mate Sanchez at six seconds back.

Chris Froome (Team Sky) finished in fifth at 10 seconds, just behind his overall rival Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and gaining four seconds on Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates).

Chris Froome finishes on stage one of the 2018 Tour of the Alps (Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

How it happened

A breakaway of nine riders including Aleksejs Saramotins (Bora-Hansgrohe), Natnael Berhane (Dimension Data), Aleksey Rybalkin (Gazprom-Rusvelo), Davide Ballerini (Androni-Sidermec), Matthias Krizek (Team Felbermayr – Simplon Wels), Pascal Eenkhoorn (LottoNL-Jumbo), Joan Bou (Nippo-Vini Fantini), Marco Friedrich (Tirol) and Alex Turrin (Willier Triestina) were able to get up the road on the 136.4km day, but could only establish a maximum gap of just over two minutes to the peloton.

The route included two climbs, including a particularly savage looking 19.2km category two climb towards the finish.

The bunch, mostly controlled by FDJ and Team Sky, continued to close the gap to the break and within the final 20km saw the gap come down to 20 seconds and the break reduced to five riders.

The last breakaway riders were caught with 8km to go thanks to FDJ’s pacing, with Sébastian Reichenbach then going away from the bunch. Giulio Ciccone (Bardiani) counter attacked and found himself out solo until, with a gap of 15 seconds at one point.

That move by Reichenbach allowed Thibaut Pinot to bridge across with just shy of 7km to with an attack, but Sky soon reeled him in.

Aru also tried an attack but couldn’t make any headway, before Froome then went with around 5km remaining.

That move by Froome dragged out the race’s best climbers, including Pinot, Aru, George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida).

They quickly caught Ciccone who was still out front, but were then caught by chasers behind with under 4km to go.

Astana quickly assembled on the front of the group as they descended, with Pello Bilbao able to get clear as the road flattened and the rose and the Basque rider was able to hold out for victory.

Stage two will see the riders take on the race’s biggest summit finish, with a 145.5km race from Lavarone to Fiemme/Alpe di Pampeago.

Results

Tour of the Alps 2018, stage one: Arco – Folgaria   (134.6k)

1 Pello Bilbao (Esp) Astana Pro Team, in 3-26-41
2 Luis Leon Sanchez (Esp) Astana Pro Team, at 6s
3 Ivan Ramiro Sosa Cuervo (Col) Androni-Sidermec
4 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 10s
5 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky
6 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
7 George Bennett (NZl) LottoNL-Jumbo
8 Giulio Ciccone (Ita) Bardiani-CSF
9 Ben Hermans (Bel) Israel Cycling Academy
10 Fabio Aru (Ita) UAE Team Emirates, at 14s

General classification after stage one

1 Pello Bilbao (Esp) Astana Pro Team, in 3-26-31
2 Luis Leon Sanchez (Esp) Astana Pro Team, at 10s
3 Ivan Ramiro Sosa Cuervo (Col) Androni-Sidermec, at 12s
4 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 20s
5 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky
6 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
7 George Bennett (NZl) LottoNL-Jumbo
8 Giulio Ciccone (Ita) Bardiani-CSF
9 Ben Hermans (Bel) Israel Cycling Academy
10 Fabio Aru (Ita) UAE Team Emirates, at 24s