Fabio Jakobson (Quick-Step Floors) won stage one of the 2018 BinckBank Tour in a close bunch sprint finish.
It was yet further demonstration of the Belgian team’s dominance when it comes to bunch sprinting. Jakobsen is probably the fourth-choice sprinter behind the absent Fernando Gaviria, Elia Viviani and Alvaro Hodeg, yet he was still able to outsprint a field including some of the world’s best.
Ewan pushed him close, accelerating at roughly the same speed on the opposite side of the road, but was outpaced.
Meanwhile Kittel looked to be near his best form as he surged to the line in the final metres. Had he not have started his sprint from so far back, he would probably have won the stage.
The sprint was almost disrupted when a Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij rider fell near the front of the peloton inside the final kilometre, but all of the top sprinters managed to avoid getting caught up.
How it happened
On a miserable, rainy day in the lowlands, six riders got into the break on the 177.3 kilometre stage from Heerenveen to Bolsward.
The escapees were Manuele Boaro (Bahrain-Merida), Julius van den Berg (EF Education First-Drapac), Dimitri Peyskens (WB Aqua Protect-Veranclassic), Elmar Reinders (Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij), Dries de Bondt (Veranda’s Willems-Crelan) and Thomas Sprengers (Spot Vlaanderen-Baloise).
They were kept in check by the peloton during what was mostly an uneventful stage, held over flat roads that were destined to produce a bunch sprint.
There were a few crashes amid the rainy conditions prior to the incident in the final kilometre, but thankfully none looked too serious.
Yousif Mirza (UA Emirates) and Logan Owen (EF Education First-Drapac) both fell at the feed zone, but were able to continue, while later Dmitriy Gruzdev (Astana) and Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (Dimension Data) went down in separate incidents.
The biggest name faller of the day was Magnus Cort Nielsen (Astana), who might have been a contender for the stage win had he not crashed into the grassy bank as the race entered the final 10km.
The gap from the peloton to the escapees came down to under one minute for the first time when the peloton hit a long, exposed stretch of road on the penultimate lap of the finishing circuit, and threatened to split when it expanded into a long, stretched single-file line.
The break were still out in front for the so-called ‘golden kilometre’, meaning the bunch were unable to compete for the bonus seconds on offer on each of the three sprints.
Instead the breakaway riders shared the bonuses, with Peyskens, De Bondt and Reinders first over the line on the first, second and third respectively.
They were eventually caught 13km from the line, prompting some counter-attacks. Nico Denz (Ag2r La Mondiale) was the first to try something, but was immediately brought back, but Jan-Willem Van Schip (Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij) enjoyed a longer spell off the front before being brought back with around 3km to go.
Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij lead inside the final kilometre before the crash disrupted their lead-out, leaving a Quick-Step Floors lead-out to take over and set Jakobsen up for victory.
The 2018 BinckBank Tour continues tomorrow with a 13km individual time trial in Venray.
BinckBank Tour stage one, Heerenveen to Bolsward (177.3km)
1 Fabio Jakobsen (Ned) Quick-Step Floors in 4-01-00
2 Marcel Kittel (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin
3 Caleb Ewan (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott
4 Kristoffer Halvorsen (Nor) Team Sky
5 Max Walscheid (Ger) Team Sunweb
6 Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo
7 Matteo Pelucchi (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe
8 Timothy Dupont (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
9 Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
10 Riccardo Minali (Ita) Astana Pro Team, at same time
General classification after stage one
1 Fabio Jakobsen (Ned) Quick-Step Floors in 4-00-50
2 Marcel Kittel (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin, at 4s
3 Elmar Reinders (Ned) Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij, at 5s
4 Caleb Ewan (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott, at 6s
5 Manuele Boaro (Ita) Bahrain-Merida, at 7s
6 Dimitri Peyskens (Bel) WB Aqua Protect Veranclassic, at same time
7 Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain-Merida, at 9s
8 Thomas Sprengers (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise, at same time
9 Kristoffer Halvorsen (Nor) Team Sky, at 10s
10 Max Walscheid (Ger) Team Sunweb, at same time