Luka Mezgec (Giant-Shimano) won the bunch sprint at the end of the opening stage of the 2014 edition of Volta a Catalunya on Monday to take the early race lead.
Mezgec edged out Leigh Howard (Orica-GreenEdge) in the frantic final sprint at the end of the hilly route around Calella. Julian Alaphilippe (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) placed third.
It’s Mezgec’s second victory in four days after winning the Handzame Classic in Belgium on Friday.
At the start of the day, Romain Lemarchand (Cofidis) and Boris Vallee (Lotto-Belisol) broke free of the bunch after just 14 kilometres, and created a gap of over five minutes after 60 kilometres.
Amets Txurruka (Caja Rural) attacked off the top of the penultimate climb of Alt de Montseny and soon caught Lemarchand and Vallee, but with only a slim 50-second lead over the peloton. The trio were caught before the peak of the final climb of Alt de Collsacreu with just over 20 kilometres to go until the line.
Mikael Cherel (Ag2r), Wilco Kelderman (Belkin) and Romain Hardy (Cofidis) then formed a new escape, cruising down the descent to Calella, but never really putting any serious time into the chasing bunch. When Hardy took a bad turn at a roundabout taking Cherel with him, Kelderman was left out front solo with 10km to go and a tall task – inevitably he was caught, setting up a bunch sprint.
On Tuesday, the race travels from Mataro to Girona over 168 kilometres and containing the third category climb of Alt Can Bordoi in the opening 10 kilometres, and the second category Alt de Santa Pelaia at the mid-way point. The WorldTour-level race concludes on Sunday, March 30.
Volta Ciclista a Catalunya 2014, stage one: Calella to Calella, 165.7km
1. Luka Mezgec (Slo) Giant-Shimano in 4-09-13
2. Leigh Howard (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
3. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Omega Pharma-QuickStep
4. Paul Martens (Ger) Belkin
5. Tosh van der Sane (Bel) Lotto-Belisol
6. Daniele Ratto (Ita) Cannondale
7. Marcus Burghardt (Ger) BMC Racing
8. Roberto Ferrari (Ita) Lampre-Merida
9. Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) Ag2r
10. Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Omega Pharma-QuickStep all same time
Overall classification after stage one
1. Luke Mezgec (Slo) Giant-Shimano in 4-09-03
2. Leigh Howard (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge at 4 secs
3. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 6 secs
4. Cedric Pineau (fra) FDJ at 9 secs
5. Paul Martens (Ger) Belkin at 10 secs
6. Tosh van der Sane (Bel) Lotto-Belisol at 10 secs
7. Daniele Ratto (Ita) Cannondale at 10 secs
8. Marcus Burghardt (Ger) BMC Racing at 10 secs
9. Roberto Ferrari (Ita) Lampre-Merida at 10 secs
10. Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) Ag2r at 10 secs
Tour de France champion Chris Froome recovered from recent back injury to start Volta a Catalunya in Spain on Monday