Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) won the bunch sprint on stage one of the Volta ao Algarve, comfortably beating André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) and Nacer Bouhani (Cofidis) in southern Portugal.
The Colombian sprinter has great form already this season, taking two stage wins at the Vuelta a San Juan, and showed a fast finish once again to take a comprehensive stage win in Lagos.
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A chaotic final few kilometres saw no one team able to control the front of the peloton, and for a few seconds it even looked as if Gaviria’s lead-out man Maximiliano Richeze might take the stage win after jumping early around Bouhanni’s Cofidis lead-out train.
Richeze didn’t quite have the legs to pull off a surprise victory, but Gaviria was decisive in opening his sprint a moment before Bouhanni to take the stage win by a bike length ahead of Greipel.
The break of the day consisted of five riders who escaped within the first three kilometres: Christoph Pfingsten (Bora-Hansgrohe), Justin Oien (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Brian van Goethem (Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij) and João Benta (Radio Popular-Boavista).
The escapees quickly built up a gap of more than six minutes, sharing the early intermediate sprint points and KOM points between them.
However the stage was set for a bunch sprint, with the break being caught by what looked like a fairly relaxed peloton with 26km remaining.
From that point on it was the sprinters’s teams that took control, with the pace steadily being ramped up as Bora-Hansgrohe, FDJ, Cofidis, Lotto-Soudal, and even Continental outfit Rally Cycling battled it out at the front.
Into the final five kilometres and the front of the peloton was still very fluid, with no one team able to take control as the race was split in half by substantial road furniture down the middle of the road.
A chaotic finish saw Gaviria’s team-mate Maximiliano Richeze jump early with 400m to go, as Gaviria bided his time before coming around Bouhanni to take the stage win.
Volta ao Algarve 2017, stage one: Albufeira to Lagos, 182.9km
1. Fernando Gaviria (Col) Quick-Step Floors, in 4-28-31
2. André Greipel (Ger) Lotto-Soudal
3. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis
4. Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo
5. John Degenkolb (Ger) Trek-Segafredo
6. Baptise Planckaert (Bel) Katusha-Alpecin
7. Matteo Trentin (Ita) Quick-Step Floors
8. Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
9. Lukasz Wisniowski (Pol) Team Sky
10. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data, all same time