Frenchman edges out Sacha Modolo as Italian celebrates too early

Thomas Boudat (Direct-Energie) won the opening stage of the Ruta del Sol as he out-sprinted Sacha Modolo (EF Education First-Drapac) in a tight photo finish in Mijas.

Modolo was put into the perfect position at the front of the bunch with 200m to go, and seemed unstoppable as he sprinted from the front of the field, raising his arms as he crossed the line.

However what Modolo hadn’t seen was Boudat accelerating and coming up quickly on the left-hand side of the road, and as Modolo put his hands in the air, the Frenchman thrust his bike towards the line to win by the narrowest of margins and take the overall lead in the process.

>>> Ruta del Sol 2018: Everything you need to know about Chris Froome’s return to racing

How it happened

Unsurprisingly there was no shortage of Spanish riders in the break on the opening day of the Ruta del Sol, with three of the five men at the front of the race being home-grown. In the move were Garikoitz Bravo (Euskadi-Murias), Silvan Dillier (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Txomin Juaristi (Fundación Ciclista Euskadi), Romain Sicard (Direct Energie) and Luis Mas (Caja Rural-RGA Seguros) who were given a maximum lead of around five minutes.

That gap remained steady throughout the flat first half of the stage and over the first three of the five categorised climbs that came in quick succession in the second half of the day.

However the second category Alto del Lucero saw the gap to just two-and-a-half minutes as Astana went to the front of the peloton en masse with Danish rider Michael Valgren working particularly hard.

Astana continued to control matters and bring the gap down on the approach to the final climb of the day, with only Dillier remaining out front as they started the descent with 20km remaining.

The Swiss champion put in a brave effort, but his solo move didn’t last long as he was caught with 13km to go, before Jon Ander Insausti (Euskadi-Murias) decided on another solo effort.

Insausti’s break got his team a few minutes of TV time before he was caught with 7.5km to go with Astana still leading the peloton but being challenged by Movistar and Delko Marseille Provence KTM.

However the pace wasn’t high enough to prevent another solo move, this time from Pablo Torres (Burgos-BH) but again this didn’t last long, and it was once again all together as the race entered the final three kilometres.

With one kilometre remaining it was EF Education-First Drapac who took control to put Modolo in a perfect position to sprint for victory, while Boudat found himself boxed against the barriers on the left-hand side of the road.

However as Clément Venturini (Ag2r La Mondiale) started his sprint, the door opened for Boudat, allowing him to put him a sharp acceleration and a big bike throw to edge out a celebrating Modolo on the line.

Meanwhile Chris Froome (Team Sky) finished safely in the main bunch on his first race of the 2018 season.

The Ruta del Sol continues on Thursday with a 140km stage from Otura to a summit finish at La Guardia de Jaén.

Results

Ruta del Sol 2017, stage one: Mijas to Granada, 197.6km

1. Thomas Boudat (Fra) Direct Energie, in 5-21-39
2. Sacha Modolo (Ita) EF Education First-Drapac
3. Clement Venturini (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale
4. Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
5. Tosh Van Der Sande (Bel) Lotto Soudal
6. Carlos Barbero (Esp) Movistar
7. Jonas Koch (Ger) CCC Sprandi Polkowice
8. Moreno Hofland (Ned) Lotto Soudal
9. Enrico Battaglin (Ita) LottoNL-Jumbo
10. Jan Tratnik (Slo) CCC Sprandi Polkowice, all at same time

Others
57. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky, at same time

General classification after stage one

1. Thomas Boudat (Fra) Direct Energie, in 5-21-39
2. Sacha Modolo (Ita) EF Education First-Drapac
3. Clement Venturini (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale
4. Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
5. Tosh Van Der Sande (Bel) Lotto Soudal
6. Carlos Barbero (Esp) Movistar
7. Jonas Koch (Ger) CCC Sprandi Polkowice
8. Moreno Hofland (Ned) Lotto Soudal
9. Enrico Battaglin (Ita) LottoNL-Jumbo
10. Jan Tratnik (Slo) CCC Sprandi Polkowice, all at same time